Please let me introduce myself. I am W.A.”Bud” Lawrence and I am a residential house designer with over 40 years in the business. I practiced in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for almost 20 years and in Ft. Myers, Florida for over 20 years. Because of the housing crash I am semi-retired and living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; one of the world’s most beautiful historic cities. It is rated in the top ten cities of the world. I am here in hopes of writing a series of small books about American house styles. Over the last fifty years it seems that our houses in the United States have been so bastardized that no one can tell one style from another. They seem to be getting worst year after year. In the 1920’s architects and designers did a masterful job of capturing different styles and making them work for their time. We no longer seem to be able to do that. My goal is to try to pass down to the next generation a set of books that will, in detail, show how one can capture the beautiful styles we once had.
Over my forty years of designing houses I have learned how important it is for design professionals to learn about and understand the style they are working in. If they do not truly know and understand what the elements are that make a style a style they cannot create a beautiful rendition of that style. I call them a “want-to-be” house.
I have been on a mission for at least four decades or more to study and understand the thirty or more styles done all across America. I have been to 49 states, Europe, Asia and Latin America studying, measuring and photographing (over 13,000) houses. I have a library of over 350 architectural books including over 50 of the world’s greatest residential architects.
I completed four years of a five year curriculum in architecture at Louisiana State University. The school of architecture only taught modernism and, of course, nothing about residential design. I felt I was not going to get to where I wanted to go so I did not get my degree. That of course was a big mistake but when you are young you do not always make the wisest choices.
I learned you did not have to be a licensed architect to design houses, so I went to work for a local house designer for a short time and then went out on my own. As I knew it would be, this has been a wonderful profession. Over the last 40 years there have been a number of ups and downs in the business. Way more ups than downs.
After being in business for a few years and having the largest residential design firm in the state of Louisiana I was approached by a colleague to help form the Louisiana Society of the American Institute of Building Design. I am proud to have been a founding member of the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD) in Louisiana and I was president of that society several times. After moving to Florida I became a member and office holder in the Florida society of AIBD.
In 2001 I discovered the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA). I started going to New York to study at the ICAA and at that time it was the only place on the planet one could go learn the classical language. Learning the Classical Language over the next six years or more would change me forever. I completed almost every course they offered at that time. I, along with Bobby Morales (a fellow AIBD design professional) of Orlando, Florida, was very instrumental in convincing ICAA to work with AIBD to go to Florida and teach over 100 residential designers, architects, interior designers and contractors, seven courses in the classical language. Due to a lot of hard work by Robin Garrett, my daughter and partner in my company, who put the whole event together, it was an incredible success and it was the first time ICA had gone outside of Manhattan to bring its message to a large audience. After that very successful venture ICAA and my design firm, Period Style Homes, Inc., sponsored a series of five seminars around Florida and Louisiana on historic architectural styles. We found there was a strong interest among architects and designers to learn about housing styles. Shortly after that series, ICAA and Period Style Homes worked together to put on another series that went to five different states from coast to coast showing architects and designers a number of historic architectural styles. At each seminar I taught on three or four popular historic styles found in the area of the seminars. We did Spanish Colonial in Santa Barbara, Calif., Greek Revival in Columbus, Ohio, Tidewater style in Charleston, South Carolina, etc. We got a wonderful response to this series and everyone wanted to learn more about the styles they were designing in. I got a lot of great feedback from each of the areas we had a seminar. Since then I have done a few short seminars for some small groups that asked me to come speak on a specific style or two. Whenever I give one of these classes I also insist that I be able to show the group how important the classical language is to capturing any historic style.
A couple of years ago I was very privileged to be invited to be a member of the New Urban Guild which is a group of classically trained architects, designers, land planers and others dedicated to advancing correct traditional and classical design principles in housing design and urban design.
The New Urban Guild designers primarily use the Charrette design process. I have been involved in and put on a number of design charrettes as a part of my business also. I find it a very rewarding process and it has been a privilege to be able to work side by side with the top tier of design professionals in the classical world; a true privilege.
I am hoping the housing market will start coming back in a year or two so I would like to start a conversation about traditional house styles. I invite all those interested in Traditional, Classical, and Vernacular house styles to chime in on the discussion.
All of my work for the last forty years has been traditional and vernacular in style. Over the last five or six years a lot of my work has been in new urbanism communities. Almost all of the new urbanism communities have requirements that architects and designers must design their houses and/ or their multifamily and commercial projects in a number of designated traditional styles. Over the last few years, I have been a town architect for several Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TND’s) and as the town architect I had to review plans submitted by architects, designers, and contractors. I would say that over ninety five percent of the plans submitted had serious style interpretation flaws and almost all of the plans had serious proportion problems. This presents serious problems for the developers because plans that are not up to par have to be approved if the developer is to get roof tops going up. The problem is that it does not take long for the public to see that the houses fall seriously short on style and are downright ugly.
Many of these bad TND’s have given new urbanism communities a bad rap that well done TND’s do not deserve. Those done correctly have been very successful and are beautiful neighborhoods to live and work in.
I want to open the discussion by asking those that are interested, how important is it to the housing market and the general public that the design professional get a style correct that he or she is designing in? Does it matter, or does it not matter?
Bud Lawrence, Period Style Homes Plan Sales, Inc.