Born in Cedarvale, Kansas on June 9, 1917, Kenneth William Brooks attended high school in Independence, Kansas and received his Bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in June of 1940. Brooks was awarded the prestigious Francis J. Plym Fellowship for six months of travel in Europe. However, due to the war in Europe, he postponed the fellowship. While in school, he received some drafting experience, working for Naramore & Brady Architects (forerunner of NBBJ) in Seattle.
During WWII, Brooks joined the US Engineers Department and served in various capacities from 1940 to 1946. Upon leaving the military, Brooks spent over a year working for the New York office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM). At SOM, Brooks passed the National Council of Architectural Board examination and became licensed in New York. He left SOM, moved to Spokane, and went to work for George M. Rasque, a longtime Spokane architect who specialized in school construction.
After a few months working for Rasque, Brooks went to Europe on the Plym Fellowship in 1948. In Sweden, he volunteered to work in the Town Planning Office in Stockholm and Goteborg.
After traveling in Europe, Brooks returned to Spokane and began working for the architectural firm of Carroll Martell Architects. His employment at the firm was short-lived as he decided to pursue a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois which he received in 1949. When he retuned to Spokane, he was well-educated, well-trained, and well-traveled. At the young age of 34, he was ready to open his own practice in 1951, with an emphasis in high architectural design and urban planning. A later brochure for the office noted that projects by the firm could be found in Washington, New Mexico, South Dakota, Alaska and as far away as the Fiji Islands. His clients included individuals, corporations, education institutions, hospitals, the US government, and the governments of Australia and the Republic of China.
Brooks was also anxious to push the architectural envelope in the conservative Spokane community. He became involved in a variety of community activities in Spokane. He lectured about a variety of topics to hundreds of different community organizations. Other civic activities included: President of the Spokane Municipal League, member of the Spokane Planning Commission, President of the Spokane Chapter of the AIA, member of the Washington State Arts Commission (1961-68), member and first chairman of the National Urban Design Committee (1960-65), Chairman of the Jury of Fellows for the AIA (1971), member of Governor Evans’ Executive Committee “Design for Washington” (1965), and member of the Spokane Parks Board. One of Brooks’ most interesting personal projects was to design and develop a line of low-cost plywood furniture.
Brooks designed several structures at the Spokane Expo ’74 and was one of the primary planners of the event. By the 1970s, he was in partnership with Joseph Hensley and Fred Creager. Over the next fifteen plus years, Brooks, Hensley, & Creager received high architectural acclaim at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Over a thirty-year period the firm designed twelve award-winning projects. His two most distinguished projects are the 1959 Washington Water Power Company in Spokane, and his 1977 Art-Drama-Music Complex at Columbia Basin Community College in Pasco. Both of these buildings received National American Institute of Architects Honor Awards.
In 1965, Brooks designed the Intermountain Gas Company Headquarters in Boise, Idaho. The project received a National Award of Merit in 1966 from the AIA. With the respect and admiration of his fellow colleagues, Brooks became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1967. Brooks retired from his practice in 1991 and passed away on August 8, 1996.
By Michael Houser, State Architectural Historian - Nov. 2011
"A Selection of Contemporary Architecture in Spokane, Washington" Spokane Chapter AlA 1967.
"An Interior Courtyard. The Last Word in Complete Privacy" House Beautiful, June 1962, pg 36.
Brooks, Kenneth W. "The Architect's Role in the Small City' AlA Journal, March 1961.
"100 Ideas Under $100' Better Homes & Gardens, July 1963, pg 43.
"A Courtyard All Its Own" Better Homes & Gardens, June 1964, pg 41-42.
"A Lesson For River Cities - A Spokane utility company's handsome new headquarters sets a bold example for a riverfront renewal." Architectural Form, Dec 1958.
"New Meaning to the Total Planning Concept." Pacific Architect & Builder, August 1959.
Obituary, Kenneth Brooks, Spokesman Review, August 10,1996.
The 1956 Kenneth and Edna Brooks House was the first Post WWII resources to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Spokane.
The house embodies the distinctive characteristics of the modern movement in Spokane during the 1950s and represents the early work of Spokane architect Kenneth W. Brooks, who was one of the prominent trendsetters in the local architectural community for over 30 years and whose work in and around Spokane.