All Wright now: Architect talks buildings, life and favorite things

Andrew Wright. (Photo: Carrie Jones Ross)

Andrew Wright. (Photo: Carrie Jones Ross)

Andrew Wright, owner of Wright Architecture and Wright Builders at 200 Fair St., has worked on projects ranging from early American structural restoration to sustainable geothermic 200,000-square-foot office buildings. Wright planned cities and hospitals in Algeria for Skidmore. He started his practice in New York City in his one-bedroom apartment on West 11th and progressed to Stone Ridge where he built a separate office building next to his house, overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir. Eleven years ago he moved to his Fair Street space. He restored and owns four historic buildings around the Kingston area.

Carrie Jones Ross: Where do you live? 

Andrew Wright: Stone Ridge, overlooking the Ashokan Reservoir.

CJR: Where did you grow up?

AW: Chicago, Illinois. My family is from New York City. My father grew up in the apartment in which my sister still lives, even. All my brothers and sisters moved back to New York City, so I joined them. I am the youngest of four.

CJR: Where did you go to school?

AW: Iowa State for a B-Arch (bachelor’s in architecture) and then got an M-Arch at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

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CJR: What then?

AW: Moved into New York City in 1983 when I was 26, so that I could open my own architectural firm.

CJR: Most notable project you’ve worked on?

AW: The Richard Morris Hunt carriage house in Manhattan. I converted it into a single-family home with a Tuscan interior, using green and geothermal techniques for low-energy and clean-air. It used practically no energy, was totally clean and dust-free air, and perfectly silent. If a helicopter flew overhead of it, you wouldn’t have heard it from inside. It won the Standard White award for Best Restoration in Classic-style.

CJR: What got you into architecture? 

AW: It’s building. I like building things. And fixing things. When I was a kid, if I saw some wood, I would build something. Legos. Erector sets, blocks. I was always stacking blocks. And I loved shop class in grade school and high school … and I kept learning more and more how to build things. I love the creative built space, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright homes. Love them. Fascinating. Why does a space create so much feeling?

CJR: What feelings do they create?

AW: Comfort, curiosity, joy and fear.

CJR: What are some other spaces that move you?

AW: Churches, castles, mansions and old estates.

CJR: What country’s churches move you the most?

AW: France, I like French Gothic. I like the way they make fluidity out of stone.

CJR: What style do you dig?

AW: I like all the aspects of architecture, and then you feel them in a space. I try to figure out how to build that, and how they brought it to life with the mechanics, electrical, lighting. Prairie-style, Arts and Crafts.

CJR: Where?

AW: Pasadena, California bungalow-style, Newport, Rhode Island.

CJR: In the Hudson Valley, what architecture inspires you?

AW: The Hudson River mansions, specifically Mills School, Olana, Vanderbilt and Mills Mansion.

CJR: Got kids?

AW: Fraternal twin boys, 12 years old. And fraternal twin girls, also 12, for whom I was a surrogate father. They live in Chicago. I love telling that story.

CJR: The kids into building like you?

AW: One of the boys is fascinated by architecture. He hangs with me when I am building stuff and fixing stuff around the home. The other boy will be my lawyer and life advisor one day.

CJR: How many people work in your firm?

AW: Seven people in the office, four specializing in architecture. We do a lot of sustainable design in architecture because we are going to run out of energy, water and air sooner than we think, so it makes sense to build it in a structure’s next life.

CJR: What style is your house?

AW: Prairie-style.

CJR: What do you do for recreational purposes? 

AW: Music. I play piano to relax, jazz, blues, classical. And swimming. I swim every other day. And I love sports, I did 20 years of martial arts, which I found fascinating. I am a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do and first-degree black bet in Judo. I ski.  Golf, baseball. Outdoor sports.

CJR: Favorite structures in Kingston?

AW: Dutch Reformed Church, but everyone likes that. Johnson Museum. I designed an automated house for a quadriplegic, overlooking the Hudson, which was cool. The Stockade area takes my breath away. The endurance of the structures is incredible. Those Dutch knew what they were doing.

CJR: Favorite hang in Kingston?

AW: I like Santa Fe. I designed their deck too!

CJR: Thoughts on Kingston?

AW: Kingston is a diamond in the rough with more potential than it gives itself credit for. Its history and location it has the potential to be overrun as a tourist center, but Kingston has managed to keep its personality throughout the centuries. It’s a place that I chose over everywhere I have ever lived because of its architectural history and accessibility.

CJR: What’s your sign?

AW: Aries.

CJR: What do you have cookin’ into 2014 and beyond?

AW: I will continue to build and grow in Kingston and the Hudson Valley with the hope for new beginnings and personal growth.

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