Mark Dewalt, architect and company co-founder, dies at 70

Mark Dewalt was an architect. For him, that meant several things: being a designer, a problem solver, a handyman, a renovator, a mentor, and an occasional troublemaker.

A founding director of the Valerio Dewalt Train Company, he was the “best to call Mark” type whenever a client or project ran into a tough spot.

There was a time when Underwriters Laboratories needed a building in Northbrook to test devices. There must have been no electronic interference, so the steel construction was bad. David Rasche, director of Valerio Dewalt, recalled that Mr. Dewalt had spoken with a swimming pool manufacturer and had proposed an all-plastic building above the foundation. He borrowed a design for recessed pool lights for use in the building.

“He was the nicest guy in the room,” he said of Mr Dewalt. “He was definitely a team builder. Whatever the problem, he would find a way to bring the parties together and solve it. He did it with modesty, a quality not always found in architects. with a name on the door, and with good humor.

Working on a tight execution schedule for NBC, Mr. Dewalt led a team that produced a cantilevered skybooth that provided an unobstructed view of the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago while announcing the network’s presence in clear terms.

Thirty years ago, Mr. Dewalt completed many assignments for the Merchandise Mart, such as converting its first and second floors into public spaces. His work included the Art on the Mart feature of images projected onto the facade of the building overlooking the river. “I’m not sure there’s a floor or a corner of this building that he didn’t touch,” Rasche said.

Along with Joseph Valerio, Mr. Dewalt designed the Ford Calumet Environmental Center, a bird-friendly building in Chicago’s Big Marsh Park that has its own sewage wetland system.

Mr Dewalt died on April 29 of heart failure at the age of 70. “He lived the dreams of his life,” including having his own architectural firm and raising two educated and successful daughters, said his widow, Gail Dewalt. They would have shared their 44and wedding anniversary friday.

The couple lived in Oak Park for years, where Mr Dewalt constantly had plans around the house, then moved to Westchester. Gail Dewalt recalled how, when they were a young couple, her husband figured out how to override the landlord’s 10 p.m. heating system shutdown. Years later, he would design an addition for the family’s getaway, a log cabin in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin that was so true to the original that the tax assessor must have known what was old and which was new, Gail Dewalt said.

He had an elaborate model train, with sets he worked on himself, photographing his miniature world to make it look like you were in the scenery. Rasche said he did a lot of this work at night. “I’m not sure he got much sleep,” he said.

Mr. Dewalt was born in Pittsburgh and came to the Chicago area as a child when US Steel moved his father here. Gail Dewalt said the family moved to Naperville while farms and fields still surrounded it.

She said Mr Dewalt’s mother always suspected her son was destined for architecture and design. His mother used to tell how, as a toddler, Mr Dewalt once wanted a waffle but didn’t know the word, so he drew a picture of a waffle.

He received his degree in architecture from what is now the University of Illinois at Chicago. He co-founded a company with Jack Train in 1984 and 10 years later a merger made it Valerio Dewalt Train. He retired in November 2019.

Asked about Mr Dewalt’s overriding precept as an architect, Rasche said: ‘It was probably this: we take our work very seriously. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. »

Mr Dewalt enjoyed the occasional workplace prank, even when he returned from vacation to find his desk full of balloons, Rasche said. He said Mr. Dewalt retrieved it by closing Rasche’s office, using a bulkhead that appeared solid but was easily breached.

It could have been a playful reminder that Mr. Dewalt’s door was always open. “He was always mentoring people. He really brought a lot of people into this business, including me,” said Rasche, who has worked with him since 1990.

Mr. Dewalt’s other work includes the Northerly Island Performance Pavilion, several projects for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the renovation of the former Chicago Title & Trust Building, now called the Burnham Center.

A cancer survivor, Dewalt was a longtime supporter of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, which presented him with its Spirit of Life award. He served on the Alumni Council of the UIC School of Architecture and the Restoration Committee of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation in Oak Park.

The services will be private.

Michael J. Chiaramonte