The Warren Arthur Architectural Archives at the Ridgefield Historical Society (RHS) seeks to honor the architectural heritage of Ridgefield by acquiring architectural drawings and related ephemera of the best representative work of architectural designers as well other works that represent the less-celebrated but important commercial and residential design that make up the character of the town. The Archives are a legacy gift in honor of architect and prolific lighting designer Warren Arthur who designed his own home on Lake Mamanasco and was a long-time member of the Planning and Zoning’s Architectural Advisory Committee.
RHS was originally founded as the Ridgefield Preservation Trust in order to fund-raise and save the threatened 18th Century David Scott House on Catoonah Street. The Preservation Trust evolved to become the RHS but has not forgotten its architectural history roots. The RHS already has a rich collection of architecturally related images, but has never formally pursued an archive devoted to architectural drawings and related ephemera.
Aims of the Collection
Career works of well-known architects are often catalogued and stored in special archives and made available for researchers. Unfortunately, the work of local architects is very often lost. Our goal is to provide a stable environment to house and preserve architectural drawings and associated ephemera from architects and designers who created noteworthy buildings, structures, and landscapes in Ridgefield. Architectural records from all eras will be sought, but emphasis will be put on the Post-WWII period through recent years and the transition from hand-drawn to computer-generated architectural drawings.
In the age of electronic media and, in recognition of limitations on storage space and the emphasis on physical media, we will also explore the possibility of contemporary work in the form of electronic files. Further, when possible, provisions will be made to electronically scan physical media to both provide easy access for researchers and to limit the handling of materials.
Warren Arthur Biography
Adapted from the Ridgefield Press March 4, 2014
Warren Arthur was an architect, lighting designer, entrepreneur and Ridgefield resident for 43 years Born on March 31, 1937, he was raised in New York City where he attended East Chester Academy. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Brown University and his master of architecture degree in 1963 from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. Before starting his own practice, he worked in New York City for the engineering-architectural firm T A M S on a resort project at Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands.
He moved to Connecticut in 1965 to work for Eero Saarinen in New Haven. He also worked for other prominent Connecticut architects in New Canaan, including Victor Christ-Janer, John Johansen, and Hugh Smallen. His approach to architectural problems already revealed a deeper, principled search for the fundamentals of modern design.
Mr. Arthur, his wife Mai, and a third architect, John Gardner, founded TSAO Designs, Inc. in New Canaan in 1966. Starting as a small boutique offering original designs in lighting fixtures and hand-printed textile accessories, TSAO Designs quickly grew into a Main Street shop with its own production facilities. Within a decade, the business had expanded into a complex of design studio, factory, and warehouse on New Canaan’s Grove Street.
By the 1980s, the Arthurs’ firm was designing lighting systems for numerous architectural firms including Roche-Dinkeloo and for corporate clients such as Union Carbide in Danbury; General Foods in White Plains, N.Y.; Conoco Oil in Houston; and Cummins Engine in Columbus, Ind. During this period, both Arthurs traveled back and forth to Rome to work as interior design consultants to the architectural firm Brown & Deltas Associates for a project for a new city in Saudi Arabia.
By the 1990s, TSAO Designs was working with major design firms and producing lighting fixtures, and systems for clients such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and IBM. And by the turn of the 21st century, their client base for lighting systems also included academic libraries at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities, and at Vassar College.
Mr. Arthur’s architectural commissions included several houses for the late Robert Sweet, the Four Seasons Racquet Club in Wilton, and a cluster of simple and austerely rich modern houses on one of Ridgefield’s lakes. His signal work of architecture is a complete redesign and reconstruction of a large house by a waterfall in New Canaan. In all of his house designs, Mr. Arthur oversaw the day-to-day construction operations, frequently contributing his own hand labor in various critical finishing operations.
A friend of the family said Mr. Arthur was loved and admired by clients, colleagues, and friends alike, both for his wry humor and gentle nature, and for the simplicity, functionality, and elegance of his designs, which expanded and humanized to a significant degree the modernist idiom.