The Edge: Ryan Thewes – Organic Architecture

November 04, 2014 6 min read

Ryan Thewes Architect Sharp Cabin 01

Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do

Ryan Thewes: I grew up in Southern Indiana and graduated from the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning in 2000. While there, I was introduced to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and really connected with his architectural philosophy, which he referred to as Organic Architecture. I began to study not only Wright’s designs, but the work of other architects who learned from him and how they continued to evolve into our modern society. So, much like these apprentices did back when they were young, I sought out architects that either worked directly for Wright, or that carry on a similar philosophy, and apprenticed with them. This was my informal education.

I moved to Nasvhille, TN in 2006 and started my own Architecture firm focusing on creative and unique projects as well as energy efficient and green construction.


Ryan Thewes – Artist Profile from Theo Miesner on Vimeo.

Novedge: You don't have a proper "Manifesto" on your website, but definitely express a unique take on architecture. What is your philosophy when it comes to architecture and design?

Ryan Thewes: Developing a strong connection with the site is very important. With that, design starts from the inside out. Visualizing the space within and taking into account the views and the way that sunlight will fall on a space…. How the wind moves across the site and ways to integrate that in the design. There are many factors of nature that influence design. And if nature is our inspiration and our guide for inspiration, then we must respect it by building responsibly and taking care to preserve as much of nature as we can. I strongly encourage my clients to build the most energy efficient house that their budgets will allow.

Novedge: You are based in Nashville: are there challenges or advantages in practicing architecture in Tennessee?

Ryan Thewes: Historically, middle Tennessee is an area rooted in tradition. But within the past few years, Nashville specifically has really taken off and started to grow. The creative community here has become very strong. In addition to music, the food, fashion and art scenes are starting to thrive. Architecture is lagging behind a bit, but I can see the interest and the desire and it is becoming more and more common to see actual architecture being built around town instead of copies of buildings from 100 years ago. While having pride in our city and its history is important, we should have pride in who we are presently and in what we are doing now as that will be our mark on history for the future. I think people's reluctance to embrace current architectural styles is the biggest challenge but that is a common issue in many places, and not just specific to Nashville or Tennessee.

One huge advantage that I have working here is the beauty of the land and the variation of the terrain. Especially with the type of architecture that I like to practice.

Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on? 

Ryan Thewes: Dickson Orthopaedics Office in Dickson, TN

Ryan Thewes Architect Dickson Orthopaedics 01

This building is set up for two different offices with a common waiting room area in between. Currently, one side is occupied by an orthopedics office while the other side is a physical therapy office. It was completed in 2013.

Ryan Thewes Architect Dickson Orthopaedics 03

This was a very difficult undeveloped site that was in a great location adjacent to the local high school so visibility was important. The client wanted to invest in the community and took the approach that the design of the building was part of the advertising for his office. The site had a stream running through the middle of it as well as some sewer easement so the circular plan was a direct result of us trying to layout the spaces we need and still have enough room for parking.

Inside, the focus was on creating a durable office area with natural daylighting in every room. Office spaces tend to be small, so vaulted ceilings and varying ceiling heights provide relief to the feeling of sitting in a box.

Ryan Thewes Architect Dickson Orthopaedics 04

The building is very well insulated and utilizes a number of different green building features.

Sharp Cabin in McMinnville, TN

The client for this project owned a piece of land on top of a mountain within a community with pretty strict architectural guidelines. The client was looking for a small weekend getaway that was low maintenance but high design.

Ryan Thewes Architect Sharp Cabin 03

In plan, the footprint is a square with the tips of opposing corners being the front porch and the screen porch. In between is the living space which totals only 500 square feet. It is basically one open room that is used for living, kitchen, dining and sleeping. A screen wall provides privacy from the front door while also creating a hallway that provides the sense of separation from the bathroom. With such a small footprint, soaring tongue and groove wood ceilings open the space up while lower flat portions of the ceilings on the interior provide a sense of scale and security.

Ryan Thewes Architect Sharp Cabin 02

A large wall of glass opens up to the full height screen porch allowing the owners to open it up to the living space in good weather. Natural light also filters in from the windows above the front door on the north.

Novedge: What software do you use?

Ryan Thewes: A few years back, I upgraded from a very old version of AutoCAD to the Revit LT Suite. I began learning Revit and started to familiarize myself with the program and how it works. While I do believe it is the future of the profession, I still find myself working primarily in AutoCAD. Especially on projects that are very unique and have complex shapes.

We have been using Revit to develop models for renderings, but if I am looking for quick mock ups, I will typically use Sketchup or an old version of FormZ.

Novedge: How did you discover Novedge?

Ryan Thewes: When I made the decision to upgrade my software, I began doing research on the products that were out there and where I could purchase them from. I found Novedge from a Google search. Novedge had a really good deal going on and great support when I called. The process was very easy.

Novedge: What are the rewards and challenges of having your own business?

Ryan Thewes: It is funny how romanticized owning your own business is. People assume I have all the freedom I want. While that is true to an extent, separating work and personal life is nearly impossible. I find myself working at night after the kids go to bed and often staying up really late trying to get things done. There is never that sense of relief that work is over.

But I get to do what I love for a living. Having my own business allows me the freedom to choose projects that interest me so that I can stay focused more on the creative side of the business and less on the money.

Novedge: And here's one last, fun question: what architectural site would you like to visit and haven't yet?

Ryan Thewes: Instead of one specific site, I will answer with an entire city. I have never been to Los Angeles. There is so much to see there that I am afraid I would be overwhelmed. While making sure to visit the typical Frank Lloyd Wright sites, work from his son Lloyd and from John Lautner would also be a high priority. Out of all of the architects that studied with Wright, the work of John Lautner fascinates me the most. Wright reinvented himself many times throughout his career. He died in 1959. I often wonder what his work would look like if he were alive today. That is what intrigues me most about looking at the work of his apprentices. Seeing someone like John Lautner who took Wright’s philosophy and made it his own and how it continued to progress over the years is very exciting.


To see more of Ryan's work, head over to his website or connect with him on Houzz, Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

And don't forget to follow Novedge on Twitter!

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