March 30, 2017
Having collaborated on no fewer than half a dozen extensive remodels, Anthony P. Spann — we call him Tony — has a long and eye-catching history with Giffin & Crane. As you’ll read in the Q&A below, he’s an admitted perfectionist — exactly what we need when it comes to high-end homebuilding.
It’s in his blood. Spann’s father was a draftsman, and made a point of taking young Tony to study and critique buildings in his native Chicago. That’s where he gets his knack for renovation and historic preservation, and he uses it to balance his clients’ needs with the unique challenges of strict residential and commercial building guidelines, especially in Santa Barbara.
In 2006, Spann merged his private practice with internationally regarded Harrison Design, where he’s now the managing principal of the firm’s California offices. Since then, one of his most memorable jobs was the comprehensive restoration of Crocker Row #5, which earned him the City of Santa Barbara’s Edwards/Plunkett Award for Historic Preservation and the Architectural Heritage award by the city’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
We caught up with Tony for more about his work, and about his life outside the blueprints.
G&C: What drew you to architecture and design early on?
Spann: My father was instrumental in guiding me to this profession.
What has been your favorite architectural field trip or vacation?
As a grammar school student, my father would take me downtown, Chicago, to see the skyscrapers — the old and the new — and explain how they were built, connecting the dots through history and how the aesthetics changed over time due to trial and error, engineering breakthroughs, and new technologies.
What is your favorite public building in Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Where do you find design inspiration outside of architecture?
In nature, art and my children’s crazy ideas.
What do you most like about your job?
The joy it gives me, each and every day. I am one lucky guy.
What do you most dislike about your job?
There aren’t enough hours in the day; perfection can be time-consuming.
Go back and pick another profession. What would it be?
A history professor. Lessons learned are an incredible source of knowledge.
What is your current state of mind?
Life is good.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sunset on Butterfly Beach with my family beside me, soaking up the rays and enjoying the colorful display in the sky.
What is your greatest fear?
That the Computer Age will negate the need for true architects who have a great deal of education, and our built environment will then suffer immensely.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Front row seats to a Chicago Bears football game.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Which talent would you most like to have?
To be a musician.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Not be a loyal Chicago Bears fan.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What is your most treasured possession?
Drafting tools handed down to me by my father.
Which living person do you most admire?
My wife, Linda.
Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t despise anyone.
What do you most value in your friends?
Who is your favorite fictional character?
Who are your heroes in real life?
On what occasion do you lie?
To prevent hurting the feelings of others.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m a good listener.
What word or phase do you most overuse?
What is your motto?
No matter what it is you are doing, you gotta have fun!
(By Keith Hamm, with photograph by Jim Bartsch.)