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How do we address the car, parking garages and density?

While traveling last year to cities in Ohio, Texas, California and Florida, we photographed parking garages and noticed the desire to build these structures with an aesthetic that hid the car and presented opportunities for density and alternative uses besides a car park.

Goodale Parking Garage

In Columbus, Ohio, the Goodale Street Parking Facility is about two blocks from High Street and across from the convention center. It was built at no cost to taxpayers and the income generated by the garage will pay the costs associated with the construction. This parking garage cost $18 million and it provides 8 floors of parking with 800 spaces.  ($22,500 for each parking space) This is public parking which replaced a surface lot that previously accommodate 192 cars.

Each floor of the garage near the elevators features an “Art Park” creation – an art piece from local artists or Columbus art students which help customers remember which floor they left their cars.

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Cars – a love hate relationship

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Cars have propelled our centrifugal expansion away from centers of density, and as we have spread across the countryside we have drawn behind us an increasingly expensive, complex, and energy-dependent train of civic infrastructure. This effects everyone. Local governments absorb much of the cost of more and more local roadways, longer water and electrical lines, and much larger sewer systems to support sprawling developments.  They must also fund public services to new residents who live farther and farther from the core community. These new services such as police and fire protection, schools, libraries, trash removal are to name a few.  Stretching all these basic services over these geographic areas of sprawl presents a great burden on local governments.  And all of this is sustained by the car.

This unrestrained mobility and rise of the automobile shaped the country’s first zoning regulations. Zoning is the practice of segregating like civic uses in zones or districts such as single-family residences here, apartment buildings over there, stores beyond, factories across the tracks – all connected by roads. Spreading out is the concept at the heart of virtually all traditional zoning ordinances. Zoning tends to fully separate residential and commercial uses, to move buildings farther apart and farther from streets and sidewalks, to force low-density development by limiting building height and lot coverage and to require the creation of oversized parking garages, which move buildings farther apart, usually making them inaccessible to anyone who isn’t driving.

It is our cars that stand between us and solutions to our problems. Cars have defined our culture and our lives and a car makes its driver a self-sufficient nation of one. It is basically everything a city is not.

While visiting Miami last December, we stumbled across an exhibit by Thomas Bayrle at the Institute of Contemporary Art. His show, “One Day on Success Street”, focused on the his preoccupation with the relationship of citizens to the environments and infrastructures they inhabit.  As we traveled through the exhibit, these images made us laugh and made us sad.

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Paintings in the Delta

We are excited to announce that Jeff Horton has an art exhibit at the East Arkansas Community College Fine Arts Center in Forrest City, Arkansas.  His show is titled, “Structural Landscapes” and is on exhibit November 14th – December 19th.  What’s also cool about this is that his show is in a gallery and building designed by Fennell Purifoy Architects, a local Little Rock architecture firm.  This show will feature new works by Jeff and incorporates many different sizes, lines and color.

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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.

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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.

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An overhaul of a Southern Living house with a view of Pinnacle Mountain, Little Rock

Sometimes people who are considering purchasing land for a project ask us to dissect it.  Tell them what we think. We take in the views, vistas, solar angles, winds, topography, drainage, composition of soil, vegetation, approach and overall feel of a place.  For three years, we worked with a family of nine searching for a site within the city limits where they could build a home and have some land.  Finally, the search paid off –  It wasn’t until they found this wonderful piece of land with a north view of Pinnacle Mountain, an existing baseball field, a pond and a Southern Living house that we told them to purchase the land (quickly), and we’ll work with the bones of the house.  It was and still is a spectacular site. We kept a majority of the structure of the house, removed the existing front porch, brick, columns, dormers and pool in the back yard. We renovated the existing house, designed a bedroom addition, a separate garage/gym/studio apartment as well as re-positioned the new pool/outdoor fireplace at the front of the house with the view to Pinnacle.

Photos of the existing site before construction:

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Before/After photos of the front porch:

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Photos below – Before (same elevation):         After:

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Before of rear yard with pool:                           After of rear yard with paving (pool in front yard)

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Details of addition and view looking towards Pinnacle Mountain:

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Interiors at kitchen, base and window detail

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Traveling was good for the soul

We recently traveled to Los Angeles where we toured several houses designed by architects in the early 1920’s as well as visited the beaches in the area, particularly Venice Beach and Santa Monica.  Below are photos of Venice Beach and Muscle Beach.

