Acclaimed designer William Sofield presented his history of “Designing Places of Memory and Legacy” Tuesday evening at the SCAD Museum of Art. Sofield, whose clients include Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Disney, discussed his time as a designer as part of the Preservation Design Department’s calendar of events for preservation week in Savannah. 

“Those of you who know me, know that I would rather be battered in deep fat fries than speak publicly,” Sofield said. “This is a kind of a run-through, my view of the historical preservation movement as I witnessed it, and then I actually put in some very humble projects this time that you may not have seen before just to give you an idea of the range, because I think you can work in [preservation design] at pretty much any scale.”

Preservation Design Professor James Abraham also delivered a brief introductory statement on the significance of Preservation Week in Savannah and throughout the United States. According to Abraham, every May is devoted to the continuing cause of historic preservation with events hosted in Savannah around SCAD’s campus and throughout the city.

“We celebrate Preservation Week because it is necessary to constantly remind our fellow citizens, government officials and legislators that our cultural resources are always under attack by those individuals who care less about our physical history and care more about their interest in economic gain,” Abraham said. “The Historic Preservation Foundation here in Savannah is the leading advocate for preservation and restoration in the city, and through its revolving loan fund, it has saved more than 400 structures from demolition by design or deliberate neglect.”

The Preservation Design Department at SCAD provides comprehensive courses in the application of preservation practices and it is recognized as one of the leading degree preservation design programs in the United States, according to Abraham.

“We in preservation design department invite you to look at our program and our electives that can assist you in preparing you for your new career,” Abraham said. “Our guest William Sofield has mastered these legal and design challenges. His list of clients reads like who’s who of New York developers, and the same is true worldwide. In 1996, he founded Studio Sofield which now employs more than 40 designers. Interior Design Magazine described him as a choreographer of spaces and in 2010 he received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for interior design.”  

Sofield’s work is characterized largely by a holistic approach that considers the requirements of living and local culture.

“I would say probably my favorite category is homage,” Sofield said. “I think Maria von Trapp said, ‘Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.’ So, we all learn from somebody and we all have somebody to pay tribute to. This to me is the best where there’s nothing literally there, but you’re kind of paying your debt back to those that taught you and made it possible.”

Written by Emilie Kefalas.