Archive for the “historic architecture” Category

Temporary advertisement for a housing development becomes a worldwide icon

The sign

Just below the summit of Mount Lee, this arrangement of giant letters in sans serif font attracts thousands of tourists.  These tourists, much like ourselves, take the drive or hike up Beachwood Drive to pose for a cell phone photo.  Much to our dismay, we read that these letters aren’t the original ones, which were made of wood and steel, each 50′-0″ tall and anchored on telephone poles.  Originally, there were 4,000 light bulbs outlining each letter. There was even a guy, Albert Koeth who lived in a small shack behind the “L’s” of the sign and for fifteen years, he would scale the letters with 20-watt bulbs stuffed in his shirt, replacing any that had burned out.

This “remake” was constructed in 1978 when the old was torn down and in their place were 20′-0″ steel beams, drilled into the earth and cemented in concrete.  These old letters were replaced with new ones constructed of corrugated steel coated white enamel and no lights.  However, both signs have been advertisements for a promised life high above the smog of the city, a dream of wealth, fame, glamour.

By the 1920’s, the time for a large-scale hillside development was inspired by the increase in private car ownership.  The hundreds of acres of foothills were put on the market promising to put the hustle and bustle of Hollywood at a distance. Paths for hiking and biking were cleared through the mountains and homes were built in various styles such as English Tudor, California Revival, French Normandy and Mediterranean.  In order to shout out to others and promise a clean, healthful atmosphere and beautiful outlook of the hills, former topographer, John Roche, penciled out the large temporary Hollywoodland sign.


I think it was in 1949 when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce decided to tear down the “land” and to provide bonds for maintenance and insurance in case of liability suits and damage.  Thus, advertising the city and movie business, not the housing development.

Because these letters are seen as a potential target for terrorists and teenagers, the letters are protected by infrared cameras, a satellite view, and 24 hour surveillance.  We had a good time seeing these letters anyway and took in the view of the hills at dusk.






Dempsey Bakery

Little Rock’s Dempsey Bakery featured in Travel and Leisure as a favorite place in Arkansas to stop for gluten-free goodies. Located in a renovated 1950’s car showroom, our client, Paula Dempsey envisioned with us the type of space for customers to visit and be excited about – and for some, it’ll be their first time in a bakery. Check out the bakery at  Thanks to Steven Otis and Nancy Nolan for capturing these photos.

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Modern Infill in Historic Neighborhood

wooten front elev

arch street view

wooten corner view

arch & 13th street view

Above is a single-family residence we designed for review and approval in an historic district in Little Rock, Arkansas.  We submitted for a design review permit to the Capitol Zoning District Commission and the staff report can be downloaded here 1300 S. Arch 9-1-10. Based on our client’s needs and desires, we proposed a modern interpretation of a dogtrot prototype.

Historically, the dogtrot house consisted of two equal one story rooms on either side of a central hall joined by a common gable roof.  The dogtrot was named by early observers who saw the purpose of the passage as an animal shelter – a place where dogs could run through the house.  This type was prevalent in the South, where the passage also functioned as a shady breezeway where meals could be taken in hot weather.  Richard Hulan in an article for Pioneer America wrote: “The true dogtrot house is not so much a way of framing space as a way of living in space.”  Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn described a dogtrot as, “It was a double house, and a big, open place betwixt them was roofed and floored, and sometimes the table was set there in the middle of the day, and it was cool, comfortable place.”

When approaching this type of house and its relationship to the site, the view through the opening (void) onto the landscape of gardens to the south and to an historic cemetery to the north that dates back to 1843, emphasizes the center of gravity of the house.  It is the clarity of the opening or void which distinguishes this simple scheme and is an emblem of its character.

Not only is the form important, but also the relationship of the form to the street, the block and the neighborhood.  We  located the building within the setbacks established by the historic district as well as took into consideration the rhythm and pattern of the existing historic housing along the street.  We tend to agree with Steve Luoni, Director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center on this thought, “From my point of view the most important considerations for establishing compatibility involve relationships more than materials (both bad and good buildings are made from brick for instance). Relationships would be considered at different scales: the block, street and property parcel.”

Regarding materials, we proposed the use of coated metal for the exterior finish of the roof and exterior walls. Metal is a great product that has been used for decades and we have written about the benefits in our other posts, “Metal roofs with ecological benefits” and “Metal roofs/tax credits”.  Historically, this material was used on roofs, but is less common as a wall material.  However, vertical siding similar to board and batten is represented in the historic district and we thought this approach was complimentary.

During the presentation to the Design Review Committee, Mansion Area Advisory Committee and the Capital Zoning District Commissioners, the conversation revolved around the proposed metal material and discussion about whether or not metal is an approved material for the exterior walls in an historic district.  To some, metal need not be considered, instead Hardiplank horizontal siding.  But to the majority, the metal was seen as an appropriate use of material for the exterior walls.

To conclude this blog:

“Preservation is not about freezing time and ensuring all buildings never change, and places never evolve. In fact it is just the opposite. Preservation helps people understand the evolution. By maintaining older buildings, a place suddenly has a visible history that you can read by simply walking down the street.  Preservation ensures that the city reads with multiple layers of history, rather than solely new development. Attempting to reproduce historic styles in new modern materials and forms is not only confusing, but can also quickly go wrong. Simply put, slapping on a set of columns and decorative ornamentation does not magically create history.” – excerpts from “Will the Preservation Ordinance Stifle Modern Architects?”

Stay tuned for photos during construction.

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Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas – 2010 Most Endangered Places

Each year, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas announces its list of Most Endangered Historic Places. This year, during Arkansas Heritage Month, it is the “Nine in Need”.  Jennifer served on the selection committee which evaluated the degree of the property’s local, state or national significance and the degree of threat to the property.  These selected properties raise awareness and are eligible for technical and/or financial assistance.  Check out the “Nine in Need”.

Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas – 2010 Most Endangered Places.