Charles Luckman was an American businessman and architect, famous as the "Boy Wonder of American Business" when he was named president of the Pepsodent toothpaste company in 1939 at the age of 30. Through acquisition, he later became president of Lever Brothers. Luckman had always wanted to be an architect. As a nine-year-old paper boy outside the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City, he asked a customer about the pretty lights and was told they were called "chandeliers." Then he asked, "Who does... Who decides on things like that?" "An architect," came the reply. "He designs the hotel and says to put the chandeliers there." Luckman wrote in his memoir, "Right then and there I decided to become an architect." He trained at the University of Illinois where he was a member of the Professional Engineering Fraternity Theta Tau, and the Social Fraternity Chi Psi but went into sales after graduating during the depths of the Great Depression. After nearly 20 years of great success in business, he helped plan Lever Brothers' New York skyscraper, Lever House, one of the first sealed glass towers that began the curtain wall trend. The complex, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was innovative in several other ways, as well, including a rare public plaza at ground level.
Reminded of his architectural roots, Luckman resigned the presidency of Lever Brothers, moved to Los Angeles and began practicing architecture with fellow University of Illinois graduate William Pereira c. 1950 as Pereira & Luckman. Their partnership led to works such as CBS Television City and the master plans for Edwards Air Force Base and Los Angeles International Airport. Luckman and Pereira went separate ways in 1959. Luckman's firm went on to design the Prudential Tower in Boston, The Forum in Inglewood, the new Madison Square Garden in New York City, Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Aon Center in Los Angeles, and the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston.
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