NCSU Libraries receives papers of renowned architect Ligon Flynn

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North Carolina architect Ligon Flynn

The papers and project files of noted North Carolina architect Ligon Flynn have been donated to the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). Known for his organic design of oceanfront residences on pilings, Flynn kept extensive project files with architectural drawings, photographs and correspondence, including many spectacular watercolor renderings of his buildings.

His widow, Susan Hardin Flynn, donated his archive, which had been maintained by his family as well as his architectural colleague Virginia Woodruff, who practiced with him for years. The collection is in preliminary processing at the SCRC and is not yet available to researchers. Materials should be ready for research by mid-2017 after a preliminary inventory of the collection has been completed.

The Ligon Flynn Papers enhance the SCRC’s already substantial collection in architecture and design, joining the papers of such noted modernist architects as George Matsumoto, James Fitzgibbon, Matthew Nowicki and G. Milton Small, Jr.

Flynn graduated from the NCSU School of Design (now the College of Design) in 1959 and taught there from 1963-1967 before establishing a private practice. He moved that practice to Wilmington in 1972 to continue work on Figure Eight Island.

Developer Young M. Smith, Jr. hired Flynn, his then-partner Henry Johnston and landscape architect Dick Bell to work with The Figure Eight Island Development Company to lay out roads and lots on the north end, design the yacht club and marina, and other aspects of the development. Flynn spent much of his career designing homes for Figure Eight, all of which were placed on pile foundations to avoid the kind of devastation caused by Hurricane Hazel in 1954. He designed homes on the island for the rest of his life, touring the completed 12,000-square-foot Ligon Point residence shortly before he passed away in 2010. 

Flynn is well known for his residential work; however, he was also responsible for notable public buildings, including these two award winning projects: the Brookgreen Gardens Visitor Center and the student cabins for Brevard Music Camp. Other notable public projects were St. John's Museum of Art, the expansion of Thalian Hall, the Lower Cape Fear Hospice In-Patient Center and two student center projects at NCSU. Flynn was an accomplished watercolor painter and photographer, publishing his tobacco barn photos in a student publication for the NCSU College of Design and in a separate volume. 

His honors include six design awards from the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects—which named him a Fellow in 1986—and the North Carolina Architecture Foundation’s 1993 Kamphoefner Prize.

Flynn’s approach to design was marked by a kind of holistic environmentalism. He prioritized daylight and natural ventilation and wanted indoor and outdoor spaces to seem interchangeable. This is how Flynn summed up his design sensibility: “All of my buildings have to have habitable spaces outside that are connected to the interior. I want to be able to see into it and through it.”