Born in New Haven, Connecticut, to Texan parents studying at Yale, Clovis Heimsath, FAIA, would himself study at Yale before earning an architecture degree from The University of Texas at Austin. After serving as a petty officer in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, he spent a year at the University of Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship.
Heimsath began working as an architect in New York City before he moved to Houston in 1962. There, he and his wife, Maryann, an interior designer, founded their joint practice.
In addition to teaching at Rice University, UT Austin, and Texas A&M University, Heimsath was also a writer. In 1968, he published “Pioneer Texas Buildings.” The book combined his wife’s photographs of early vernacular buildings with his own concise observations about how simple roof and porch forms can work together to create rich architectural compositions. The foreword to the book was written by Louis Kahn, who was then spending time in Texas developing the design for the Kimbell Art Museum.
“Pioneer Texas Buildings” raised awareness of the historic structures it featured and helped establish a movement toward their preservation and restoration. It also inspired future generations of architects. In 2002, Heimsath published an updated version of the book. Retitled “Geometry in Architecture,” the revised edition juxtaposed his wife’s original photos with recent Texas buildings designed by contemporary Texas architects. In making this change, Heimsath clearly rendered the connection between the modern work and the vernacular precedents that inspired it.
Despite his time in New York and Rome, the buildings and people of rural Texas remained a lifelong draw for Heimsath. In the 1970s, he moved his family to Fayetteville, Texas, where the historic Zapp Building on the courthouse square served as his architecture office. Although he and his office would eventually relocate to Austin (his son, Ben Heimsath, AIA, remains the principal and managing partner of Heimsath Architects), Heimsath and his wife would semi-retire back to Fayetteville. There he also established a studio and gallery that featured his own paintings of the people and places he encountered during his remarkable life.
Clovis Heimsath, FAIA, passed away on October 10, 2021.