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How did I become an architect? It was all a happy accident. I suspect it began when I was three years old, living in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1923. My grandfather influenced me by showing me architecture. He had pictures of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, and of the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. I looked at these pictures through an old stereopticon, a Viewmaster, and I could see all the old, beautiful buildings.
When I was five, my grandfather influenced me yet again. And I think this caused me to go on and to eventually influence other people and to start thinking about public spaces and buildings myself. My grandfather was so important. When I was around five years old, he showed me a copy of the magazine Harper’s Weekly. It was an issue from around 1899, and it contained a story by H. G. Wells called “When the Sleeper Wakes.” The story had marvelous illustrations showing the cities of tomorrow. They were so beautiful. I fell in love with those pictures. They burned into my subconscious.
In the fall of 1953, when I was thirty-three, I had just finished writing Fahrenheit 451. I went off with my wife and two young daughters to France, and England, and eventually to Ireland, to write the screenplay of Moby Dick for John Huston.
When we arrived in London, we walked around town in the fog one night and we went to 221B Baker Street, and there was nothing there. I said, “My God! This is terrible! This is where Sherlock Holmes lived! There should be something here to indicate that this is where he lived.”
So the next day, I wrote to Scotland Yard, and I said, “You have to put a sign where Sherlock Holmes once lived!” And then I wrote to the consort of Queen Elizabeth. I knew he loved Conan Doyle. I said to the consort, “Arrange to have a sign put at 221B Baker Street, indicating that’s where Sherlock Holmes lived.” Today, as I understand it, there is not only a sign—there is an entire museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. And the underground Tube stop at Baker Street indicates it as well. So maybe, in a way, I began as an architect then. ….