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The Beginning….

Park in Paris

Back by popular demand …

Blogging is new for me and you can only imagine my anxiety in making my first post.  I struggled for some time trying to settle on a theme for my thoughts and finally remembered an occasion this year which enabled me to distill my approach and spirit of my role as an architect over the past 30 plus years.  During a SWAT analysis session this year, the question was put to me to describe my approach to architecture.  Having mostly approached the design process from an intuitive standpoint, it was quite difficult for me to express in a succinct way an answer to this question.  What finally came to the surface was my belief in the inextricable connection of art, architecture, and life which, without exception, influenced and continues to influence the design process for the projects I undertake.  To define it more clearly, it is the human existence and interaction which occurs within and around the buildings and spaces, that is the adrenaline of my passion for what I do.

For several years during the latter part of the 90’s, I traveled to Paris.  For me, the attraction of that city was the street life, both day and night, which was like the life blood of a living organism.  I remember the lovers who paused on a pont to embrace in a loving kiss; the older gentleman (reminding me of Spencer Tracy) who, sitting on a park bench in the Tuileries Gardens during his lunch hour, fed the birds from his hands, reaching periodically into his valise for more seed; the woman (I call her Bilbea) who couched herself in a back corner of a terrace at Café Marly, off the Louvre plaza; and one lone soul sitting on a park bench in Place des Vosges, at one with his thoughts protected from the busy street traffic by the pastoral setting of the park.  From these memories and others, I find the purpose and success of architecture.

In reflecting on the many projects which I have built over the span of my career, I can see how my personal approach to the design of buildings and spaces, was successfully informed by this understanding which excites me in what I do – whether it be a renovation of a single family residence, design of a small mountain hotel, an adaptive re-use for an arts center, a city hall, or a community bandstand situated on the city square.  I can find my imprint in each and every one of these and other projects, and can say with pride that each was, and continues to be successful in fostering salient human needs for interaction and reflection.

In my blogs, I want to talk about art, architecture, and life as a whole – and not separate.  For my experience as an artist, architect, and an engaged individual in life,is that they each influence each other – thus being inextricably interconnected.

I hope you will visit often and will add your comment.

Lovers on the Pont

Lovers on the Pont - Paris

Auld Lang Syne….

Reflections - Paris, 1999

Reflections - Paris, 1999

Sitting here on the eve of the new year, I am recalling a similar time some 35 years ago – to the day.  It was December 31, 1973, and I was a young architect, 28 years of age getting ready to embark on an exciting adventure – entering private practice.  It’s strange how there is a lot which I cannot recall during those years since, yet I remember so clearly that particular day.  It had been raining in Atlanta for, what seemed like weeks.  And, that day was no exception.  It happened to be my last day of work with the firm of Welton Beckett Associates, Architects and plans were set to ring in the new year with some friends that evening.  There was a new movie out, Papillon, which we were going to see at a theater in Buckhead.  Looking back, it is interesting the subtle connection of the events of that day, the rain, the movie, and the sheer emotion of excitement and fear all bound up into one.

A similar time, the beginning of a severe recession loomed heavy, and not having any project to dive into, made for a difficult start.  The first project I landed was to design a city park for the City of Rockmart, GA.  It was a thrilling first opportunity, yet contained only a pool bathhouse, planned for a later stage of the park development.  Shortly thereafter, I was selected to design the renovation of an existing aged metal building in Peachtree City, GA.  I guess I would say that was my very first completed architectural commission.

Peachtree City Building - Before

Peachtree City Building - Before

Peachtree City Building - After

Peachtree City Building - After

Over the years since that time, I have had extraordinary opportunities with many clients who have entrusted me with the challenge of translating their dreams into successful architecture.  Just recently, I spent the better part of a day organizing the many tubes of drawings and sketches I created during those thirty five years.  It brought back so many memories – some buildings I had completely forgotten about – of clients, employees, the design processes, the elation of seeing each project grow from the ground to completion, and then to see the human interaction, as a result.  It is interesting to me that only good memories flooded my mind, and only now, writing this blog, can I recall the difficult times, revisions, tight budgets, unreasonable deadlines, and “all-nighters”, not to mention the fact that nearly all of the drawings were created completely by hand in pencil and ink.  Now in the digital era, we draw with bits and bytes.

Hand Sketch - Concept

Hand Sketch - Concept

The end result

The End Result

For me the design process still begins with loosely drawn sketches – lots of them – from which many ideas emerge.  There is something about the spontaneity in the movement of pen on paper (sometimes a cocktail napkin), the connectivity of the mind, eyes, and hand.

There are many meanings to the words Auld Lang Syne, but my favorite is remembering the good times.  I love what I do!

Best wishes to all for a new year of peace and prosperity.

For I raise a cup of kindness yet, For Auld Lang Syne

Dancing Shoes….

Weekend of Dancing in Myrtle Beach

Weekend of Dancing in Myrtle Beach

A little over a century ago, a new cultural concept of community bandstands emerged.  For the period of years between the Civil war and WWI, many bandstands found their way onto the public squares and parks of villages, towns, and cities throughout this country.  Initially intended for seating a band, ultimately these jewels provided a gathering place for the community and became symbols of local identity and civic pride.

Many years back, the small city of Decatur, GA experienced a severe shock to its downtown with the construction of a rapid transit rail line which was routed directly through the center of town, only to be punctuated with a transit station below the city square.

The first cut is the deepest

The first cut is the deepest

As is the case many times, decision makers have a short sighted approach, and in this case the cost of completely burying the station just wasn’t in the budget.  Hence, the station became partially raised above grade and resulted in a hard-scape plaza over much of the station’s footprint.  For years after, citizens complained about the destruction of the square and the negative impact on the viability of the city.  But as it is with the human spirit, the citizenry rose above the impediments and the plaza became a point to which the community came together for public events and gatherings.

In the years following, the City fathers realized an opportunity –  befitting of the historic context of adjacent buildings – to restore civic pride for the Courthouse square.  The vision was for a bandstand that would both enrich the community and reflect a commitment to local culture, and it would be located directly over the transit station.  I was most honored to have been selected as the architect for this bandstand project.

there's a crack in everything . . . that's how the light gets in . . .

In the years since its construction, the bandstand has not only become a symbol of civic pride and a testament to the cultural commitment of the City of Decatur, but its greatest value is found in the casual and spontaneous events which occur there within and around.  On most days you may stroll by and catch a glimpse of a wedding party, children playing under the canopy, or workers lunching on the shaded steps sheltered from the noonday sun.  At other times, there may be an aspiring violinist playing an aria at dusk, or a pair of lovers speaking gently as they lean over the railing watching the sun set in the cool evening air.

Perhaps, if you are fortunate, you may encounter a small group of young people who have just put on their dancing shoes and have struck up the music.  Should you experience a desire to join in, do so and become a part of the spirit of this place.

dancing shoes . . .