Richard John Lareau, AIA
Richard "Dick" Lareau (pronounced Luh-Roh as in Henry David Thoreau) was born in Bremerton, Washington. After his father was stationed at a number of Naval facilities, the Lareau family settled in Chula Vista. Richard graduated from Sweetwater High School as the war ended in 1945.
While still in school, the young Lareau would visit his older brother on the Cal Berkeley campus. To this day he recalls the impression his brother's friend Jack Herman's (Bay Area architect) architectural coursework impressed him. Seeing the renderings of a young Cal architecture student caused Richard to tell his brother how badly he wanted to draw that well. Returning to Chula Vista, Richard's junior high teacher asked the class to design a home -- he took the assignment very seriously and began gathering a sense of what a house design meant to his fellow students (seeing them as clients early on).
After the war, Richard sold bottled water door-to-door for five months before following his father's footsteps in the military. Immediately after his 3.5-year stint with the US Navy's V-5 Flight program (in 1949), Mr. Lareau attended San Diego State College. Under the tutelage of sculptor John Dirks (being particularly influenced in his perspective drawing class) and painter Jean Swiggett, Richard built his GPA and transferred to Cal. In Berkeley Lareau would earn a BA and MA in architecture and would act as president of the campus Architectural Association (as did J. Herbert Brownell years earlier).
Richard Lareau left the San Francisco area returning to San Diego where he felt more opportunity would arise in a city with too few licensed architects. Mr. Lareau started his professional career in the office of Kitchen and Hunt and later for Paderewski, Mitchell and Dean until he opened his own midtown office on 6th Avenue in 1957. Through the late '50s and early '60s, Dick would practice from his small office, including a move northward to another office on 6th Avenue and then onto 5055 Harbor Drive. By 1968 the Lareau office drew up plans for the office at 2845 Nimitz, where he continued to practice for nearly four decades.
Growing to a staff of 15 at its peak, the Lareau office acted as a training ground for a number of the region's architects such as Al Macy, Paul McKim, George Hartley, Bill Richards and Paul Thorke. The offices on Nimitz would also house interior designers and landscape architects like Seifert and Wyckoff. In addition to working with local landscape architects, the Lareau office also engaged local artists James Hubbell, Ira Spector and Mike Madson to integrate their sculptural work into some of the firm's projects.
Before building a successful practice, including a concurrent position as Cal Western's (later Point Loma Nazarene) campus architect, the Lareau offices took on a number of residential commissions. Not taking his first Sunday off until two years into self-employment, Lareau worked constantly grabbing any house design he could (including a house for himself) to make a name for himself. Losing the Lareau Residence #1 design to divorce early on, the office began to grow past the early "lean" years. Past the early designs for (his first client he found while still in Paderewski's office) Howard Brubeck (Dave Brubeck's brother) and Jean McCommins (who was a student in Richard's UC Extension Home Design course), the firm specialized in religious structures, commercial buildings, public schools and university work.
With an early respect for Harwell Hamilton Harris (exemplified in the Brubeck Residence), Richard Lareau's design philosophy was built around expressing the structure of a building. Seeing structure as a building's decorative program, Richard's fondness for circular buildings has been profound. From circular churches, Cal Western's Little Theater (his first project for Campus President Rust) to Mission Bay Park Visitor Information Center and the Wycoff Residence (both helixes), he recalled recently "the circle is a beautiful thing."
Partial Project List 1957 - 1970
Bachelors Officers Quarters
Bachelor Enlisted Quarters
Benjamin Library (sculpture by Ira Spector)
Residence Remodel (1964)
Boehm, Dwight Residence (1966)
Bone, Jack Residence
Boney Hall (1967)
Brown, Mike Residence (1968)
Cal Western Dining
Cal Western Fine
Music Buildings (1969)
Cal Western Gymnasium
Cal Western Science
California Western remodel of Old San Diego Club (1966)
Centre West -
Richard Lareau Office Building (1969)
Cranston, John Residence (1972)
Henry, Fred Residence
Residence #1 (1964)
Residence #2 (1970)
and Robert Residence (1959)
Mission Bay Visitors
Information Center (1969)
Navy Exchange Addition (1962)
Navy Exchange Cafeteria (1972)
Ocean Beach Kindergarten (1964)
Community Congregational Church (1966)
Pan Pacific House (1959)
Resurrection Lutheran Church of Coronado
Evangelical Lutheran Classrooms (1964)
San Diego Public
Library - East San Diego Branch Library (1961)
W. Residence (1961)
Sigma Alpha Epsilon
International University (1970)
University City United Church (1970)