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Lewis W. Butler, an adroit modernist residential artist with a arresting clientele, died Thursday, afterwards a action adjoin esophageal cancer.
Butler, a fourth-generation San Franciscan, died in auberge at home in an 1884 Victorian home he had gutted and adapted with his wife and architectural accomplice angry novelist, Catherine Armsden. He was 63.
In a 35-year career at Butler Armsden Architects, Butler accustomed himself as an absolute risk-taker. He congenital his aboriginal house, a fly-fishing berth on Abatement River (Shasta County), while an undergraduate belief civilian engineering at Stanford University. Later, afterwards earning his master’s in architectonics from Harvard University, he opened his abutting in San Francisco in 1985, cartoon audience by chat of aperture from the start.
Butler Armsden is now a abutting with 27 residential architects and a portfolio of high-end homes advised for Silicon Valley tech luminaries who generally crave a nondisclosure agreement. This beggared Butler of a ample bulk of publicity in architectural and architectonics magazines, which never agitated him in the slightest.
“He was aloof captivated to be sitting in the aforementioned allowance with these awful accomplished captains of industry, talking about home design,” Armsden said. The account were generally above the accepted branch of architecture, but Butler was able to cull them off with an activity and activity that could actuate acute San Francisco planners and adjacency traditionalists.
“His backbone was that he consistently exuded aplomb and a can-do attitude,” Armsden said. “Lewis’ abutting was accepted for actuality an awfully blessed abode to assignment because every abstraction was admired and anybody was accustomed adeptness on their projects. He never had a boss’ arrogance.” He did, however, accept a abundant faculty of amusement and a atoning charm.
Lewis Wohlford Butler was built-in March 27, 1957, in San Francisco, the average of three kids of Lewis H. and Sheana Butler. He grew up in Jordan Park, but aback he was 4 his ancestor was assassin to be the administrator of the Peace Corps in Malaysia, and the ancestors lived in Kuala Lumpur frrom 1962 to ’64. Aback he alternate he abounding Madison School, but was pulled out afresh aback his ancestor took a job in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the Nixon administering in Washington, D.C.
Back in San Francisco, he bounced amid aerial schools while spending best of his time on his back, beneath the agent of a 1929 Model A barter he was rebuilding and endemic until his death. The alone way his parents could get him out from there was to backpack him off to boarding academy at Andover, Mass. There, he fell aloft an abrupt affection for archaeology and drafting, “and his academician aloof clicked on,” Armsden said.
He accustomed at Stanford in the abatement of 1975, planning to above in architecture, alone to be told that there was no architectonics major. So he switched to civilian engineering, and additionally absolved on to the varsity soccer team, spending two years as a goalie. The Model A barter became article of a amulet for his crowd, and he rode it into acclamation as one of four chief chic presidents.
After graduating, he formed as a artist for William Turnbull architects until he larboard for Harvard the afterward year. During his aboriginal division at the Harvard Graduate Academy of Design, the desks were abiding alphabetically, with Butler abutting to Armsden, from Kittery Point, Maine.
As a test, Butler subjected Armsden to a cross-country drive in a 1963 Cadillac afterwards air conditioning. Afterwards a 10-day trip, Butler angry in the Cadillac and alien Armsden to the benumbed affluence of the Model A truck.
Three weeks afterwards commutual their aftermost project, they were affiliated in a backyard on the hottest September day on almanac in Maine, again collection beyond the country a additional time. They busy a one-bedroom accommodation on Telegraph Hill, and Butler opened his abutting by abstraction amplitude out of the building’s abundance room.
He started with one client, his father, whose grandmother had purchased two $5,000 lots in Seadrift at Stinson Bank aback it was aboriginal developed. Butler advised a shingled bank abode that became the ancestors vacation home.
The simple H-shaped architectonics with a pitched roof has been affected about Seadrift and in bank towns about the country. It charcoal the best appear activity on the Butler Armsden website 35 year later. Additionally accepted is the Yolo County Cabin, a farmhouse that incorporates a baptize belfry in its design, and his Valley of the Moon Retreat, a Sonoma home with a accurate abject that accustomed it to bear the bonfire that devastated the breadth in 2016. That activity won an American Institute of Architects Award. Butler won abounding awards over his career, but they sat in a accumulation aptitude adjoin a wall. He was never the blazon to blow about awards.
“Lewis was a admirer in all of his interactions,” said Chandra Campbell, CFO at Butler Armsden on Sutter Street. “Even if a -to-be applicant assassin addition firm, he would consistently say, ‘You can adeptness out to me any time if you appetite addition eye on your activity or added advice.’ He was consistently allowance or mentoring anyone who accomplished out to him.”
The alone affair that Butler enjoyed added than addition out a abode to body was demography afar a best British motorcycle. Using Craigslist and eBay, he congenital a amusement out of refurbishing BSA and Triumph bikes from the 1970s. A best BSA still sits in the offices of Butler Armsden. There was additionally usually a ancestors dog in the appointment and generally one or both of his children, Elena and Tobias. For best of his career, the appointment was one block from home, so he could consistently accomplish it to dinner.
Butler was additionally a surfer, and aback the after-effects were up he would drive out to Ocean Beach. In the algid water, cat-and-mouse for the sets, he developed a accumulation of accompany absolutely abstracted from his on acreage friends.
Butler served on the boards of the Hamlin School, University Aerial Academy and the San Francisco Girls Chorus, allowance anniversary of them with advance and acclimate projects pro bono. He additionally was alive in architectonics beach castles at Ocean Bank as a fundraiser for LEAP, a nonprofit that brings art and architectonics into Bay Breadth accessible schools.
Within the accomplished year, Butler started accepting problems burning aliment and absent his adeptness to speak, but still kept up a bent assignment clip by email.
Butler’s son, Tobias, is a software architect at Change.org. His daughter, Elena, took a leave from medical academy at the University of Pennsylvania in adjustment to appear home and affliction for her ancestor in the Victorian.
“He was a ancestor who fabricated you feel like any botheration you ability accept he could advice you break it,” Elena said. “Right up until the end he was affectionate and appreciative of what we were accomplishing with our lives.”
Survivors accommodate his wife of 37 years, Catherine Armsden of San Francisco; babe Elena Butler of Philadelphia, son Tobias Butler of Oakland, ancestor Lewis H. Butler of San Francisco, sisters Serra Simbeck of Portola Valley and Lucy Butler of Los Angeles, and four nephews and three nieces.
A canonizing account will be captivated in 2021. A scholarship armamentarium for underserved youths absorbed in belief architectonics and architectonics is actuality set up at Butler Armsden in affliction of Chandra Campbell at [email protected]
Sam Whiting is a San Francisco Chronicle agents writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SamWhitingSF
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