The City Magazine Since 1975

For the Future

For the Future
September 2018

William Bates teaches classical architecture to today’s craftsmen 

Back in 2005, William Bates founded the Drawing and Design Department for the American College of the Building Arts’s very first freshman class, teaching at the Old City Jail campus for more than a decade before the school made its big move to the newly renovated Trolley Barn. And this fall, the registered architect and interior designer—who maintains clients in Charleston and New York City—launches ACBA’s Classical Architecture and Design Specialization. Here, he fills us in.

CM: How would you describe your work at ACBA?
My role from the founding was teaching architecture to non-architects so that they could understand the part that the craftsman plays in the development of a building. I want them to know the language of architecture so that they can communicate with other professionals, as well as clients in the field.

CM: Why did you want to create the Classical Architecture and Design Specialization?
To offer students the old-school information that a lot of today’s architecture programs are skipping out on. Many schools have stopped offering architectural history; they’re not paying much attention to what happened in the past as precedent. They’ve also stopped teaching hand-drafting, which in my mind allows the student’s hand and brain to start working together in a very cohesive way. It helps them develop a keen understanding of how a building goes together and helps develop sensitivity, which is what is most needed in architecture.

CM: How will students use their degree?
When our graduates enter the workforce, they will be drafting for architecture and design firms or contractors. It is a pre-professional degree, so they could also go on to earn a master’s in architecture and then get licensed as an architect.

CM: How do you spend your time when you’re not teaching?
I’m back and forth to New York City pretty frequently each month, consulting with architecture and interior decoration clients. Right now, I’m working on New York townhouses and a beautiful little house overlooking the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, as well as homes in downtown Charleston and throughout the Lowcountry. Furniture design keeps me busy, too.


Education: Master’s in architecture from the University of Miami and bachelor’s in interior design from Auburn University
Lives: With his boyfriend in a circa-1827 downtown home; Bates and ACBA professors did most of the restoration work.
Favorite building in Charleston: “Drayton Hall, America’s primary example of Palladian-influenced architecture”


Photograph by Elizabeth Ervin