SAWA Rchitects

At ease with Cor-ten hut

For Scott Williams, the founder and principal of SAWA RCHITECTS, a pool house in New Jersey marks a career turning point. The pool house contains a bar, a changing room, a water closet, and an outdoor shower. A 12-foot-high arc of Cor-ten steel shields the front of the structure. It is a thoroughly modern and striking building, reminiscent of a Richard Serra sculpture, but layered and functional. And it's a complete contrast to the new porch structure added to the rear of the house at the other end of the pool. The porch has shutters, pilasters,

Williams designed that, too.

In fact, much of Williams's built work hews more closely to the Classical orders than to Corbusier. His work in the Classical idiom comes as much from chance as from training, though both played a role.

"My father owned a furniture company on the East Side of Manhattan," Williams said. "And when he died seven years ago, I rushed in to take over the daily operations. I got to know the decorators, and then I found myself doing renovations of Fifth Avenue apartments. You read about these architects who start off doing bus shelters in Omaha or whatever, but for me, it was the complete opposite."

Williams earned a B.Arch. from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and an M.Arch. from the Southern California Institute of Architecture, in Los Angeles. While there, he worked for Michael Rotundi at RoTo Architects, and then for Charles Gwathmey at Gwathmey Siegel & Associates in New York. Then his career took a stylistic turn as he took a job at Ferguson Murray & Shamamian, a New York firm known largely for its high-end traditional houses and apartments.

He went to the firm's library and immersed himself in Classical architecture and the work of Palladio. And while he wouldn't choose to work in a style heavy on columns and pediments if given the choice, Williams found Classical architecture satisfying. In particular, the need for hand drawings suited Williams well: No matter what style he works in, he draws everything by hand.

The commission for the sunporch addition in New Jersey came to Williams even before the clients had contemplated the idea of the pool house. But when the idea came up in conversation, Williams asked for a weekend to do some preliminary drawings, and the clients were impressed. They gave Williams the go-ahead and took his design ideas on faith.

"They didn't have any idea of what they were getting," Williams said. "We barely had any idea what they were getting ourselves."

What they got was a Modernist counterpoint to his new porch, and an architect who was proud of both, even if he has a clear preference for one.

"Modernism is my style, 100 percent," Williams said, "though it's fun to go back and forth. I never try to impress my style on a client, but things come to the surface when they see your passion."