Architect Randall Stout died July 11 at age 56. (Randall Stout Architects Inc./AP)

Nature gave Los Angeles architect Randall Stout a vision. Its destruction gave him a calling.

Known for buildings that curved and swooped, drawing comparisons to birds and water, Mr. Stout sought to make each of his designs “respond to its place,” he once told an interviewer. He championed green buildings and green energy before they were household terms.

His impulses grew from the soaring canopies of hemlocks and ancient, soft contours of the Great Smoky Mountains of his Tennessee childhood. But his childhood idylls also made him a witness to the Smokies’ defilement by industrial mining and acid rain.

“He saw firsthand a lot of environmental damage done before the Clean Air and Clean Water acts,” said his brother, Steve Stout. It sealed Mr. Stout’s commitment to environmental stewardship from his earliest days as an architect.

Mr. Stout died July 11 in Los Angeles of renal cell carcinoma, his brother said. He was 56.

The Roanoke Art Museum in Roanoke, Va., was designed by Los Angeles architect Randall Stout. (Don Petersen/AP)

Schooled as much by nature’s ruination as by its beauty, Mr. Stout designed major museums in Canada and his native South that combined green design with ardent evocations of local natural features.

For the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, for example, he recessed parts of a glass ceiling to hold snow. It gave visitors a sense they were outside even as they climbed interior stairs. For the youth center at L.A.’s Dockweiler State Beach, he drew roof lines that looked like heaving surf.

Mr. Stout favored designs that broke conventions and any structure that tried “to be something other than a box,” he told the Edmonton Journal in 2010. He called the Art Gallery of Alberta (2010), with its billowy lines that imitate the Northern Lights, his most challenging project, his brother said.

Mr. Stout also designed the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, the addition to the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Blair Graphics building in Santa Monica, Calif. His work was featured in an exhibit last year at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, “A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California.”

Randall Paul Stout was born May 6, 1958, in Knoxville, Tenn. He discovered architecture in a high school drafting class.

Armed with an architecture degree from the University of Tennessee and a graduate degree from Rice University in Houston, he interned with the Tennessee Valley Authority and began work in the field. He eventually joined Frank O. Gehry and Associates and helped design the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He worked seven years with Gehry before starting his own firm in 1997.

Praise for Mr. Stout’s work was sometimes tempered by criticism that he produced Gehry “knockoffs,” as Lisa Rochon put it in 2005 in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, writing of the Edmonton project.

Yet Rochon lauded Mr. Stout’s sincere approach, noting that he was the only architect competing for the commission “who took the time to hang out in the city and learn its geography as if he were a long-time resident.”

Survivors include his wife, Joelle Stout; three children; his mother; a brother; and a sister.

Among Mr. Stout’s lesser-known projects is the conceptual design for the Montclair, Calif., police headquarters. Although the final design was slightly modified, Mr. Stout’s vision remained largely intact. It called for skylights, an airy central atrium and a profile that matched the mountains behind it.

Montclair Police Chief Michael deMoet said his officers loved the building’s natural light and distinctive profile so much that they changed their badges to incorporate its image.