“Elevating the Art of Residential Design & Practice” is the theme for the 5th annual Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN) Symposium taking place in Newport, R.I., Sept. 6-9. CRAN is an AIA Knowledge Community, however the gathering also is open to non-members. The conference kicks off with a tour of several grand historic Newport houses—such as The Breakers and Marble House—followed by a reception in an 1880 Shingle-style building designed by McKim, Mead & White that’s currently home to the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Saturday offers a day full of lectures, discussions, and panels, including a lunch address by our own residential architect editor, S. Claire Conroy. Other presenters include Joeb Moore, AIA, and Russell Versaci sharing their ideas on contextual sustainability; Mark Hutker, AIA, talking about artful marketing practices; and Michael Imber, FAIA, who shows two project examples with different types of sustainable features. Allan Shope, AIA, will deliver the keynote address, and he recently chatted with us about his involvement and presentation for the symposium.

allan shope, aia

allan shope, aia www.shoperenowharton.com

“I think I was invited because a lot of former Shope Reno Wharton (SRW) employees were involved with the symposium,” Shope chuckles. “Seriously, people are intrigued by the split [with SRW] and interested in the fact that I made a lot of professional changes in my life.” While Shope admits that he was one of a few architects fortunate enough to be overpaid, he couldn’t resolve his natural lifestyle on an organic farm in rural New York by designing excessive single-family homes with little or no regard to preserving nature. “I was ethically troubled by doing these huge houses” he says, “and that I couldn’t get the firm to care more about sustainability, vernacular style, or regional influences.” As such, Shope left SRW in 2006 and ventured out on his own. Shope adds that he will talk about how and why he made these changes in his life. “If you’ve been as lucky as I have been in your career and then decided there was room for improvement, where would you look? I’ll talk about where I looked.”
Shope notes that it’s not cheap to incorporate green design and technology, and his client demographics haven’t changed drastically. “The many, many people who are busting their hump on the very edge of every new technology and technique cannot do this without patrons,” Shope says. “It’s not true that sustainability is free, rather it’s intrinsically more expensive to build this way.”

Although Shope says his small, carbon-neutral-focused firm doesn’t exactly have clients lined up outside the door, he’s thrilled with how his architecture is now more in line with his philosophical viewpoint. “I’m approaching sites with a more holistic, systemic analysis where the bugs, birds, and mammals get as much care as human beings. I’m also seeing vernacular expression differently than I used to,” Shope clarifies. “I used to see it as a continuum and now I see it as a living history that changes.”