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Arthur Q. Davis. (b. 1920).
Photo by Abbye A. Gorin, 1997.

Arthur Davis (Tulane '42, Harvard '46) was an enigma, a study in contrasts, a complex individual. Davis is an extremely talented architect with exceptional artistic tastes. His forte was as a critic. He had the ability to control, direct, influence, and steer a design through its development and to convince the owner that it was of such caliber that he should approve it. Davis never did any drawing, but he knew how to convey his ideas to those who did the studies, sketches, and drawings.

Another of Davis' talents was his ability to move around in the right places. He made friends easily with influential people and introduced the firm to the editors of the architectural magazines in New York, such as Tom Creighton of Progressive Architecture, Douglas Haskell of Architectural Forum, and Bodil Neilsen of Interiors. He was well known and respected by other architects, especially those who had attended the master's program with him at Harvard under Walter Gropius. He also had influential friends in New Orleans, such as Edgar Stern, Lester Kabacoff, and Shepard Latter. All became our clients.

From the beginning, Davis aspired to be a developer. He was drawn toward personality types who usually made poor clients, demanding extensive work while being reluctant to pay their bills. Most of the projects designed by the firm that were investment-oriented usually wound up with Davis as an investor.

Both Davis and I were interested in the architecture of projects. Marketing and administration were not for us. We were willing to hire people with those talents. We began by working together as co-project architects or co-partners in charge. Work handled this way included our early schools, the New Orleans Public Library, the Saigon Embassy, the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, the first correctional institution we designed, and many residences.

This method prevailed for the first twelve years or so. The work that resulted was creditable, often outstanding. But the method was cumbersome and expensive. Endless arguments ensued, changes were numerous, and often working drawings had to be redone. Draftsmen waited endlessly for decisions. As a result, we decided to divide the projects among the partners, giving responsibility to one partner in charge, the others participating as designer or critic.

Davis was responsible for the first design recognition of the firm. In 1951, his self-designed home in the Lake Vista section of the city was awarded a Regional AIA Award for Excellence in Design. He later built another and larger home for himself that also gained honors and recognition.

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