Bruce Johnson

What to do after four decades as a planning and design professional?  I needed a new career.  

After graduating with a master degree in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana I drove out to the West Coast and arrived in Portland, Oregon in 1971.  By chance, the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill was in the process of forming an interdisciplinary consultant team.  The team was tasked with preparing an environmental impact study of the proposed Mount Hood Freeway.  As a section team leader I began my career with a focus on community/transportation planning looking at alternative freeway designs and their impacts on the local community including social displacement, loss of businesses and housing units, economic benefits, neighborhood redevelopment opportunities as well as air and noise quality impacts. 

Over the next five years I was involved in urban design studies, site and master planning, environmental assessment and conventional landscape design for a variety of project types.  I was also involved in preparing urban design guidelines that enhanced Portland’s 1972 Downtown Plan and the creation of historic districts. In 1975, I moved to Melbourne, Australia.  Now I was engaged in large-scale open space and recreational planning for local jurisdictions and the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. 

After five years overseas I was back in Portland again working with SOM.  This time it was a major urban design project in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Shortly thereafter, I left to form my own consulting design firm-—Bruce Johnson Design, aka BJD. 

In the mid 1980s I formed an investment group that purchased and renovated an old warehouse in the Northwest Triangle.  The original idea was to develop and market live/work loft style condominiums.  However, due to financing difficulties—high interest rates—we switched our program and created loft workspaces for artists and incubator type businesses. 

Ten years passed.  A phone call from an old friend and colleague I’d known at SOM opened up a new career opportunity.   A Chicago developer wanted to build a special golf resort in southern Oregon.   For a number of years I commuted to Bandon while preparing a master plan and land use development permit applications for the proposed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  What I originally thought might be a two or three-year project turned into a twenty-year saga. By 2011, the resort was built out, and the challenge had evaporated.

What to do now?  Why not write a book about this recent adventure.  Fall 2014 saw the release of Beyond the Dream—an insider’s story about how the golf resort was conceived, planned, designed and built.  Just how do you get approval for the idea of constructing Scottish Links style golf courses in America, especially in a state where the regulatory environment and local public opinion appeared stacked against this notion? 

Over the years I’d written endless words describing master plans and project design narratives, environmental assessments and responses to requests for proposals.  I was done with that, but it’s good skill to have.  So I became a writer.