At Baker Barrios, they call the design process “place making,” but Wayne Dunkelberger, who considers himself a generalist, sees each project as a story that the customer wants to tell. In his 18 years with the company, he estimates he’s helped tell as many as 300.
His first job out of USF – he degreed in philosophy (not so surprising for a storyteller) followed by a Master’s in architecture – was with Morris Architects. Hired for his visualization skills, Dunkelberger was using software considered advanced for the time, the same sort that Disney Imagineers favored. As Morris did work with the parks, the coupling made sense; Epcot’s Mission: Space was among his earliest projects – a very Orlando feather in the cap of a Vero Beach native with art in his blood.
“I had my abilities at an early age,” he told GrowthSpotter, “but they were very 3D – building things, creating things – I was a LEGO kid.”
In fact, Dunkelberger’s grandfather designed the Orange Bowl floats from the 1950s through the mid- ‘70s.
“My mom and I would go to the warehouse when they were just about done,” Dunkelberger remembers. “It would be foam and chicken wire, and they’d be chaining it, creating these really cool forms. I got to see these incredible things being built; it definitely influenced what I wanted to do.”
Dad, too, had some artistic input – but one of his father’s most lasting influences was a love of the water. Dunkelberger and his identical twin brother, Warren, grew up trailing their dad – who was in the Coast Guard.
“We did a lot of fishing and I learned to dive at 5 years old, and because Sebastian, at that time - before the three hurricanes ripped through in 2004 – had great surf. We did a lot of surfing. I had three or four boards. Then I built my own windsurfer and we’d go windsurfing, as well.”
Watersports remains his favorite of leisure time activities, though he mostly leaves town to do it these days. To stay on his surfing game, he’s adopted a penchant for longboarding. He and his sons, Hayden Erro, 18, and Dieter Otto, 15, (each has an architect-inspired middle name) occasionally get their wheels on downtown on Orlando’s Dinky Line urban trail.
In fact, he’s no stranger to longboarding in downtown.
“The great thing about when we designed [Chase Plaza], the building downtown where the movie theaters are, was that because it was amid the downturn of the economy, we were one of only two tenants in the entire building – I would take my long board and go down the entire parking garage all the time!”
It’s a fun story; one that bonds Dunkelberger -- now a Baker Barrios principal and creative director -- to the project, as well.
It’s not precisely the same as say, the one they researched in order to build Winter Park’s Alfond Inn, to tie the boutique hotel to the community in which it now lives – but it’s relevant.
“Because my connection has always been to the story …” he notes, “… how it unfolds, and how well the users embrace the project when it’s complete.”