The outpouring of tributes since their passing has brought to the fore just how much design is personal, and local.
The company, founded in the 1950s to build homes in postwar LA, has made a deep impact on the cityscape, through its work on numerous buildings — among them the Getty Villa, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Huntington Library, LACMA, Hollywood Bowl, 20th Century Fox and CBS; projects in the firm’s backyard include Santa Monica’s Public Library, the Big Blue Bus Maintenance Facility (designed by HOK, below), Parking Structure 6, and the Douglas DC-3 Spirit of Santa Monica Memorial.
But many of the tributes have focused on Mark Benjamin’s generosity and commitment to the community in which the firm is based. He personally supported many education, environmental causes, the arts and medicine, and he made philanthropy a cornerstone of the firm, which describes itself as “an innovative and entrepreneurial company of individuals with integrity, working together to build quality projects with pride and dignity. The overriding principle we all share is integrity of character. From this flows the traits of honesty, respect for others, ethical behavior and being profitable without being predatory.”
Many who knew Mark Benjamin or have worked with Morley attest that he lived up to those principles. Following are comments we have received. Do send us your thoughts if you would like to share them.
The Benjamin family will hold a memorial service for Mark and Luke on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 3:30 p.m., with a reception following, at the California Science Center, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles.
Susan Cloke,urban designer and journalist who focuses on Santa Monica, writes that Mark Benjamin, who began in the construction business as an apprentice carpenter at his family’s company, “was a guy with an easy going manner and a work hard ethic” who “was known for the integrity of his work. He also lived the principles of his company in the many ways he contributed his skills and knowledge and support to his local community. Grant Elementary School, four blocks from the home office in Santa Monica, was adopted by the company.”
Architect Christof Jantzen, who has been working with the company on a project currently being built, wrote that Morley, “created an extraordinary construction company that is based on human values, high quality of workmanship, and a positive and cooperative work environment that we as architects cannot appreciate enough.”
Carol Lemlein, President of Santa Monica Conservancy, says “Mark was the first person to step forward to commit funding from Morley” for a “”Building A Neighborhood” curriculum for elementary school students based on the study of Santa Monica’s Third Street Neighborhood Historic District in Ocean Park.”
And Tom Neary, a former vice president at Morley, attended the memorial earlier this week and wrote:
“I have had many blessings in my life but certainly one of the finest is to have had the privilege of working with Mark Benjamin.
Mark was a 21st century businessman, executive leader, and community builder. He lead and inspired many of his fellow professionals at Morley Builders, as well as in the broader Santa Monica community, by helping others to more fully realize their own potential. Mark was generally subtle yet effective in his approach and encouragement, asking questions that required considering a different perspective and helping many of us to appreciate broader thinking.
As compelling as all of this has been, what I appreciated most about Mark was his philanthropy. He loved Santa Monica and the broader community, and consistently supported a wide variety of local and regional non-profits.
At the memorial, it was an inspiration to listen to Matt Benjamin, the surviving son and brother to Mark and Luke.
The essence of Matt’s comments were about several lessons learned from both his Dad and brother – to strive for more than you think you can achieve, because you can often do more than you think you can; to be a life-long learner – learn something new to improve your life and the lives of others near to you; and, to be charitable – so many others less fortunate than ourselves need help in getting through life, and charitable giving of our wealth and time is essential to building strong communities.”