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Firm of the Century

College of Architecture bestows honor
on distinguished architecture firm



Caudill Rowlett Scott, Architects (CRS) has been honored as the “Firm of the Century” by Texas A&M University's College of Architecture for being the firm that has most significantly influenced the college in the last 100 years.

The award was presented the evening of April 1, 2005 to founding members of CRS at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum during a gala that kicked off a year-long “centennial celebration” honoring 100 years of architectural education at Texas A&M and in the state of Texas.

“Of all of the architectural firms that have influenced the architectural education and research programs at Texas A&M University in the last 100 years, none have had as profound an impact on Aggie architecture as Caudill Rowlett Scott. In less than a decade from its inception in 1946, CRS had gained national prominence for its pioneering work in educational facility design and innovative approaches to architectural programming,” stated the certificate presented to members of the firm.

CRS components were acquired by other industry firms in the mid-1990s, but the CRS Center, which was established at Texas A&M in 1990 through a generous endowment by CRS, continues with the purpose of advancing innovation and leadership in the design and construction industry. At the same time, CRS endowed the Thomas Bullock Chair in Leadership and Innovation, the William Peña Professorship in Information Management, and the Wallie Scott Professorship in Architectural Practice and Management.

“As professors, CRS founders William Caudill and John Rowlett advocated the teaching of practice, an idea countering the popular notion of the time that professors should not be allowed to practice,” said Tom Regan, dean of architecture. “Further bucking tradition, CRS eagerly published their research findings, making them available to both clients and competitors. Today, many CRS innovations are still commonly practiced and widely taught in the classroom, including the building type specialist, design by team, problem seeking, squatter's sessions, construction management and fast-track construction.”

In 1946, Caudill and Rowlett, two architecture professors at Texas A&M, became partners and founded the architecture firm of Caudill and Rowlett in Austin. To start the firm, the two men combined their readjustment allowances from the Navy, a sum of $1000, which also represented the total assets of each partner. After a difficult first year, in part due to the nation's slow readjustment to civilian activity after WWII, Caudill and Rowlett relocated their office to College Station. In 1948, Wallie Scott, Caudill's former student, joined the partnership and the firm became Caudill Rowlett Scott, Architects. The same year, William Peña, another former student of Caudill and Rowlett, became the fourth partner of the firm but requested to leave the firm's name unchanged.

The firm landed its first project in 1948 with an elementary school in Blackwell, Oklahoma. Through this project, CRS pioneered the revolution in schoolhouse design that would come into fruition across the United States during the 1950s. The Blackwell school project was also significant because it was here that CRS developed the “squatter” technique. Because of the long commute between the project site and the firm's office, a lot of time, energy, money and ideas were wasted. To conquer this problem, the partners set up a temporary office and “squatted” at the school site until all the design issues with the school board were resolved. This idea was so effective that CRS incorporated it in their future projects.

In the following years, CRS expanded steadily and became known for its expertise in school design. In 1952, Rowlett opened the firm's first regional office in Oklahoma City, and in 1957, the firm opened another office in Corning, New York. The same year, CRS became one of the first architectural firms to incorporate. When the main office relocated to Houston in 1958, it was immediately the largest architectural firm in the city, with seven founding partners: Caudill, Rowlett, Scott, Peña, Tom Bullock, Ed Nye, and Charles Lawrence. The eighth and last founding partner, C. Herbert Paseur, was named in 1961.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the firm ventured into higher education and health care facilities projects and began work in Saudi Arabia. CRS Group, Inc., becoming CRSS in 1983 when it acquired J.E. Sirrine, a process engineering company. Ironically, William Caudill died the same year, without witnessing this last transformation in what once had been a small town business to the largest architecture-engineering-construction corporation in the United States.


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Accepting the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s Firm of the Century Award on behalf of Caudill Rowlett Scott were James Gatton, FAIA and member of the CRS Center Board of Directors; William Peña, FAIA and CRS founder; Ava Scott-Demoplous; Aleen Caudill and Thomas Bullock, FAIA and CRS founder.