Randall Stout, a Los Angeles architect who designed complex buildings that either fit lyrically into their urban sites or fused seamlessly within their natural environments, died on July 11 from renal cell cancer at the age of 56.
An environmentalist as well as an artist architect, he specialized in museums and cultural facilities that explored and developed the relationship between architecture and energy. Clients hired him for his charismatic designs that were both sensitive to program and capable of creating a strong and iconic civic presence for the institution.
He built a national reputation on regional projects of international caliber. In a string of prominent museums from the American South to Alberta, Canada, Stout was a prolific museum designer and consultant. In addition to the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, which was inspired by the aurora borealis of the northern skies, he built the stormy Hunter Museum of Art in Chattanooga, Tenn., which contextualized an existing Georgian mansion in a field of fragmented volumes and opened into a large public atrium. The eruptive Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Va., energized its tight urban site, with quiet spaces for viewing art beyond a welcoming entry. The recently completed Abroms-Engel Institute for Visual Arts in Birmingham, Ala., established a stately horizontal calm broken by unruly volumes that hint at an inner life within. But his experience with cultural institutions was not limited to designing buildings: With M. Goodwin Museum Planning of Los Angeles, he consulted with clients such as the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, and the Virginia Museum of Art in Richmond on their master plans.
Born in 1958 in Knoxville and educated in University of Tennessee, where he also worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, he went on to his masters at Rice University, and to work with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in Houston. In 1989 he moved to Los Angeles to the office of Gehry Partners where, as a senior associate, he worked on projects such as the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He established his eponymous firm in 1996, and won a string of commissions for mid-sized projects in Germany creating formally and spatially complex designs for such prosaic institutions as utility companies and energy generation plants. The buildings became local landmarks whose avant-garde shapes embodied the forward-thinking attitudes of the client institutions.
As in his later work, the German designs rarely seemed forced, despite the ambitious agenda of an architect using design to help institutions establish their public identities. Endowed with an easy-going personality and a Southern charm that never faded, he translated his inspirations from nature into built form with unpretentious grace.