Gilbert: Stockton’s Leonardo De Vinci still full of ideas
By Lori Gilbert
17 March 2018
Image courtesy of Recordnet.com
Image: A rendering of the proposed sundial in Martin Luther King Plaza.
College of Environmental Design alumnus Glen Mortensen (B.Arch ‘50), one of the three founding members of the Save Downtown Stockton Foundation, an organization dedicated sustaining the historic heart of downtown Stockton, is working on his latest project with the city: a giant sundial which will be placed in Martin Luther King Plaza.
The sundial requires $100,000 in funds and will be designed by Mortensen. It will feature a “28-foot copper spire that was the centerpiece of the water fountain that stood in Hunter Square before it was removed to allow for the construction of the new courthouse.” The tower of copper pipes was designed for the City of Stockton in 1964.
“They wanted to do some remodeling of the downtown streets, including a fountain area,” Mortensen said. “I had the idea of putting copper together and taking the water up. We didn’t want to shoot the water up. We wanted it to go up the pipes and let it flow down. The wind blows through there quite terrifically. If the wind catches the water as it goes up, then it sprays down. I wanted the water to fall down from the top.”
This spire is the only water fountain Mortensen designed throughout the entirety of his architectural career. His career began as a draftsman in 1950 and ended in 1998, when he was 75 years old. Mortensen established and owned Glen H. Mortensen, Inc.
From Lodi to Modesto, one can see numerous schools, banks and office buildings that Mortensen designed. He recalls in great detail the buildings that once existed only in his imagination.
One of his most significant structures in the Burns Tower on the University of the Pacific campus, which he designed alongside his partner Howard Bissell.
“President (Robert) Burns decided he didn’t want an industrial water tank there,” Mortensen said. “The tower was to enclose the tank, to hide it.”
The Burns Tower is no longer a source of water for the campus, but now holds a radio station and offices.
“What impressed me when you looked from the roof was Stockton as a city of trees,” Mortensen said. “It was just beautiful. You could see the tower downtown (the Medico-Dental Building, Stockton’s tallest landmark until the completion of the new courthouse), but other than that you could hardly see any buildings at all, just the trees.”
Mortensen has been a long proponent of making Stockton more beautiful. One of Mortensen’s proposals is to turn “the dry bed that is Mormon Slough into Stockton’s version of San Antonio’s River Walk, with housing and commercial properties along it.”
“It could unify the city,” Mortensen said. “It would bring people downtown. People wouldn’t have to use automobiles.”
Mortensen has also dreamt of constructing an elevated transportation system that would run from the airport to Eight Mile Road. The system would be fueled by solar and biofuel energy and would include elevated gondolas which could seat up to six people. A long-time proponent of alternative energy, Mortensen’s vision for Mormon Slough includes a field of solar cells to power, among other things, police cars when the department moves to electric vehicles.
Although he has an undeniable passion for architecture, Mortensen was drawn to the field in a somewhat arbitrary manner.
“During the war I was looking at the beautiful buildings in England, those that weren’t bombed, and I knew they were going to give us a free education when we were through,” he said. “I was looking in a dictionary and came across the word architect. That sounded good to me.”
While in the army, Mortensen repaired planes for the Air Corps during World War II. He was discharged at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento. It was at that time that he heard about the UC Berkeley Architecture program, which he graduated from in 1950. By 1971, Mortensen had opened his own architecture company.
Despite being retired for 20 years, his involvement with the Stockton community and architecture still persists.
Read the full article here.