For Chad Abell, entrepreneurship is a family value. In 1916, his great grandfather, C.L. Abell, established Abell & Son in Welsh, Louisiana. One
hundred years later, the business is still supplying agricultural equipment to southwest Louisiana farmers.
“I always thought that I would take over the family business,” says Chad, “but when I was in high school, the local farming industry was really struggling.
Because the future of the business seemed uncertain, I felt that I needed to do something else.”
He decided to follow the same career course as his uncle, Bernard “Bunzy” Bryant, an architect in Monroe, Louisiana. After graduating from high school,
Chad enrolled at his uncle’s alma mater, the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette). He earned
a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1993 and established Abell + Crozier with Eric Crozier in 2002.
“When you own your own business, you get to decide your own direction,” says Chad. “We get to decide what kind of work we want to do — and how we
want to do it." Abell + Crozier specializes in the design of community buildings: churches, schools, healthcare facilities, and civic structures.
Chad’s list of influences is concise. There’s Samuel Mockbee — a founder of the socially conscious Rural Studio at Auburn University — and
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whose teachings and designs consistently asserted that “less is more.” He also cites the work of Morphosis Architects, a
firm with offices in California and New York, because he appreciates its mechanical aesthetic.
But, he says, his greatest influence isn’t a particular architect or firm, but instead, a particular kind of architecture.
“I’ve always been fascinated by agrarian architecture, by grain silos and barns. These are things that aren’t designed to be aesthetically pleasing, they’re
designed to perform a function. So, they are, in essence, machines.”
His architectural career continues to be shaped by his agricultural roots.
“In farming, you had to use whatever you had on hand. You had to innovate to solve problems — and you had to do it with the wrong materials, the
wrong tools, under less-than-ideal conditions. You asked yourself, ‘How can I make this work?’ So, it was all about functionality.”
When asked which of his designs is most representative of his approach, Chad has an immediate answer: The Eucharistic Adoration Chapel at the Sacred Heart
of Jesus Church in Broussard, Louisiana.
“Its design wasn’t based on what it would look like. It was about what this kind of space means and how it works — how it makes you feel.”
The result is a space that embraces worshippers and invites meditation.
“It is beautiful because it is functional.”