Some signature architects are just that, especially when they get old. They put their famous signature on the drawings that younger associates prepare.

Aaron Green of San Francisco, who died last month at 84, was an exception, say those who watched him create the American Hebrew Academy here.``He was the key person,' says Rabbi Alvin Mars, the headmaster.

The academy's first phase nears completion on the former Jefferson-Pilot employee club property along Jefferson Road. When the initial class of 70 students arrives this fall, the academy will be the first Jewish boarding school in America.

The school will be viewed as Green's last project, as the Marin County Civic Center in California is remembered as the final design of Frank Lloyd Wright, Green's mentor. After Wright's death in 1959, Green completed the civic center, today a National Historic Landmark because of its architectural significance.

Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as ``a designer of striking originality,' Green was one of Wright's last associates still active.

The Hebrew academy was a dream assignment for him. The school's trustees, who already had raised the $40 million needed for the first phase, wanted originality when they chose Green from many national architectural firms.

``This is a client that wants you to do all the things that as an architect you want to do,' Green said in September 1999, after a ceremony at Guilford College displaying the academy's design. ``It's rare to find such a client.'

An architect's death before a project's completion can be disastrous, but Green's campus design was finished. What will be missed is his presence. Green traveled to Greensboro once a month to watch the design become reality, including an energy system that will heat the buildings from geothermal wells beneath the athletic fields.

``He had done all he needed to do to make sure it will be a wonderful and beautiful sight, architecturally striking, educationally impacting,' Mars says.

The first phase consists of seven buildings, but the Chronicle reported that Green has designed 74 ``broad-roofed buildings centered around a domed synagogue.' The other structures are to come as the school grows.

Green wasn't flamboyant and pushy like Wright, famous for his black cape, wide-brim hat and refusal to compromise. Green, who worked with Wright on more than 30 projects, dismissed stories about Wright's stubbornness as ``fallacious.'

``... We never had a harsh word. He was a wonderful man. For Frank Lloyd Wright, architecture and life were one. His standards were so high, he was always pushing.'

When Green spoke those words two years ago in Greensboro, he had recently completed restoring Maiden Lane Gallery in Union Square in San Francisco, which Wright designed in 1949.

A New York Times obituary said Green's work ``reflected the influence of Wright's characteristics like clean lines, the use of new materials and sensitivity to the environment.'

Hebrew academy promotional material stresses Green's ties to Wright, who practiced what's called ``organic architecture.' Green's campus design is described as ``strikingly beautiful while being sensitive to the natural environment. ...'

Cars will be barred from the 100-acre campus. Electric carts and walking will be the only means of transportation. The landscape will include a 22-acre lake with a Green-designed boathouse. Student quarters will be more like houses than dorms. Each will have 18 students, plus a faculty member and his or her family.

For building material, stone from the city of Jerusalem was imported to connect the school with its Jewish roots.

Green grew up in Mississippi, studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and Cooper Union in New York and joined Wright in 1940 at Wright's Taliesin design studios in Wisconsin and Arizona.

After World War II military service, Green worked for another American icon, industrial designer Raymond Loewy, whose creations included the 1961 Studebaker Avanti. Green rejoined Wright in the late 1940s as his West Coast representative.

A week before Green's death, he received the first Gold Medal of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for a half-century of architectural achievement.

Nancy Klein Green, his widow, says her husband felt the academy's design was one of his best.

``He was very excited and very proud of it,' she said Friday.\ \ Contact Jim Schlosser at 373-7081 or jschlosser@news-record.com

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