As Spokane emerged from successive traumas of the Great Depression and World War II, its residents were anxious to turn their attention to planning and constructing a better future. The city was fortunate. Two architectural firms of the highest caliber were established in the post-war years by four young professionals who recognized the limitless potential of the Inland Northwest. They were driven to apply their remarkable talents and training to the task of designing modern buildings and planning a modern city with a success that attracted national attention. Royal McClure and Tom Adkison took the point as they established McClure & Adkison in December 1947. Six years later, with the strong encouragement of McClure, Bruce Walker and John McGough formed their practice, Walker & McGough. Across the next two decades the two firms would become bound together in friendly competition, community activism and, on occasion, collaboration.
Royal McClure and Bruce Walker maintained a strong and lasting friendship with McClure, six years senior, as mentor. Their academic careers followed similar trajectories. Both were graduates of the esteemed University of Washington Bachelor of Architecture program and both received a Master of Architecture degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design; McClure in 1946, Walker in 1951. The school was Walter Gropius' American recapitulation of the German Bauhaus and was, at the time, arguably the foremost school in the world teaching principles of modern architectural design and practice. Both were honored with one-year traveling fellowships from Harvard; Walker in 1951-52 in recognition of scholastic performance, McClure in 1954-55 in recognition of professional achievement. They were taught a rational objective approach to design that was focused on addressing user needs, construction and operational efficiency, as well as the collaborative process. They were given an architectural vision of reductive elegance and technical sophistication. Their training had an enormous impact on the quality of their respective firms' work as they each were designated as their firm's principal responsible for design.
Achievements of both firms were notable. The work of McClure & Adkison was published in Progressive Architecture books and professional journals at the leading edge of modern design including the seminal Arts + Architecture. A high school they designed for Davenport, Washington was cited as one of the eleven best American schools of 1952. Two of their projects, the Studio Apartments and the Stephan Dental Clinic, were selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York as standing exhibits in the museum's architectural division. Their 1963 Ferris High School project was studied for years by educators across the United States as a physical and programmatic model for education reform. In one of the largest national architectural competitions ever held, Bruce Walker's submittal (while a student at Harvard) was selected for the top prize by the National Association of Home Builders in 1951. Walker & McGough received rare national awards for design excellence from the American Institute of Architects in 1959 and 1969. Their designs were included twice in the Progressive Architecture magazine annual review of American architecture in 1967 and 1969. The 1967 honor recognized their Convent of the Holy Names project as the finest architectural design in the nation for that year. Their 1969 Farm Credit Banks project was given a feature article in the German professional journal, Baumeister. Walker & McGough residential work was featured extensively in several of the most important design textbooks of the day, including Inside Today’s Home by Ray and Sarah Faulkner and The Art of Interior Design: A Text in the Aesthetics of Interior Design by Victoria Kloss Ball. Both firms received a steady flow of design awards from the Spokane chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In November-December 1962 the University of Oregon Museum of Art presented an invitational exhibition intended to document the current state of modern architectural design in the Pacific Northwest. McClure & Adkison and Walker & McGough were chosen as sole representatives of the region east of the Cascades.
Contributions of both firms throughout the state were substantial. McClure & Adkison dedicated their regional attention to facilities in numerous rural communities of eastern Washington and Idaho in addition to their Spokane commissions. They occasionally ventured to the coast, however, as in their award-winning design for the Computer Center Building at the University of Washington in 1962. With offices in Spokane and Seattle, Walker & McGough eventually became more of a state-wide force. They were entrusted with comprehensive masterplanning projects for the Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia as well as the University of Washington, University of Idaho, and Central Washington University campuses. They designed major structures for each, most notably Kane Hall, Padelford Hall, Red Square and the Plant Services Building at the University of Washington plus a major school of the performing arts building at the new Evergreen State College in Olympia. Their International Commerce and Industry exhibit buildings were one of the focal points of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. Both firms contributed a number of substantial projects to Washington State University in Pullman. Walker & McGough developed a unique specialty in corrections design. They were responsible for the Washington State Corrections Center in Shelton, the Washington State Treatment Center for Women in Purdy, the Spokane County-City Public Safety Building, and the Spokane Federal Courthouse (designed in collaboration with McClure & Adkison and Culler, Gale, Martell, Norrie & Davis). These works led to a commission to develop a regional prison concept for Washington State. Their innovative planning, humanizing design efforts and technical sophistication were recognized as far away as Norway where the national newspaper Nationen devoted a full-page color feature describing the new prison at Shelton.
Throughout their careers all four architects worked tirelessly in public forums attempting to lead the Spokane community toward redefinition of the city's built environment as a special place. Giving lectures, promoting design excellence, illuminating opportunities, critiquing design and planning successes as well as missteps, writing newspaper articles, and participating in design, planning and arts commissions, their efforts contributed to a rebirth of Spokane. Their dedication resulted in the 1961 EBASCO Plan featuring their joint venture unrealized but dramatic and influential Spokane Governmental Center, and Expo '74 with which the city reclaimed its intimate connection to its native river environment. Significantly, Tom Adkison served as executive architect overseeing the planning and design of the exposition while Walker & McGough was entrusted as architect of the Washington State Pavilion (later known as the Spokane Opera House & Convention Center).