Thom Stauffer, Architect


Architecture—at its best—can be graceful, welcoming, comforting and pleasantly surprising. Indeed, the great architects seem always to be designing not just structures, but states of mind.

For more than 20 years, Thom Stauffer has been stirring the emotions of Northeast Ohioans with the kind of architectural statements that often stimulate, sometimes provoke, and always delight. From private residences and affordable housing to commercial structures, public schools and playgrounds, almost all of Stauffer’s commissions for clients ranging from University Circle Incorporated, to the City of Cuyahoga Heights have resulted in honors of one sort or another from his peers. Why? Because his work shows a remarkable consistency of originality, a willingness to take risks, and the inventive flair to pull them off.

In his more than 20 years as a working architect and professor of architecture at Kent State University, Stauffer has continually explored new avenues of design and new approaches to materials and construction techniques. He is ever on the lookout for new ways in which to, in his words, “profoundly and positively influence” our individual and collective life experience through architecture. His abiding interest in the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous materialswood and steel, granite and glassbrings to his designs a beneficial dramatic tension that only heightens the pleasure of those who live in, work in, or merely visit the structures he creates.

Because he is so often called upon to design additions to existing homes, he likes to take into account the history of the structure before he sets pencil to paper. In such a case he tries to define the impact of the new portion on the overall effect of the existing structure and on its surroundings. His goal is always to complement rather than overwhelm, which explains in part why Staufferwho holds master's degrees in both architecture and city planning from the University of Pennsylvaniawon 18 juried design awards in 15 years from the Ohio and Cleveland chapters of the American Institute of Architects.

In a typical Stauffer design, space and light play roles as important as those of every other component. Indeed, he seems most adept at taking the intangiblewhat isn't thereand making it a dramatic element of his compositions.

In one corporate interior design, for example, Stauffer created a showpiece from what could have been a commonplace necessity: a staircase. Artfully employing crosshatched steel cables as load-sharing supports and a beautifully curving delta-shaped railing, he managed to blend elements reminiscent of an 18th-century sailing ship’s rigging with others expressing the energy of a jet-propelled era. Each tread of the staircase appears to float in mid-air, while the handrail seems to impel walkers to rush upwards. Yet in the end, the staircase still delivers an impression of tranquility, its disparate details working together to manifest not just a sense of harmony with each other, but also consonance with the context of their environment.

From such states of mind great architecture is madeand national reputations are earned.

—Paul Westlake Jr.

Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •