W.A. Sarmiento, the man who changed the way banks looked by making them friendlier and more inviting, has died of natural causes. He was 91. From the LA Times: “With their soaring pillars, immense bronze doors and dimly lit interiors, banks used to make small depositors feel even smaller – but at least they believed their money would be safe. By the 1950s, though, banks were eager for a friendlier image and Peruvian-born architect W.A. Sarmiento proved to be a master at providing it.” In more than 100 bank projects, Sarmiento changed the public’s perceptions of banks by getting rid of the iron bars that divided tellers and customers, having bank managers desks in the middle of the room, adding splashes of color, and creating rooms where light poured in onto curved surfaces. Who knew that just one man was behind the way modern banks looked?
But that’s just the tip of his story. According to the Times: “He also served in the Peruvian army, flying mail over the Andes in a biplane. On one trip, he crash-landed and was lost in the jungle for two weeks, surviving dysentery and an attack by a gang of monkeys. He finally was rescued by lightly dressed indigenous people who fed him roasted caterpillars.” He said, ‘By that time, I was naked too so we didn’t have anything to hide,'” his wife, Adrienne, said in an interview. What a life!