In Memoriam: Gerald L. Allison of WATG


April 2011

Recognized throughout the world for his contribution to the advancement of tourism and his commitment to the environment, Jerry Allison, FAIA, passed away 22 April 2011, at the age of 78, after a battle with gastric melanoma.

Allison was deeply involved in the success of destination design firm WATG and its international expansion. “Jerry will be deeply missed,” noted Larry Rocha, WATG’s chairman. “His influence on WATG and the hospitality industry is forever memorialized in the people that he touched and the highly respected body of work that he leaves behind.”

Jerry spent 25 years in Honolulu with WATG before moving to California in the early 1980s. During that time, he worked closely with Pete Wimberly and was a pioneer in exporting design services throughout Asia and the Pacific. In Hawaii, he was involved in the design of Sheraton Maui, Hyatt Maui, and Coco Palms Resort on Kauai.

Other notable projects Allison was involved with during his 50-year career as an architect with WATG include: Hotel Bora Bora, French Polynesia; Tanjong Jara Resort, Malaysia;  Shangri-La Hotel Garden Wing, Singapore; Palace of the Lost City in Sun City, South Africa; The Mansion at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada; Disneyland’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort in Orlando, Florida; Disneyland Hotel in Paris; Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas; The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida; and Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur.

In recognition of his design excellence and community service, Jerry was elected to the College of Fellows, American Institute of Architects – the youngest in their history ever to receive this honor. He authored many articles on tourism and resort design, served on numerous design juries, and received global accolades—including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. He was honored with Hospitality Design’s Platinum Circle Award for his contribution to the hospitality industry, a lifetime achievement award from Hocking College, the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award, and HICAP’s Innovation Award.

Born and raised in Seattle, he graduated from the University of Washington, School of Architecture in 1955 and joined WATG in Honolulu shortly after.

Jerry Allison was honored by colleagues and friends at his retirement party in 2007 at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, the project that brought him from Hawaii to California in 1982. He was active in the Southern California arts community and was a member of the City of Newport Beach Arts Commission.

Congratulating Jerry on his retirement and contributions to the field, long-time client and collaborator on several projects with Disney, Wing Chao, former executive vice president in charge of master planning, architecture and design, wrote: “What you have accomplished during the last half century has been truly impressive and remarkable. You have designed and created so many distinguished landmark buildings around the world that have brought happiness and long-lasting memories to millions of people.”

Howard Wolff, WATG senior vice president, offers an insight into his partner’s contributions: “Jerry was an early and staunch protector of the planet and a pioneer in environmentally sensitive design. Perhaps it was fitting that he passed away on Earth Day. He will be remembered by many in the firm – and in the industry – as a creative genius, a terrific storyteller, a good-humor man, a generous and caring mentor, and an all-around great guy. In many ways he was the company’s conscience, reminding us to focus on lifting people’s spirits and providing great design.”

Jerry passed away at his home in Newport Beach surrounded by his family. He is survived by his loving wife Charlotte; his two daughters Ruth Anne Herman (married to Steve Herman) and Lynn Allison Unflat (married to Dr John Unflat); and six grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the “Gerald L. Allison Scholarship Fund” at the University of Washington (mail to: UW Office of Gift Processing; Box 359505; Seattle, WA 98195-9505).

Memorial Services will be on Friday, May 6, 2011 at 11:00am at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach, CA 92663. There will be a reception afterwards at the church. Later, the family will carry his ashes to Hawaii and scatter them off of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu.

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Ashley Fauguel
+44 (0)20 7906 6600