Architect serves the community
April 29, 2002
There’s always one kid in the group who colors a little better than the rest.
And in many Carson City group settings, the one who wields the markers and crayons the best is Art Hannafin.
He moved beyond Crayola sketches years ago, but as a professional architect he has yet to move into the computer generation, stubbornly refusing to budge from a drafting board and the 100-year old stool rescued from an old anatomy lab.
Aside from a telephone, there’s no sign of modern technology in his personal office.
“I am busy in many, many ways,” he said. “I have little time to sit down and learn the computer. And I procrastinate.”
Hannafin, founder of Hannafin/Darney Architects, does have in his office an old pith helmet and crampons, metal spikes for climbing on ice — items particularly useful when he is in pursuit of a mountain summit.
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And then there are the books and paperwork stacked in the middle of the floor and the same items along the walls. It’s not disorganized, he insists; the order of his office is a sign of diverse interests.
Pushing 71, Hannafin has no intentions of slowing down or retiring from a profession he picked as an eighth grader. As a matter of act, his family dissuaded him from a trip to climb Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro just after Sept. 11, and the definition of retirement in his book is simply working less and traveling with his family a little more.
A Carson resident since 1973, Hannafin was a founding member of both the Redevelopment Authority and the Historic Architecture Review Commission, and has volunteered in a variety of other community organizations.
He became involved with the Eagle Valley Children’s home a year after his arrival as a way to honor the memory of his daughter, Lisa, who died at age 9 after complications of German measles. He has served on the home’s board of directors since 1974.
In his typical easygoing manner, he freely offers his respected architectural and community planning knowledge to groups in which he participates.
“I’ve believed all of my adult life that one should give to the community without expecting to get anything back,” he said. “If good things come out, we all benefit.
He still serves on the redevelopment citizen’s committee and has helped refurbish several downtown buildings.
“I don’t know as I’ve contributed much,” he mused, downplaying his influence in refashioning Carson City. “I think I’ve planted a lot of seedlings that have touched the lives of a number of really fine people.”
A native of East Greenwich, R.I., the young Art Hannafin was a sports fanatic influenced profoundly by two uncles — one a contractor, the other a chemist/artist. One taught him to work with his hands, the other fostered his artistic side. So at 13, he chartered a course for his life and eventually attended Brown University and graduated with an architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design.
After five years of schooling, he served as a Marine combat engineering officer during the Korean War, placing and detonating mines along the demilitarized zone as well as building bridges, working the night patrol “and having a few nervous times.”
“We got shot at,” he elaborated.
His tour of duty took him to Japan and the Philippines before his release on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. He resumed his career in Philadelphia where he worked with famed architect Louis Kahn and other “inspirational people” on projects around the world. He owned his own planning company, but after years of planning, he had an urge to actually start building the things he was planning.
“There are few things more noble than those who with their hands build things,” he said. “I was looking for a place that I had an opportunity to fill a niche, that had a quality of life.”
A self-proclaimed “nature lover and a tree hugger” Hannafin found his niche in Carson City. He owned his own architecture firm and construction company, and built hundreds of custom homes before expanding his firm and focusing less on the construction side of his business.
As an architect, his goals are to help people fulfill their visions with as little of himself in the process as possible.
It’s gratifying work, he said, to see the things you created, but “if it doesn’t turn out as good as you thought, you can always encourage the growth of ivy.” He lauds his seven co-workers as some of the “finest” people on the planet, and with partner Robert Darney, is leading the firm in the design of several regional projects, from a bordello to an office building off Roop Street.
An avid reader — he’s reading several books, including one on the history of salt — and as an outdoorsman, Hannafin in the last decade picked up mountaineering, and while he loves to reach ice and snow at the top of a mountain, “I should not be confused with those who are world class,” he quipped. His love of travel has taken him around the world, and he still has more mountains to climb and places to visit.
Hannafin is happily married to Marlene, his wife of 15 years. Between them, they have seven children and nine grandchildren.