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O'Brien grew up in Greensboro and graduated from the NCSU School of Design in 1962 where he worked closely with Terry Waugh. In 1963, Waugh sent O'Brien to Peru for extensive work with the Agricultural Univerisity in Lima. When O'Brien returned to the US in 1967, he worked for John Latimer until starting O’Brien/Atkins Associates in 1975. During this time he designed several Modernist houses.  Located in Research Triangle Park, O’Brien/Atkins is one of North Carolina's largest and most successful design firms with projects worldwide.

2014 Interview

1967 - The Oliver S. and Lydia W. Moore Residence, 5405 Castlebrook Drive, Raleigh. Sold to Louis Dalenko and Carol Diane Bennett in 1985. Sold in 2010 to Barbara R. and Jesse M. Reed.

1967 - 4601 Chicopee Trail, Durham. The property was originally developed by Charlie Woodall. The house is a square donut with a courtyard in the center. Sold to Michael and Eileen Rice. Sold in 1977 to Richard Glenn Bratt. Sold in 1985 to Thomas A. Fiore and Carol Tresolini. Sold in 2006 to Kelly Lowry. 2244 square feet.

1967 - The William O'Brien House I, 4518 Chicopee Trail, Durham. Sold to Norman and Carolyn Balmer. Sold in 1986 to Alexis and Betty Epanchin. Sold in 1989 to John Hoffman. Sold in 1996 to Amy and Steve Peters.

1974 - The William and Tessia O'Brien House II, 105 Meadowbrook Drive, Chapel Hill. Addition in 1980. Sold in 2013 to Willemien E. Insinger and James W. Ricci.

Sources include: Bill O'Brien, Elizabeth Sappenfield, Kelly Lowry, O'Brien Atkins.