CHAPTER 10

STARTING OVER AT SIXTY

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Nathaniel Curtis
Photo, nnp, nd.

NEW DIRECTION FOR CURTIS

During my days and nights in Saudi Arabia I had time to do a great deal of thinking. I found that architecture, as we were practicing it in New Orleans, was no longer fun. I had come to enjoy the freedom and independence that the distance from my home office provided. I could see things more clearly. I was tired and fed up with the administrative problems that beset us--cash flow, payrolls, and slow accounts receivable. I realized that I had lost communication with my partner and that our goals were not the same. I thought of establishing a separate international branch of Curtis and Davis with offices in London where a fresh approach could be made. Failing that, I firmly resolved to make a fresh start somewhere else. This opportunity was not long in coming.

The Saudis had not been paying their bills, and my work in Saudi Arabia had not produced anything in three dimensions. There was evidence that Saudi Arabia would embark on an austerity program. Our projects might never be constructed, and the correctional projects we had counted on would be tabled.


CURTIS AND DAVIS SOLD
TO DANIEL, MANN, JOHNSON AND MENDENHALL, 1978


During this period my partner, Arthur Davis, had made overtures to sell the firm to Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall (DMJM), an extremely large architectural and engineering firm in Los Angeles. His work had produced the terms of the deal. DMJM would acquire our name and our jobs in progress, the large VA Hospital for North Little Rock, the University of New Orleans Events Center, a prison in Massachusetts, a large correctional institution under construction in New York, and various small jobs for which they would pay us according to a formula. We would keep the accounts receivable and the accounts payable. We had two years to liquidate. For all intents and purposes, Curtis and Davis, as we knew it, ceased to exist. Davis and I would become employees of a new company with the same name at our regular salaries plus attractive benefits and retirement. But I also had the right to leave and still practice my profession. The sale was finalized in May 1978. By July of that year I had started a new career at age sixty as Nathaniel Curtis, FAIA, Architect, a firm that consisted of me and my secretary, Veronica Ohlmeyer. There are not many times in one's life when a major opportunity presents itself to make a decision that can change one's life.

 

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