Lewis Twins Return Home to Share Their Architectural Gems
Paul and David Lewis to exhibit award-winning work at The College of Wooster Art Museum
WOOSTER, Ohio — For Paul and David Lewis, architecture is as much about people as it is about structures. Principals in the nationally renowned firm LTL Architects (Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis), the twin brothers, who grew up just three blocks from The College of Wooster’s campus, focus on what happens when people come together in public spaces.
“We have made a conscious decision to engage the social arena in architecture,” says Paul. “We are interested in complex interactions among people in public settings.”
The public will have a rare opportunity to experience their work when The College of Wooster Art Museum presents 18 of their award-winning built and speculative designs Jan. 17 through Mar. 5. The exhibition, which includes a gallery talk by the two brothers on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m., will feature drawings and models, such as those used in the construction of Wooster’s Bornhuetter Hall, a residence hall on the northwest corner of Beall and Wayne Avenues.
“It’s a real opportunity to talk about the role of architecture in general and on campus,” says David. “It is a privilege to have an exhibition where our friends and colleagues can see our work in a different light.”
Born in Wooster in 1966, the Lewis Twins, along with older sister Martha (also an architect currently living in Denmark) had plenty of early exposure to art and architecture through their parents, Arn and Beth Irwin Lewis, who were on the faculty in the fields of cultural history, art history, and architectural history at the College. “We made many trips to (Frank Lloyd Wright’s) ‘Falling Water,’” says David. “We also went to Munich during our father’s faculty leave where we were exposed to the distinctive architecture of the Olympic Games (in 1972).”
Even at home, art and architecture were common topics of conversation, according to their father. “I was an architectural historian, and my brother was an architect, so we talked a lot about it, often at the dinner table,” says Arn, who noted that the twins owe a great deal to their early years in Wooster. “Growing up in Wooster and at the College was a very positive and pleasant experience for them.” In fact, the twins spent much of their time on campus, playing on the soccer field and in the gym, and working on the paint crew in the summer. “The campus was like our backyard,” remembers Paul.
The two also did a lot of drawing while growing up, and shared a number of other common interests, including soccer and the saxophone. They were quite gifted in math and science as well, but when it came time to choose a college, they made a conscious decision to go in opposite directions. Paul, who was already eyeing a career in architecture, headed to Connecticut to attend Wesleyan University, while David, who was initially interested in political science, journeyed to Minnesota to study at Carleton College.
Their divergent paths would seemingly separate them for an extended period of time, but their interest in architecture eventually brought them back together. After each took a year off following graduation, Paul enrolled in Princeton’s graduate program in architecture, while David went to Cornell in pursuit of a graduate degree in architectural history. After Paul graduated, David decided to enroll at Princeton to earn a master’s degree in architectural design. Eventually the two reconnected and officially established LTL Architects with Marc Tsurumaki in New York City in 1997.
Several years later, the firm was asked by Wooster’s then vice president for finance and business, Bob Walton, to do a feasibility study of several residence halls on campus (Bissman, Armington, and Stevenson). “We had just been featured as a vanguard firm in Architectural Record magazine,” says Paul. “The College was looking for younger professionals who understood how students really use residence halls, and contacted us. We proposed de-densification and new interiors rather than demolition (of the existing buildings) and, as a result, recommended that a new one needed to be built.”
Impressed by their work on the feasibility study, LTL was hired to design the new facility. Ground was broken in 2003, and Bornhuetter Hall opened to students in August of 2004. The $8.9 million, 46,650-square foot, double-wing structure, with its distinctive exterior entry courtyard and study pods that jut out from each floor above the main entrance to the building, features a layout that encourages the development of communities on each floor.
Since that time, LTL has continued its groundbreaking work in the field, including Arthouse at the Jones Center, a contemporary art space in Austin, Texas, and “Water Proving Ground,” a speculative project that was part of “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront,” organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2010. Both will be on display at The College of Wooster Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition.
“As you watch one building after another, it is just humbling because their ability goes so far beyond anything we could have imagined,” says their justifiably proud mother. “We appreciate the fact that they take very seriously what their clients want and need. They have been able to come up with remarkable solutions for very difficult problems.”
The firm is currently working on projects at New York University, Syracuse University, The University of Wyoming, and Gallaudet University, which they say challenge the norms and the ways they think about things. “We are continuing to develop,” says Paul, “and, we hope, getting better as we go along.”