PRESERVING CULTURE THROUGH ADAPTATION
23 February 2017 - Tim Hawk
A few final thoughts on adaptive re-use. I love history. Always have and always will. When we look to history, we find such rich stories about our culture, and we gain clues as to why we honor societal traditions. I can’t imagine an existence which discounts history. I think that one of my favorite quotes (which is attributed in various forms) is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. This is widely attributed to George Santayana, an American philosopher. My take on this quote is that we can learn from our past. So, as an architect, I love to work on our historic buildings since we learn so much. These buildings were designed during a different time, and are informed by the education, experience, and contemporary thoughts of architects in that day. Additionally, although many building methods are universal and independent of time, I would argue that the tools and methods are constantly evolving, especially over the past 150 years or so, as a direct result of the industrial revolution and the impact of technology. Looking to history, even in a city like Columbus, we can trace the progress of building, know-how, material changes, and design philosophy. Let’s take a journey through Columbus’ most significant buildings:
1839 through 1861: Ohio Statehouse
- Designed by a consortium of architects including Henry Ustick Walter, Alexander J. Davis, William Russell West, Nathan B. Kelly, Isiah Rogers, and Thomas Cole. An annex was added by Samuel Hannaford and Sons. Recently renovated and adapted by Schooley Caldwell Associates and Moody Nolan, both Columbus firms.
- The building is designed in the Greek Revival style to embody the principles of Democracy, founded in Ancient Greek culture.
- The original building had no electrical infrastructure, was masonry bearing, and is only a few stories tall.
- Largely constructed by prison inmates using straightforward construction methods.
- The building is designed without exhaustive ornamentation…a straightforward and elegant example of its period.
1927: Lincoln Leveque Tower
- Designed by Detroit architect C. Howard Crane. The building is currently undergoing an extensive renovation by Schooley Caldwell Associates.
- Early example of a steel frame, terra-cotta clad skyscraper.
- The building harnessed the latest in building know-how to be fabricated, erected, and clad. It was the tallest building in Columbus until 1974 when its height was eclipsed by the Rhodes State Office Tower.
- The building’s interior and specialized detailing evokes Art Deco in its stylistic tendencies.
- The building includes office suites and a 2827 seat vaudevillian theatre, the Palace.
1951: St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
- Designed by Brooks & Coddington, a leading Columbus architecture firm in the mid-twentieth century.
- Early example of mid-century Modern influence on institutional architecture.
- The church is a mix of steel construction with extensive glazing, and is designed to contribute to the urban environment while establishing an iconic presence.
- This building also is significant because it exploited natural light on the interior of the building, a distinctively Modern idea.
1984: Huntington Center
- Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, a Chicago architecture firm.
- The thirty-seven story building is a sculptural piece in the city’s skyline.
- The steel and masonry clad tower expresses its structure through massive exterior trusses which define a series of multistory interior atriums.
- The building is clad in fine red granite and detailed with bright brass touches, typical of the period.
2004: Knowlton Hall
- Designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam from Atlanta and WSA Studio, a Gold Medal Firm in Columbus.
- This building harnesses the latest in construction methodologies. It is a post-tensioned concrete structural system clad in a “rain-screen” with Georgia marble tile cladding. The glazing systems are supported by an exposed interior steel back-up system.
- The building is designed to integrate with its site context and signifies a gateway to the central campus quadrangle from the west.
As you might notice, as we progressed through this timeline, the buildings all became much more complex, much like our society. This doesn’t mean that the newer buildings are better, since if we are to ask many of our residents, many might still like the Ohio Statehouse best because of its straightforward aesthetic. Regardless of popular taste and stylistic preference, it is important that we consider what historic buildings tell us about the culture in which they were made and design. The Ohio Statehouse speaks to our formative years and Knowlton Hall establishes an example of the “next” building. We learn from these examples, and when they are combined, we have a city, a campus, a neighborhood, a district, or even a state. Buildings, and their inherent historical richness, contribute to society and establish our understanding of place.
This is why we work hard to respect the heritage of buildings, yet anticipate the future demands on them, and adapt our collective building stock to enrich the fabric that is. At WSA Studio, we Design for Change.
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