Larry Simons FAIA turned 80 in May of 2017.
He had retired from architectural practice and development in February of 2017 after 51 years. It was a process that most likely took years to plan and execute. However Larry in his signature modesty did not talk about it much. You can read more in the Press Democrat article here.
Larry is perhaps the most significant Sonoma County architect of the last 50 years. He designed 22% of Santa Rosa’s downtown and has been one of the largest developers in the region. He came into town at the right time, with the right Idea’s and made the right friends.
He was an early proponent of architect as developer. Learning how by reading a book by John Portman a developer architect of the Hyatt Regency Chain. Portman was run out the AIA because of his unique approach to delivering architecture as an owner/builder. A while later they started giving him awards for his work.
Architects seem to have issues with other successful, innovative architects at least at first.
In 1966 Larry toured the work of Frank Lloyed Wright,. He then started his practice emulating the principals and many design themes of the greatest American architect of the 20th Century (also according to the AIA but only 35 years after Wright claimed that for himself). Larry is shown above in the Sun Cottage where he stayed as a guest of the Frank Lloyed Wright foundation in 2015. It was his first time back to Taliesin after his initial visit. He had gotten very busy building. He presented his work as architect as developer in a lecture to the Frank Lloyd Wright School or Architecture.
Larry created a uniquely successful business model with the help of his late partner Jim Brecht. He, and his last partner Joan Woodard manage and owned with other investors over 30 properties (see Stony Point Road, both sides between 3rd & Gurneville Rd. and the The Corporate Center Parkway complex North West on Sebastopol Ave.), Larry has won 38 design awards. Below are few of his designs including the Rattagan Federal building a few Larry’s many contributions to our built environment.
Basin Street Properties of Reno Nevada best known locally for the Basin Street development at the Petaluma theater district purchased 337,360 sq. ft. of Mr. Simmons properties.
Before his retirement His firm outlined his accomplishments in these words;
“Simons & Woodard is an architecture, development and property management team. We are highly skilled with office buildings, flex, and medical office. Our firm is locally owned and managed and our focus is Sonoma County, California. We have been in business for more than 45 years and believe it is possible to create and manage workplaces that are great spaces for people and sensitive to the environment. We use local materials and labor and design for the long term.
Established in 1970 as Lawrence Simons, FAIA,. Larry came to Sonoma County in the late 1960’s to practice architecture because he fell in love with the natural environment, quality of light, and the natural resources available, such as redwood and rock. After years succeeding as an architect, he also became a developer of the buildings he designed, as well as an owner.
This triple focus has made our firm sensitive to managing costs and delivering value for both the short term and the long term. He partnered with another architect, James Brecht, and the company became known as Simons & Brecht. Mr. Brecht passed away unexpectedly in 2001. Joan Woodard, a developer and manager, became his new partner in 2006. The company is known for projects throughout Sonoma County, but projects that are well known include Fountaingrove Inn and Equus Restaurant, Stony Point Lakes, Northpoint Corporate Center, and the new Senior Wing at Finley Community Center.”