Brooks Wehner went to architecture school harboring dynamic dreams of the big city. But his dreams didn’t measure up to the tangible difference he’s making on his hometown’s landscape.
He sees that as his neighbors play along the rejuvenated waterway that is the Concho River. He helped design that.
He sees it when he takes in a show at the Stephens Performing Arts Center, a former soda warehouse that now showcases beauty. He helped design that.
He even sees it in the new jail taking shape on the edge of town – a structure intended to lighten the loads on prisoners and their guards, and reduce recidivism. He was part of the team that designed that, too.
A partner with Kinney Franke Architects, Wehner takes pride in being part of a firm that specializes in nothing, but excels at everything.
“You’re always finding new and fun problems to solve that can make this project unique,” Wehner said. “How can we put our stamp on this project and make it something special for our client?”
The Concho River improvements are uniquely San Angelo. The downtown stretch features public art, a games court, an improved trail, fountains and cool lighting. The river has been officially designated both a Great Place in Texas and a Great Place in America.
“I have to hold myself not to tell my daughter every time we’re down there, ‘You know, your dad designed this,’” Wehner said. “I love being able to make an impact on our community like that. It’s a dream come true.”
So is the opportunity to design the new jail.
The lockup, Wehner said, “will more positively impact more lives than almost any project we’ve done,” considering how many inmates and staff occupy it and the impact on their quality of life. The design incorporates natural lighting and more direct supervision of prisoners. The hope is a more hopeful environment will raise the odds of rehabilitation.
Wehner is also proud of his work designing West Texas Counseling and Guidance’s new offices in the Cactus Hotel. He’s served on the organization’s board of directors six years. During that span the outfit has grown from struggling to make payroll to offering impactful programs such as the Loss Team suicide support.
“The goal of zero suicides is ambitious, but so worthwhile,” he said. “I’m proud to be involved with an organization striving to accomplish that.”
Wehner credits his parents with modeling and teaching him service. As a young man, he served two stints with AmeriCorps, a service organization that improves communities. He built low-income sustainable housing in Austin before realizing he wanted to be “on the other side of the blueprints.” Prior to that, Wehner helped cut trails through the Montana wilderness, packing in supplies on mules for 10-day hitches of backbreaking work.
“Service has been something I was raised with … and something I hope to raise my daughter with,” he said. “That was an example my parents gave to me. I try as best I can.”