James McGraw (1942 – 1996)

James McGraw (1942 – 1996) 2018-01-12T19:42:55+00:00

Jim McGraw was known as a pioneer designer of some of the first biotechnology labs and telecommunications facilities in San Diego. In the 1990s, when biotech was just finding its footing, McGraw saw that city officials didn’t realize the industry’s economic potential for the region. He prodded leaders from the companies that support biotech, including lawyers, engineers and architects, to lobby on the industry’s behalf and educate elected officials to its potential.

In 1991 his work led to the founding of San Diego Biocommerce Association–BIOCOM, a group of life science service providers. In 1995 this group merged with the Biotechnology Industry Council (BIC), which had previously been a separate group of life science industry execs.

“He devoted his skills as well as his vision and an extraordinary amount of his company and personal resources to the bioscience industry he believed in,” said the Managing Director of BIOCOM.  “We deeply regret his early departure from our lives.”

McGraw drew upon his clearly defined beliefs that structure, technology and internal function imparted beauty to his buildings. He said his high-technology clients understood and responded to his love of simplicity, finding it imperative to eliminate extraneous factors from the science performed inside the structures.

James McGraw Associates architectural firm was founded in 1976. It later became known as McGraw/Baldwin when his friend Kennon Baldwin, AIA, became a partner in the business.  Baldwin said, “only the strongest bonds of friendship and admiration could allow the frankness and honesty with which we worked.  He had an uncanny ability to see potential in people.  He propelled us toward achievement.  He cultivated the high standards he set for himself in all of those with whom he worked.  Our firm and the San Diego architectural and high-technology communities have been greatly enriched by Jim’s contributions.”  Presently the firm is named Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects and continues the principles upon which the firm was originally founded.

Clients include, Genentech, Idec Pharmaceuticals, Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Qualcomm, Illumina, Nuvasive, The San Diego Zoo, Healthcare Properties, Biomed Realty, Genoptix, Novartis, The Scripps Research Institute, The Sanford Burham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and Gilead Sciences.

Jim McGraw donated his time freely to many civic and professional groups.  He served on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Man and San Diegans, Inc.; local and state director of the AIA; chair of the Urban Design Task for San Diegans, Inc. and the Urban Design advisory committee for the CCDC; a member of the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce; and Lambda Alpha International, an honorary society for the study of land economics.

James McGraw died after a six-month battle with cancer.  He was 54.

Christa Vragel, Writer


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Candice Reed.  The Daily Transcript.  “Blueprint for success”.  September 14, 2006.

Kay Kaiser.   San Diego architect.  September/October, 1966.