Bruce Allan Bartlett passed away peacefully on August 7, 2015, in the loving presence of his family and caring staff of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Bruce was 68 years old. He bravely lived a full life while undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, actively contributing to his profession of architecture as a long-time partner in DesignARC, in his beloved city of Santa Babara.
Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Bruce grew up in the fifties, fondly remembering throughout his life the idyllic times of his childhood. The family lived on an estate fronting a creek, and there began his life-long love of nature, catching frogs, building tree houses, and exploring with his many friends and dog Skeeter.
In his teens, Bruce began working with his father and grandfather in the electrical business, quickly developing a keen hands-on intrigue with designing and building. Hobby time with his father was initially spent with HO train sets, progressing to soap box racers and go karting. His passion for all things automobile escalated when he received his first car, a Model A coupe, from his uncle at the age of 15. From that day forward cars became one of his favorite sources of conversation and camaraderie. Bruce’s astute eye for design translated equally between automobiles and architecture, but his love of design propelled him to pursue his dream of architecture, completing his bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, in 1970.
Following graduation, the call of the wild brought Bruce to Alaska. His adventure began in Plain, Washington, where he took to sea, working on a salmon fishing boat named the Five Brothers. Thus began a deep love of the water and a forever bond with the ocean. Memorable sailing trips to the Channel Islands would follow throughout his life.
Spring of ’71 was one of the most unforgettable trips of Bruce’s life. With his younger brother Paul, he embarked on a 10 week cross country trip, fully embracing both natural and man-made beauty. The love of family strengthened between the brothers that summer as they rolled through the countryside in his classic 1965 Volkswagen Van. Bruce’s love of nature and the outdoors was enduring. Later in life, he always chose camping over hotel living and back roads over freeways, relishing the journey more than the destination.
Fall of 1971 saw Bruce’s immersion into the career of architecture with the Padaro Company. In 1973 he moved to Architects West, where he was a key designer and met future partner Mark Kirkhart. It was then he met the love of his life, Ann Wentworth. Seeing her at Porsche Club and discovering they had matching 914s, he knew he had met the one. Marrying in 1981, they raised two sons, sharing many common family interests and experiences. They were frequently seen at any given car event in the area.
In the late 70’s, Bruce joined with Mark Kirkhart to co-found DESIGNWORKS. It quickly grew to become one of the largest full-service architectural firms in Santa Barbara, and was reorganized as DesignARC, Inc. in 1988. The company later added a Los Angeles office, and currently employs over 40 staff members, with work throughout Southern California, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo Counties. In 2009, the firm expanded its’ reach, completing multiple multi-family residential projects within the ten-square mile master planned community of Luxe Lakes, in Chengdu, Szechuan Province, China.
With his dedication, the firm received over thirty awards for design excellence, and has left a lasting legacy of architectural projects in Santa Barbara, including Chapala One (now Sevilla) on lower Chapala Street, Manzanita Village Student Housing at UCSB, and the Santa Barbara Bowl. Undeniably one of the most noteworthy projects to be built in Downtown Santa Barbara in decades, the Entrada de Santa Barbara, is currently rising out of the ground at the intersection of lower State Street at Mason Street. This 123-room boutique hotel that includes multiple restaurants and commercial retail space will forever enhance the City’s waterfront, thanks in part to Bruce’s dedication.
Bruce truly cherished Santa Barbara. Always striving to pay tribute to the city he loved, he committed 11 years of his life serving first for 3 years on the Architectural Board of Review, followed by 8 years on the City Planning Commission. As a noteworthy and talented architect and a devoted community leader, perhaps his greatest impact was his ongoing work to preserve and extend Santa Barbara’s unique charm and character.
Outside of work, Bruce loved thrilling adventure and enjoyed his motorcycling, sport car rallies, go kart racing, sailing, and sky diving. He never followed professional sports but loved NASCAR racing, which he avidly watched for hours on end. People intrigued Bruce, and he chatted and listened with utmost interest and empathy. On weekends he could typically be seen pausing from a handyman project in the driveway, enjoying companionship and stories with his neighbors.
Bruce was preceded in death by his parents Benjamin and Dorothy Bartlett. He is survived by his wife Ann, sons Nicholas and Cord, brother Paul, and his many cousins, in-laws, nieces and nephews. A private memorial is pending. Donations may be made to the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, pancan.org, or the charity of your choice.