Caudill Rowlett Scott began as a small town business founded right after World War II. By the end of the 20th century, it had grown into the largest architecture, engineering and construction corporation in the U.S.

Founding Caudill Rowlett Scott, Architects

William Caudill and John Rowlett, two architecture professors and the College of Texas A&M, became partners in 1946. They founded the architecture firm of Caudill and Rowlett in Austin, Texas, that year.

The two men combined their readjustment allowances from the Navy, a sum of $1000, to start the firm. By doing so, both partners were putting their total assets into the business. The firm experienced a difficult first year, in part due to the nation’s slow readjustment to civilian activity after WWII. Caudill and Rowlett then relocated their office to College Station at the Southgate Center. During the first two years, most of the firm’s work came through the design of houses in Texas and Oklahoma.

Two new partners joined the firm in 1948. Wallie Scott, Caudill’s former student, joined and the firm became Caudill Rowlett Scott, Architects. William Peña, another former student of Caudill and Rowlett, was the firm’s fourth partner, but requested to leave the firm’s name unchanged.

Innovating in School Design

In 1948, Caudill Rowlett Scott (CRS) landed their first project with an elementary school in Blackwell, Oklahoma. Their successful bid was largely due to Caudill’s book “Space for Teaching” (1941) and Rowlett’s degrees in architecture and education. Through this project, CRS pioneered the revolution in schoolhouse design in the United States during the 1950s.

CRS developed the “squatter” technique during the Blackwell school project. Because of the long commute between the project site and the firm’s office, a lot of time, energy, money and ideas were wasted. To address this problem, the partners set up a temporary office and “squatted” at the school site until all the design issues were resolved with the school board. This idea was so effective that CRS incorporated it in their future projects.

While CRS gained influence, they continuously innovated in methods of practice and design process. In pursuit of the highest level of service to clients, CRS conducted in-depth studies into school design, energy efficiency, computing and information management, and construction management.

The firm wrote about its innovative methods and theories in magazines and a book (“Toward Better School Design,” 1954). CRS expanded steadily and became renowned for its expertise in school design.

Growing the Company

John Rowlett opened the firm’s first regional office in Oklahoma City in 1952. In 1957, the firm opened another office in Corning, New York and became one of the first architectural firms to incorporate. When the main office relocated to Houston in 1958, it was immediately the largest architectural firm in the city. By then the firm had seven partners: 

By the 1960s, CRS had become an integrated design firm, famous for its team approach which combined the efforts of architects, engineers and planners. The firm ventured into higher education and health care facilities projects during this decade. They also took on international architectural projects in Saudi Arabia.

Going Public

In 1971, the firm went public under its new name, CRS Design Associates. During this decade, the firm continued to expand as it acquired several smaller companies, including:

  • Interlock, Inc., a management consulting firm
  • A.A. Matthews (AAM), a construction engineering firm
  • Stevens, Thompson & Runyan (STR), an engineering company

Dr. Ghaith Pharaon, a Saudi multimillionaire, created headlines in 1978 when he purchased 20 percent of the corporation’s stock.

CRS Group, Inc. became CRSS in 1983 when it acquired J.E. Sirrine, a process engineering company. William Caudill died the same year, without witnessing this last transformation of the small town business he founded into the largest architecture, engineering and construction corporation in the nation.

Founding the CRS Center

The CRS Center was approved by the Board of Regents of the Texas A&M University System in 1990. Named in honor of the CRS firm, the center strives to continue the tradition of innovative and transformative work. The CRS Center’s purpose is to advance innovation and leadership in the design and construction industry.

The CRS Center is the repository of the business archives, slide archives, publications and architectural program library of CRS, the architecture engineering and planning firm and its successor firm CRSS. The center’s archives, which include an oral history of the firm, are available to students and scholars of architectural and business history.