For the past 34 years, Richard Landry has created the most exquisite one-of-a-kind homes with his incredible architecture. Upscale Living magazine spoke to him and discovered that behind these palatial homes is a soft-spoken man who enjoys nothing more than making his clients’ dreams come true.
Richard, tell us a bit about yourself.
I am French-Canadian; I was born in a little town about an hour outside of Montréal. I went to the School of Architecture in Montréal. I studied in Copenhagen in my last year, which was the perfect way to be exposed to the modernism of Scandinavian architecture and traditional European architecture in my travels throughout Europe.
After completing my studies, as Quebec was going through a bit of a recession and Western Canada was booming, I went out to Alberta to work, which was a great experience. Three years later, when Alberta entered a recession, Los Angeles seemed like the logical option, as a lot of good architecture comes out of LA. I arrived in LA in 1984 and worked for a couple of firms before opening my own company, Landry Design Group, in 1987.
When did you realize you want to become an architect?
I have always enjoyed being creative; I took art classes as a child– painting, drawing, and making sculptures; I was constantly drawing and sketching. I recall my aunt telling me later that when I was around the age of six, I told her I wanted to design buildings when I was older. I think I was born with it – it was never a decision I made; it was natural.
You started your firm, Landry Design Group, in 1987, and I read you have quite the portfolio of private residences. Which ones have been highlights for you, past and present?
We have done such a wide range of architectural styles, everything from modern to classic. Our projects are so different from one another. I see our clients in these projects, their personalities; we design custom homes tailored to each of these clients.
Recently we completed a very large project in Asia, which was amazing – the sheer size of it. The clients were incredible – I have always said you need great clients to do great projects.
Twenty years ago, we designed a traditional Mediterranean house for some wonderful clients. They came back all these years later and asked us to create a guest house for them, a small version of the main house built on the same property. When we started to look at the context and the property, we suggested that it would be really fun to create a little jewel box that was completely different and would appear as a piece of art in the garden. The outcome is something very modern and in complete contrast to their home.
A client in Los Angeles, whose main residence was designed by LDG, wanted a second home. It is a similar story: the main residence is very traditional, and the new home is quite different. The architectural language of the second home was inspired by the great arc walls of artist Richard Serra. It was an exciting project to design; it incorporates sculptural forms, both functional and expressive.
For quarterback Tom Brady and his wife, model Gisele Bündchen, we designed home in Boston. This was our second project for them, and the house, which is very different from the previous one, feels right in context with its surroundings. As a studio for Gisele, we designed a small barn structure that looked like it had been there forever. She loved the character and simplicity so much that it became her retreat on the property.
We have also recently designed some more modern houses with wonderful clients. Every time we do something contemporary, we write our language. When we do something more classical, the rules are written; the calculations are there, and you follow a specific language. Yet every project has a different story and narrative, which we develop in conversation with our clients.
How hands-on are you?
I am very much involved. The part I love the most is the creativity behind the design, coming up with the concept, the big idea.
I personally sit down with the clients to get the information, the program, understand how they want to live and what will influence their lifestyle. Do they entertain, how often, large vs. small groups, casual or formal, are they raising a new family, are they empty nesters? All these factors are important when designing a home that is functional for our clients. In certain cases, we have to evaluate how important the resale value is and address a broader market with our design. As the project moves forward, I work very closely with the associate and team assigned to the project; I love the technical aspects of what we do. We have great communication systems within the office that enable us to stay on top of our projects. I feel that with every new project, we raise our own bar. These are custom one-of-a-kind homes, and they require our very best.
What is essential for you to incorporate into a design?
To really listen to a client and understand their lifestyle. The cultural impact is important. We have worked in 17 countries worldwide, and it is very important to be respectful of the different cultures and lifestyles.
So, clients create their own architectural language?
With every project, we ask ourselves: what is the narrative that will influence a project? It is about creating your own rules; with every project, we look at what the site has to offer, what the opportunities are, and what the client might relate to, whether it is nature or art.
I assume you work closely with the interior designer on a specific project.
Yes, we like to bring them on early so that they are part of the process. Once we are done with a schematic design, we develop the floor plan and exterior language for the house, and by then, we start to know our clients better. We enjoy a healthy relationship with the interior designers, and during the process, the vision between the architecture and interior designer becomes seamless.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. Travel; I like to be inspired by art; the property itself; I am constantly researching architecture from around the world.
Is modern technology and high-end security also fundamental?
There are amazing products out there that are beautiful. Technology is becoming more reliable and user-friendly. Our clients nowadays are very tech-savvy, and we keep up to date with the latest in technology, so we can incorporate options that can be upgraded in the future.
Did you design your own home?
Of course! My husband, Chris, and I are drawn to different architectural styles, so designing our home together was a great experience. He likes the aesthetic and language of traditional architecture, and I am attracted to contemporary design. Our solution was to create a “hybrid” home that blends the two ideas and layers the elements of the two styles to create a harmonious fusion.
Exciting projects on the horizon?
We have been fortunate to have amazing clients and be involved with some unique projects. One unforgettable experience was being commissioned to remodel a home that Frank Gehry designed some 30 years ago and to adapt it to the needs of the modern lifestyle. We got to present our design to Frank Gehry himself, discuss the changes, and receive his feedback. It was really a one-of-a-kind experience, and we look forward to seeing the project completed.
It is not a secret that we have an amazing new project with Kylie Jenner. We worked with her parents when she was very young, and she remembered that. Her family is interested in architecture, and she understands design and grasps the creative process, which makes designing her home a great experience for us as well.
Every project we take on is a new challenge, and it is another opportunity to do something really fun. Fun is a word that I use all the time. I want it to be fun because it can be a very stressful and challenging process, and we want to approach it with the right attitude. Creating a building is an organic process that evolves all the time, and when we are in it together with a strong team, we trust and believe in the team, then we can try to have fun with the project. The journey is important, so let’s enjoy it!