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The Beaux-Arts Revival in America

Putting Romance Back into Architecture.

Click on the rendering below for a large scale version.

         by Eric Lee                  

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"Great art
does not have to be produced at great cost"


designs have
ranged from small homes to grand estates


"…It’s not just a historic estate, but rather a work of fine art" exclaims Larry while standing in front of his newly completed "Rose Manor" in Las Vegas, Nevada. At first glance one would think that "Rose Manor" is a legacy left over from the previous centuries by the robber barons; it’s a circa 1810 Early Victorian estate complete with original sculpted ornamentations.

Yes, the Beaux-Arts are still flourishing in America, thanks in part to architectural designs of Robert Symons, who in the last twenty-two years has played a major role in the revival of this wonderful art form by creating such fine works as "Rose Manor". Not since the era of Wallace Neff and Julia Morgan have the Beaux-Arts been so extensively practiced. "My clients want their ‘dream house’ to be authentic and historic, with the addition of modern amenities," says Symons who designs, sculpts and manufactures facades, ornaments and even "500 year old" castle stone pavers for his buildings.

Like Neff and Morgan, Symons adheres vehemently to the European traditions in which he emulates. Before beginning a design, he will spend hours with the client combing through his vast architectural library in an effort to evaluate the client’s taste and needs. Then he embarks on an original concept based entirely on the historical period and the special requests and needs of his clients. "We work in concert from start to finish…" describes the designer about his client relationships, who often builds scale models of design challenges so clients can "walk through" their homes or buildings before they are built. At this point Symons selects and adds to the team whatever additional qualified and licensed professionals that would be required to successfully complete the drawing package and construction process.

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Robert Symons completing a model of a late Victorian for a client.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of a Robert Symons building is the total design and construction cost which parallels the usual cost of a regular custom home. "Great art does not have to be produced at a great cost," says Symons, "because we don’t have the overhead of a large architectural firm, our work can be on a ‘pay as you go’ basis, and, most important, all designs are extensively detailed and planned." His no-nonsense approach and manufacturing experience has led to innovations in the production of architectural products, many of which he has licensed to other companies.

Robert’s unique combination of artist, designer, engineer and program manager come from a very diverse background. Born in Hollywood, California in 1936, he is a graduate engineer from the University of Southern California. When he was twenty-six, Robert played a vital role in the management of the Apollo Spacecraft’s Electrical Power System while at North American/Rockwell. After twenty years in the aerospace business in key management positions, he changed careers and was at the top of the theme park industry as Director of the Rides Division for Sid and Marty Krofft Productions, where they built the world’s first indoor amusement park with Disney standards at just a fraction of the amount that Disney would spend for the same quality attractions. His basic artistic talents and prior management disciplines and experience were the formula for this achievement.

During these years of high-pressure projects Robert, in what little spare time he had, would use his design and drawing skills to design his own "dream house," which subsequently led to years of study of great architecture. Then in 1978 he left the lucrative position of Executive Vice President of Taylor Engineering (a Beverly Hills entertainment company known for its animated arcades) to leave the rat-race and design and build historic style "spec" homes in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area.

He obtained his General Contractor’s license in 1979 while completing his first home in Incline Village, which was a French Normandy country chateau featuring a central turret complete with a gargoyle of Odin the Supreme God of the Norse over the front door. Local reaction was incredible. Almost immediately thereafter Robert was designing and building estates for very wealthy clients. Many of these estates have become sight-seeing attractions causing traffic jams on weekends.

Robert’s steady stream of clients is quite remarkable since he did not advertise his talents. "All of my clients have come to me by referral or because they have seen previous projects."

In the past twenty-two years Robert’s designs have ranged from small homes to grand estates to business parks with numerous historical styles spanning 400 years, and in his words, "Maybe someday there will be a ‘classic stucco contemporary box’ renaissance, but until then, my designs will stay away from the twenty-first century."

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Robert's first design in Incline Village, Nevada.

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