Lucien LaGrange—a 50-year residential and hospitality architect known for his work at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and at his own firms—has joined the Lamar Johnson Collaborative, a subsidiary of Clayco, Inc., as a principal. The merger was announced on September 12.

LaGrange will act in the role of senior design consultant. Lucien LaGrange Studio LLC. principals My-Nga Lam, Victor Krasnopolsky and Alfredo Marr are also joining LJC in leadership roles in a new residential and hospitality-focused group.

The Lamar Johnson Collaborative, which became a part of Clayco in 2018, will have a staff of over 250 and offices in Chicago, St Louis, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Kansas City, Mo., and Atlanta.

"We had the opportunity to cooperate with Lamar Johnson, at first, two years ago," LaGrange said. "It was very interesting for me to work with another group that brings all kinds of ideas to the table and we realized that it would be a good outfit to join and merge together."

LaGrange, a native of Provence, France, came to Chicago by way of McGill University in Montreal and SOM where he first worked for Bruce Graham as a draftsman and later a designer in the 1960s. He developed a style combining new urbanism and classical architecture and started his first firm, Lucien LaGrange Architects, in 1985 with projects including the Park Tower on Michigan Avenue, the Blackstone Hotel (now part of Marriott's Autograph brand of hotels), 664 N. Michigan Avenue and, after creating Lucien LaGrange Studio, Lincoln Park 2550.

LaGrange said that working with a designer that understands design-build delivery, Clayco's main delivery method, made sense for his studio moving forward and that factored into the decision to join the LJC.

"We think of it as integrated delivery, it's more than just design-build," said Lamar Johnson, executive chairman. "Integrated delivery makes so much sense for our projects going forward."

For LaGrange, moving from a small studio to a larger firm was desirable in his fifth decade of work, although he plans to continue in his role as a principal and doesn't plan to retire soon.

"Joining Lamar will make my life easier because it's a large firm, very specialized and not only is everyone very qualified and very talented, they're going to back me up," he said. 

For the LJC, the hospitality and residential markets will be more accessible. The firm has hired 140 people in the last 18 months.

"It absolutely gives us a new platform, that we can go to market with," Johnson said, noting that the parties have recently been collaborating on one project, 70 N. Green Street, a 1.2-million-sq-ft project being developed by CRT, Clayco's development arm.

Terms of the merger were not disclosed.