A Conversation with Shane Ames

The Architect Who Designed a Global Stylistic Explosion

In 1984 a global stylistic explosion in design began in Delray Beach, Florida. Shane Ames, the man behind the movement, is without question, one of the most prolific architects of our time. His interest in building and design is innate and as a toddler he expressed it by using Lego, Lincoln Logs, and Kenner Girder and Strut toys. The South Florida resident earned his Bachelor Degree in Architecture, and his minor certification in historic preservation, from the University of Cincinnati. Ames was trained in the German Bauhaus design model which includes art, graphics, painting, and architecture. Ames is the CEO, and Principal Architect of the internationally heralded full-service firm Ames International Architecture. Six years ago, he founded the Los Angeles, California based Ames Peterson International.

Ames and company have won numerous professional awards including the prestigious BUILD Home and Garden Award for “Best Residential Architecture Firm in North America” in 2019. Their designs have been published in dozens of periodicals, books, and magazines. Their latest book “Dream Homes of Florida” is now available for purchase at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. They also appeared on Tuscan Estate which aired nationally on Home & Garden TV. It is believed that Shane Ames’ design work is the most copied in the nation. Further, he is directly credited with starting numerous design trends both here and abroad.

Mr. Ames, and his carefully curated staff, have designed single family homes, multi-family housing projects, and commercial ventures in 41 countries and 42 states. Locally, they have completed several thousands of residential designs in prominent yacht, waterfront, golf, tennis, and country club communities. In addition, Shane serves on numerous Delray Beach city boards and committees responsible for urban planning, development, and historic preservation. In the mid 1990s Ames purchased, and transformed a 100-year-old Del Ida area home. Upon its restoration in 1996, it was included in the Historic Society’s Home Tour. In 2005 the organization featured Ames’ o­ffice in their o­fficial calendar and named it one of the 12 most memorable structures within the historic district.

The restoration of that property provides a glimpse into Ames and his world view personally and professionally. A true innovator, everything about Ames is antithetical to today’s architecture and design practices. His studio is in the open, his workspace is surrounded by his staff, his calls are held on speaker phone, and his meetings are conducted in person. These procedures are intentional. Mr. Ames wants to mentor his younger architects and teach them skills no longer taught in university. Ames explains “People coming out of school today are not taught psychology, sociology, working knowledge of construction or the art of how to design an object. All these skills go into creating a space and interacting with clients. One is not more important than the other.”

Again, unlike his contemporaries, Ames does not meet with the client and then go off alone for weeks to design the space. He can design a 20,000 square foot home in less than three hours. Nine out of ten times the first sketches sent to the client are the ones selected. Shane sits with his clients and does the work at the moment. Regardless of their emotion Ames wants his staff to consider those feelings and incorporate them into the design process. Shane said “I want my staff, and my clients, to understand that every space lives and functions differently. I want them to embrace the truth that there is more than one way to do something. The greatest enjoyment I have is when one spouse wants one thing, and their mate wants another, and together we find a solution that satisfies both.” For Ames, the inclusive and educational aspects of his protocols are imperative to the firm’s success. He continues “Our turnover is low because we train our team members and then we onboard them as partners. Our goal is to build and maintain a legacy. Our mission is to retain that wealth of knowledge.”

With a sense of purpose Mr. Ames declares “What I do is not work. It is a passion. I am not motivated by the size of the project or the prestige. I can work with one room and make it as beautiful as any mansion.” He employs a “conceptual style” rather than any one given style. His travels have greatly impacted his creative process. Factors like geography, topography, cultural influences, climate, ambiance, lifestyle, and building codes all contribute to his designs.

Ames begins with the views and the site. Then, he incorporates the clients wants, needs, habits, and desires and “glues it all together.” He believes that “Design is strictly about the person you are working for. If I am working on a spec house, or model home, I invent a person to design for. My team and I always design by line of sight. This way things need not be symmetrical, but one will always find an endpoint for a piece of artwork or a window. The line of site serves to progress the person organically and naturally through the floor plan.” Another Ames mandate, especially for his newer architects, is placing furnishings in the design to ensure functionality. Shane says, “We have all been in dysfunctional spaces and we wonder why is that wall there, why does the furniture not fit, why is the flow disrupted, etc. Our approach eliminates those errors.”

Ames predicts that future architectural opportunities will be endless. He believes that architecture is more exciting today because it is out of its stylistic rut. People are more open to modern and traditional styles which allows for greater creativity on the part of interior designers and architects. He denotes that fact “That at present, there is a three-million-unit housing decit in the United States. This unmet demand will drive construction. Lastly, the vast number of homes in the country are 25 years old or older. At that benchmark remodeling is required. Design and construction costs will remain higher for some time due to the factors listed above, the pandemic, and the related supply chain losses.”

For Ames, his favorite project is his next one. At present, one particularly interesting project is being done with a client for whom he has designed four prior homes. The fifth property involves an Asheville, North Carolina estate originally built for the French Ambassador to the United States. Listed on the National Historic Register the exterior walls are comprised of two-foot-thick granite stone which were quarried on site. Frederick Law Homestead served as the Ambassador’s landscape architect. Homestead remains one of the world’s most famous landscape architects and his portfolio includes The Biltmore, The White House, and Central Park. The remodel involves large additions to all for corners of the residence. Shane said “I took my inspiration from the Louver and its glass pyramid. In architecture when the original design is perfect, as is the case with Louvre and with this home, one can’t compete with it one must contrast with it. This is why the Louvre has the glass pyramid and why the manor additions will also be done in glass. The once corner exterior walls will become part of the interior structure.”

To learn more about Ames International Architecture or Ames Peterson International, visit amesint.com. To schedule an appointment with Shane Ames, call (561) 274-6444.

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