Our Amazing & Creative Alumni: John Ralston '74

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By Nadine Fiedler

From the Summer 2011 Caller

Architect John Ralston ’74 designs honest, inviting, livable, and beautiful buildings. They reveal their integrity in the use of natural materials, in details that point out the way the building holds together, and in their reflection of the site and the building’s use and users.
What these buildings also reflect is John’s personal warmth and humility—not to mention his charisma, technical expertise, and great senses of both humor and aesthetics. This winning combination has resulted in an impressive array of work that he’s done, in Oregon and elsewhere, for private homes as well as governmental and commercial facilities.
John had a penchant for art and architecture from his youth. He came to Catlin Gabel because of its superb art department. He spent a lot of time in the clay room, where he made his first houses out of clay. Those little clay houses from the clay room provided just the right touch in his architecture school interview to get him accepted.
Today John is a co-principal in a small firm in Bend, HSR Master Planning and Architecture. “To lead a firm, you need professional skills, and people skills. We’re not just making a building, we’re meeting the needs of the client,” he says. “That’s when architects are valuable. You can always get someone to design something good enough. The core thing is that your buildings will keep enhancing the lives of the people using them.”
So take a look at his projects. Look for the details: the waves of stone anchoring the house on the coast and its eyebrow dormer, the stream that runs under the house with a viewing window in the hall floor, the way a large house has the coziness of a small cabin, the way different tones of wood harmonize. They are the grace notes that mark the works of a creative talent in love with what he does.

“Catlin Gabel made architecture school easy, because I had already learned to write and study.”