From the American West
to the Middle East, David
Lynch & Associates, a
Lancaster fixture since 1961,
is expanding its footprint
By Michael Schwartz
Lancaster Sunday News
We've seen what we've come here for,"
declared Abbas Gholoom as he stood in
the cold drizzle outside the Fulton Bank
building in Penn Square Thursday.
"I intend to recommend everything
we've seen from day one," said Gholoom, the design
department director and acting construction
administrator in the Kuwaiti Department of Public
Equally sanguine was Richard Hodges, who
spoke via telephone from his 372-acre Arizona
Hodges, whose spread borders Mexico, said,
"Everything about her says she flat out knows what
she's doing, and they're very, very good at what
"She" is Barbara Lynch, and "they" are the
architectural firm David Lynch & Associates, 500
Half a world apart, two projects that could
scarcely be more different are moving forward
with a common bond: the Lancaster-based company.
The Kuwaiti government has contracted the
firm to design 15 schools in Kuwait City, the capital.
A contingent of three officials, including Gholoom,
spent last week in the United States touring schools
and other DLA-designed buildings.
On the Hodges ranch in Cochise County, Ariz.,
the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has asked David
Lynch & Associates to supervise construction
of a one-mile-long, multilayered barrier separating
the United States and Mexico.
"These experiences have been, how should I say
it? Eye-opening," said Barbara Lynch, architect,
principal and co-owner of David Lynch & Associates.
Her father, David Lynch, founded the company
"I've been learning that the world's a little bit
different than I thought," she said.
In early 2000, David Lynch & Associates received
a fax saying, in mangled English, that the
Kuwaiti Ministry of Education wanted the company
to draft plans for a school.
"It just looked like a scam that you see all the
time on the Internet," Lynch said, referring to a
common swindle in which someone promises a
large payoff in exchange for payment of minor
"They didn't ask for any money," she said, "but it
Several weeks later, the local firm began receiving
faxes from Kuwaiti architectural firms asking
DLA to partner with them.
A foreign company must have a Kuwaiti counterpart
to work in the country.
Then a Kuwaiti company telephoned Lynch. At
that time, the firm employed someone who spoke
Arabic, and Lynch asked him to talk to the caller.
Satisfied with the translation, Lynch decided the
offer was genuine.
After receiving permission from the State
Department to work in Kuwait, David Lynch & Associates
sent its papers to the Ministry of Education, which hired the firm in
2003 to build 15 "kindergartens."
Kuwaiti children attend kindergarten
from the age of 3 or 4 until age 7.
They then go on to elementary, junior
and senior high schools, in separate
buildings and divided by grades as in
Of the 15 sites allocated to the Education
Ministry by the government,
only seven were big enough to house
the 12-classroom, single-floor design
the government chose.
For the remaining eight, the
schools would need to stand two
stories, something a Kuwaiti kindergarten
As ministry officials and the representative
of the nation's school
principals began to debate the
two-story kindergarten idea,
their dialogue slipped from
total English, to a mixture of
English and Arabic, to just
Arabic, as they discussed the
idea for several hours.
Some English words have
no Arabic equivalent, however,
which allowed Lynch to pick up
on parts of the discussion.
"When they would say 'gymnasium'
for example, it wasn't
hard to figure out what they
were talking about," she said.
The Western front
Seventeen people have been
found dead on Richard Hodges'
372-acre cattle ranch in the
past three years.
Hodges lives in the southeast
corner of Arizona, on land
first settled by his great-grandfather
in 1898. The rugged
terrain sits 4,800 feet above sea
level, and the ones who didn't
make it across his property
all died of exposure in a harsh
The 52-year-old has spent
his whole life in Cochise
County and describes growing
up on the Mexican border as
From the mid-90s on, however,
Hodges has seen a very
different picture emerge, and
groups have formed to prevent
illegal aliens from entering the
Besides an overall increase
in the number of illegal aliens
caught trying to cross into
America through his land,
Hodges has personally seen an
increase in violence.
He described a recent
incident in which he was shot
"I don't believe they meant
to kill me," he said. "They were
shooting a rifle from a long
range. I saw the first bullet hit
the ground near me before I
heard the rifle, and before I
could move, another bullet hit
"They just wanted to scare
me and let me know they were
there. If they'd wanted to kill
me, I'd be dead," he said.
In April 2006, the Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps
approached Hodges about
building an "Israeli-style" wall
on his land, and he jumped at
The description "Israeli-style" refers to the massive Israeli West Bank
barrier that, at some points, stands more than 23
feet high with other fortifications.
Hodges, while not a member of the Minuteman
Civil Defense Corps, has gone along with
its efforts to "stop illegal activity, period," he
"You have to support law enforcement," he
said, but Hodges does not endorse xenophobia.
"If you're racist against Mexicans, you can
get lost," he said.
Hodges' fence will not be nearly as formidable
as the Israeli barrier. About 50 percent
finished, the fence will cost about $650,000 and
consist of a wall, 14-feet-high, covered with
razor wire and dotted with night-vision and
infrared cameras, according to a Dec. 10, 2006,
article in the Arizona Daily Star, and confirmed
The wall will stand 60 feet behind a computerized
chain-link-style fence, also covered with
razor wire, that can distinguish between contact
from humans versus wind or animals.
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps asked
Barbara Lynch and DLA to oversee the project.
David Lynch & Associates' role is to decide
on the materials, find the manufacturers and
negotiate with the construction company. Lynch
declined to discuss the financial terms of the
Lynch said that she views this, and all of her
jobs, as apolitically as possible.
"I had to ask myself if I was ready to enter
this political fray," she said. "If a doctor asked
me to build an office, and I found out that he performed
abortions there, would I let my position
on the issue sway my decision? No," she said.
Her choice, she said, turns on what is legal
and what is not.
For Hodges, the fence is more symbolic
than practical. He acknowledges that someone
determined to cross the border could walk a
mile around his fortification, but that's beside
"It shouldn't be individuals' jobs to secure
the borders; the government should do that and
until they do, we'll keep seeing projects like
this," he said.