The Architects


          George A. Fuller and Company was set up by George A. Fuller in 1882 in the city of Chicago. Fuller, a Boston architect and engineer[1] saw an opportunity to establish an architecture firm in Chicago after the devastating Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

          However, Fuller’s company differed from the traditional sense of an architecture firm since it only dealt with the construction aspects of the building; this was the very first example of a modern day general contractor[2].  One of the first buildings which the company completed was the Chicago Opera House in 1885; followed by the the Rookery Building in 1888; the Tacoma Building, designed by Holabird and Roche, in 1889; the Rand McNally Building in 1890.  By then, Fuller has established a name for his company as the leading builder of the world’s first skyscrapers[3].

         In 1890, the company expanded and opened its first office in New York where the company completed the New York Times Building and the iconic Flatiron Building in 1889 and 1902 respectively.

          When George A. Fuller died in 1900, his son-in-law, vice-president of the company, Harry S. Black, took over[4].

          George A. Fuller and Company continued to experience success after the change in leadership. In 1904 – 1914, the company erected about 600 buildings including the Pontiac Building, Pennsylvania Station, Plaza Hotel, and the Savoy-Plaza Hotel.  In 1941, the company was commissioned by the United States Navy to design a prefabricated hut system to shelter troops abroad during WWII. The Quonset hut was designed as a solution, and 150 000 units were built and deployed during the war[5].

          In 1970, the company was sold and liquidated[6].

[1] “Fuller (George A.) Co,” Encyclopedia of Chicago,  accessed Dec 8, 2012
[2] Alice Alexiou, The Flatire: the New York Landmark and the incomparable city that arose with it, (New York, Thomas Dunne/ St. Martin’s, 2012), 10
[3] “Fuller (George A.) Co”
[4] Alexiou 14
[5] Chris Chiei, How the Huts Came to Be, (NJ, Princeton Architecture Press. 2005) 24
[6] “Fuller (George A.) Co”


Otto Brandenberger ca. 1963
Source: Chiei 4

          Brandenberger was born on March 9, 1894, second of nine children born to Otto Bradenerger, Sr., and Louis Knecht. He studied architecture at the Zurich Technical Institute and immigrated to the U.S in 1913. In the U.S, Brandenberger enlisted in the U.S. Army in Philadelphia and re-enlisted three years later, eventually attaining the rank of sergeant[1]

         During the Great Depression, Brandenberger worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), generating and reviewing architectural plans of historical New Jersey buildings and the Empire State Building[2]. Before beginning work at the George A. Fuller Company in 1941, he designed a few residential and small-business buildings in New Jersey[3].

         In 1941, when the George A. Fuller Company was commissioned by the U.S Navy to design a prefabricated hut system to shelter troops abroad during WWII, Brandenberger was made the design team leader since he was the only licensed architect. Others in the group include Robert McDonnell, Tomasino Secondino, and Dominic Urgo, who acted as design and production support.

         Brandenberger was the appropriate choice to design the Quonset hut because of his experience in the army. Once a sergeant, Brandenberger would know very well the needs for a soldier on the battlefield. His college, McDonnell praised Brandenberger’s work and leadership skills: “We did what he told us to do. If anybody gets the credit, it should be Otto Brandenberger”[4].

Brandenberger's resume ca. 1963
Source: Chiei 4


[1] Chris Chiei, How the Hut Came to Be, (NJ, Princeton Architectural Press, 2005), 4
[2] Chiei 4
[3] “Otto Brandenberger,”, accessed Dec 7, 2012,
[4] Chiei 4


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