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Architect, Sculptor, Firefighter: Meet John Lydon

John-Lydon-architect-004By Jann Wiswall

When you walk to the front of John Lydon’s “cabin” in Otto, you know you are looking at a home that has been designed by an architect and artist.

Every detail — from the barn-style siding and huge bank of windows facing a man-made pond, to the silo-inspired screened porch and wide-plank steps that double as “bleacher” seating — is designed to accentuate the natural surroundings of the 4-acre property overlooking a rolling valley.

“Before we were married, my wife brought me here to see her family’s undeveloped property and I fell in love with it at first sight,” said Lydon, who lovingly imagined, designed and built the cabin over the course of nearly three decades while working in Buffalo both as a professional firefighter and architect.

“My first action was to plant hundreds of pine seedlings on the relatively treeless property,” he said. Those seedlings are now mature trees that surround the property and guide the eye toward the view.

To pay homage to those trees and the rural setting, Lydon designed the interior of the cabin to “bring the outside in.” A feature wall of shelving and cabinetry mimics the triangular shape of an evergreen. Natural wood beams and flooring, a wood-burning stove and hearth sitting on a bed of loose natural stone, vaulted wooden ceilings that come to triangular peaks — all make you feel as if you are standing in the midst of the woods, with expansive windows all around to enhance that sensation.

As an architect, Lydon has brought his thoughtful perspective to several large Buffalo firms. While with those firms, he served as a project architect of the Elmwood-Virginia Firehouse in Buffalo, the East Amherst Fire Hall, the Elma Town Hall, the Western New York Federal Credit Union building in West Seneca, and many other properties in western New York.

The opportunity to contribute to the design of fire halls came naturally out of Lydon’s 25 years as a full-time, professional firefighter in Buffalo.

“As both a firefighter and architect, I was fortunate to be able to bring my knowledge of both to the design of several fire halls,” said Lydon.

One design project he is especially proud of is the Elmwood-Virginia Firehouse in Buffalo’s Allentown Arts District.

“I had the opportunity to make the building feel like a part of the artistic culture of the area, to teach people a bit about the history of the fire service, and to inspire young people to become firefighters.” As a result, Lydon created several cut-metal sculptures illustrating the work of firefighters in silhouette and installed them in and around the public areas of the space.

Lydon’s work with the fire department also evolved into fire prevention and code work. As a lieutenant in the Buffalo Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau, Lydon was responsible for reviewing all building permit drawings for compliance with state fire prevention and building code, and he still maintains his certification as an official code enforcement officer. He currently serves as chair of the NY State Codes Division Board of Review for the western region, ruling on all building code variance applications.

Now retired from the fire department, Lydon works full time as an architect and sculptor, incorporating the two when possible.

“My art generally is driven by my architectural designs,” Lydon said. “I work hard to make a statement, no matter the project — whether residential, commercial or public.”

Lydon runs his firm, Lydon Architectural Services, out of his office in Lancaster, N.Y., and recently designed the addition at E-Ville Spirits & Wines on Monroe Street. He plans to work more in Cattaraugus County in the future since he hopes to spend more time at the Otto cabin. In fact, he feels there’s no better setting than the cabin to sit down and talk with clients about their vision and expectations.

If you’re interested in chatting with Lydon about your next project, give him a call at (716) 341-0703.

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