Venice was founded by tobacco millionaire, Abbot Kenney in 1905 as a beach resort town and has been labeled, “a cultural hub known for its eccentricities”.  Our kind of place. It includes Muscle Beach, handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, skate dancing plaza, beach volleyball courts, bike trails and the basketball courts are renowned for their high level of streetball. Numerous professional basketball players developed their games or have been recruited on these courts.  There’s art, music and architecture as well.  Venice was also where The Doors formed in 1965 as well as the birthplace of the band Jane’s Addition.

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House in Chenal Valley – What is beauty in architecture?

Reflecting this week on a recent excerpt in a local publication on Prime Property: 10 of the most beautiful homes in Little Rock. One of the projects we designed is included in this list and is quite different from the other selections. So, we’ve been discussing beauty in architecture and re-questioning what we think beauty means to us.

We realize beauty is dependent to some extent on culture and experience; but can beauty be universally understood at some level?

Aesthetic, in architecture, is often linked with order and balance. Rhythm, for instance is frequently desired within striking compositions. So, is architecture nothing more than the manipulation of space to follow certain rules of beauty? Can architecture break or challenge such rules that are directly connected to the human senses?

When the human nervous system experiences beauty, certain parts of the brain light up. It seems that, to some extent, humans can be taught what beauty means. Again, culture and experience may have a significant role. Yet, there are certain qualities that are constantly found regardless of culture or experience. According to Beauty and Brain these are: grids, zigzags, spirals and curves.  Such findings indicate that on some level, beauty may be universal.

As architects, we strive to create beautiful forms and spaces that inspire humans within. It is often said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”; however, there are a collection of architectural spaces that never fail to stir occupants deeply. Like many designers, architects follow rules and consciously bend them. To advance as a profession, it is important to learn from the discoveries of neuroaesthetics; but it is equally important to challenge them. Architects should not feel limited by such findings, but rather they should feel freed to learn why occupants respond the way they do – to certain arrangements of space.

The experience of beauty is fundamental to what makes us all human. We may find beauty in different things at different times; however, the joy found in surrounding architectural space and form is universal. As spacial compositions continue to evolve, so too will our understanding of the meaning behind beauty.

Below is the house we designed that was included in the list of the 10 Most Beautiful Homes in Little Rock.

And we can’t help but think of this weeks happenings that beauty of the human race is all the differences between us.

 

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A spirit of thankfulness

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In the spirit of thankfulness, we wanted to take time to reflect on the role of those organizations that have inspired us. Oftentimes, we back up our inspiration with support – from pro bono design assistance to leadership advice and financial support.  We look forward to 2015 with great enthusiasm.  In 2014, we supported some great organizations:

University of Arkansas at Little Rock – Institute of Government

University of Arkansas at Little Rock – Donaghey Scholars

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The Arkansas Innovation Hub

Architecture + Design Network

Studio 804, University of Kansas

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

CATA

Our House, Inc.

Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas

 

 

 

The Children's Center – Our House

Today was a great day to visit the Our House Children’s Center building – lots of color on the walls and sailing towards the opening date of June 7!  This place is a place to celebrate kids, a place where they can meet a friend, not worry about a last meal, play, draw, study, learn, dance, celebrate achievements, confide in others, take a shower, receive shoes, participate in speech therapy…we can hardly wait to see kids in this building.

Multi-Use Room

Corridor for little ones

Corridor for Little Learners

Classroom

Stairway looking at the big old VA hospital on the hill

stair with different size risers

second floor corridor

Exterior of stair and Multi-Use space

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Our House and homeless children

Arkansas ranks 31st among the states in child homelessness, 43rd with risk for child homelessness and 49th for child wellbeing for health problems of children below poverty level.

  • Children who are homeless are 4x more likely to show delayed development
  • 2x as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children
  • By age of 12, 83% have been exposed to at least 1 serious violent event
  • Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families
  • Are sick 4x more than other children and have 5x more gastrointestinal problems
  • Have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies
  • Have 3x the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children

What do homeless children worry about?

  • They worry about not having a place to live
  • They worry that they will not have a place to sleep
  • They worry that something bad will happen to their family and that their family will have to be separated.
  • They worry that they will be hungry again
  • They worry about whether or not they will ever be able to have a friend

So, we are glad to be a part of the team with Our House, Inc. and Nabholz Construction Services to build a new 20,000 square foot Children’s Center – just for children. A place where kids can be kids, a place to learn and grow and a place to help break the cycle of homelessness.

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