Richard Winston Ayers, architect


Richard Winston Ayers, an architect whose use of both traditional and modern design elements can be seen in some of Baltimore's most notable institutional buildings, died Friday at his Homeland residence of melanoma.

Mr. Ayers, a principal in the architectural firm of Ayers-Saint-Gross Inc., was 84. He had been semiretired since 1985.

In the 1940s, he designed Shriver Hall on the Homewood Campus of the Johns Hopkins University. Thus began a relationship with the university that lasted more than four decades and led to seven other buildings, including the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Newton H. White Athletic Center, the Mudd Biology Research Complex, Barton and Garland halls and the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy.

Mr. Ayers' other major commissions include buildings at the Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn, Har Sinai Synagogue, Northwestern High School, the Loyola-Notre Dame Library and the Harford County Courthouse renovation and expansion.

"He was a pillar of the architectural community for many years and was always interested in creating quality work that adhered to the best possible standards," said Walter Schamu, an architect who worked with Mr. Ayers for five years and a partner in the firm of Schamu, Machowski & Doo. "He created buildings that will live on.

"He was one of those architects that was schooled in the Beaux Arts tradition and struggled with modernism," Mr. Schamu said.

"One of his great achievements was his design of the Thomas and Hugg Memorial Building at the Maryland Historical Society where he set the addition, which is of modern design, next to the 19th century Greek Revival home of Enoch Pratt, and the overall design is both sympathetic to the Pratt House yet quite remarkable."

Born and reared in Jefferson, Ga., Mr. Ayers earned his bachelor's degree in architecture in 1932 and a master's degree in architecture in 1934, both from Yale University. He was a Fellow in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome from 1936 to 1938.

He was hired in 1938 by the Baltimore firm of Buckler and Fenhagen. His employment there was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the Navy and toured Japan as a member of the Strategic Bombing Survey. He was discharged in 1946 as a lieutenant.

He returned to Buckler and Fenhagen and in 1955, he and Julius Meyer took over the firm. In 1964, they were joined by Kelsey Saint, a Yale classmate.

Co-workers described Mr. Ayers as the epitome of the Southern gentleman, and as quiet and reserved. His work habits were described by Mr. Schamu as being those of "a classically trained Beaux Arts architect whose training was still in evidence. He still hand-tinted his drawings, wore an apron and worked with a T-square and pencil and ink."

"He had the last drafting table in the firm and sat on a stool," said a son, Richard A. Ayers, an architect who lives in Washington. "He sharpened his pencils with a knife and used a sandpaper board to get the point he wanted."

Mr. Ayers belonged to numerous professional organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, where he was a fellow. He was a member of the architectural review boards for the state and Baltimore County, and the Art Commission for Baltimore City.

He was a gardener and a member of the Baltimore Country Club, where he played golf.

A Mass of Christian burial for Mr. Ayers will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Roman Catholic Shrine of the Sacred Heart on Smith Avenue in Mount Washington.

Other survivors include his wife, the former Vaughan Bentz; another son, Allan W. Ayers of Baltimore; a daughter, Claire Fountain of Baltimore; two brothers, Nathan McNeill Ayers of Greensboro, N.C., and Addison Lea Ayers of Richmond, Va.; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Institute of Architects Foundation -- Baltimore, 11 1/2 W. Chase St., Baltimore 21201.

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