Kevin Gossen: architect focused on creating comfortable and functional housing
Today’s guest is Kevin Gossen, president of Gossen Architects in Lafayette LA. Kevin specializes in the traditional and historic design of custom residential housing. He pursued his dream of being a residential architect which began as a young boy of five and began sketching house designs.
Kevin’s work has been published several times, highlighting the attention paid to historic vernacular design. His creations are found throughout the south, from Texas to Florida. People who contract with Kevin Gossen or purchase his custom homes know they are receiving quality designs that will stand the test of time. A “Kevin Gossen” design is a mark of excellence.
Graduating from USL in 1981 with a BA in Architecture, Kevin comes from a large family raised by Alberta and Jerry Gossen, both of whom were greatly admired in our community. One of seven siblings, all of his siblings live in Lafayette and stay close by planning at least once a week to get together for lunch.
Growing up on Ronald Blvd. At the heart of Lafayette, Kevin’s love for architecture was nurtured by his father, Jerry Gossen, who was a commercial architect and engineer who made a living in commercial and government work. His grandfather was an entrepreneur. Design and construction are concepts he grew up with.
“As far back as I can remember, when I was a young boy, five or six years old, I used to draw houses on a large notepad. In fact, I would have liked to have still had the blocks representing these sketches. I knew I wanted to do this all my life. His father, Jerry, focused on the commercial architecture industry; he looked at Kevin’s sketches and said, “You have to get rid of these houses.” You will never be able to make a living by making houses. His father was well-meaning, his message coming from the experience gained in his firm, O’Rourke and Gossen, with fourteen architects who exclusively designed commercial structures. Jerry was well known for his work on the downtown Chase Tower (formerly the FNB building) and the Hospital for Women and Children, among others.
However, his mother’s creative influence on him gave him the direction to follow his dreams. “There was nothing she couldn’t do. His influence probably had a bigger influence on me than my father. He was also greatly influenced by the fine work of A. Hayes Town, whose late career focused on traditional residential structures, after a lucrative career as a commercial architect.
“He’s had a big influence on the type of work I try to do. At first I tried to emulate Mr. Town and as I got more comfortable with my abilities I brought them to the table. I used his work as a strong influence. However, I threw my own touch into the architecture. For example, Mr. Town’s work focused on “living space” and minimized the space of the kitchen, closets and bathrooms. In his day people wanted offsite kitchens and bathrooms weren’t the luxurious and spacious we see today. However, Town’s love for reclaimed bricks and lumber, and earthy textiles, is one that Kevin shares and you’ll see in many of his designs.
“My first love is beauty in a home and I’ve learned functionality along the way from clients and from life. Our homes are both functional and beautiful. We design the way people live, with an eye for resale. Don’t design for the two events of your life … design for the everyday. This is what makes a happy house. People’s habits don’t change when they move.
When a client hires Kevin, they not only get an architect, but also a professional to guide them in their design choices inside and outside the home. He helps clients choose paint, flooring, textiles, as well as the appearance of gardens, patios… all of these should be an integral part of the design. Sometimes an interior designer can choose a look out of sync with the architecture of the house; Kevin guides his clients to ensure a consistent interior and exterior design.
Kevin is also working on renovations and additions to historic properties ensuring that the architecture is respected and preserved. “The location is a bonus for so many people. They might want a good location to buy an old property, dump it out, and start over. As in the Memorial district of Houston.
He explained that Lafayette will see increased demand for renovations of older properties as people want to move closer to the city in developed housing estates. There is a tendency for people to buy houses and tear them down. He cautions customers with older homes who are considering a major renovation… “If you’re not happy with the situation, you might spend more money on the renovation than on tearing it down and starting from scratch.” Major renovations cost more than new construction. You spend money and have to make many compromises with the existing structure. The more you do for an existing home, the better the option is to start from scratch. For a renovation to make sense, you don’t want to destroy more than half of a structure.
A 3,400 square foot is a good size. The cost of building a 2,000 square foot home versus a 3,400 square foot home is not that different when you look at the cost per square foot. The larger square footage just tends to provide space for larger rooms.
What are the tendencies today? Your parents’ living room is long gone. Some customers want dining areas, others want a more casual space. “A dining room is a luxury space. It’s good not to make the dining room so formal. Use this dining room! Make it a precious space. You can let it double as a bookcase with shelves. A new trend is to have multiple uses for parts.
Another trend for new homes is not to be totally open… to have a semi-division. You don’t want to feel like you’re in a gym. “A feeling of separation and a feeling of openness.”
“Good architecture does not mean excessive expenditure. The most important thing in a house is the proportion. You can take humble materials, much like the Acadians did using materials from the earth, with great proportions and you can create beautiful architecture. Proportion is your biggest friend: from the outside, the proportions of the size of the windows, the roof line… everything comes into play. You need a mind that recognizes all these differences. Mixing these proportions differently, out of proportion, can lead to a nightmare.
Kevin’s son Crawford recently graduated with a Masters in Architecture and works with Gossen Architects. So there are now three generations of talented architects in the Gossen family.
Gossen Architects is located at 220 La Rue France in Lafayette. Kevin can be reached at [email protected] or (337) 233 6272.