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VOL. 121 | NO. 156 | Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Get Ready for Architecture Month

Series of events, workshops gives glimpse behind city's scape, scope

By Andy Meek

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SHOW PLACE: The South Bluffs home of Karl and Gail Schledwitz is one of four homes that will be displayed during a home tour, part of September's Architecture Month. -- Photograph By Brad Johnson

Elected officials, business leaders and other high-powered movers and shakers may chart a city's future. But next month the spotlight in Memphis will be on a group of professionals who influence something much more tangible.

They're the architects, who - through their drawings, designs and blueprints - shape a city's face.

Throughout September, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), along with Memphis Heritage Inc., is co-sponsoring Architecture Month, a series of events to honor the people who design where others live, work and play. A full slate of lectures, tours of homes with eye-popping designs - even a chalk art festival - are all on tap.

Behind the veil

Most important, the people who got the idea for the three-year-old event intend this year's to stay true to their original vision: pulling back the curtain on the profession and giving the public a glimpse of architecture from a historical and educational perspective.

"And even though we do touch on issues that have national and international interest, this event comes down to creating an awareness of the built environment in the city, and it represents where the city is headed."
- Heather Baugus
Executive director of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Memphis

"June West and I, several years ago, wanted to find a way to create an environment of learning and exploration in a way that was fun and engaging," said Heather Baugus, executive director of AIA Memphis. West is the executive director of Memphis Heritage Inc., a local preservation group.

Together, they decided to start what became Architecture Month for people to see architects on many levels. Architects design big buildings, true, but the month-long salute shows they also can help with commercial and residential projects of all stripes, and an element of art runs through what they do, as well.

"And even though we do touch on issues that have national and international interest, this event comes down to creating an awareness of the built environment in the city, and it represents where the city is headed," Baugus said.

Series: Form and function

Architectural consultants, experts on commercial redevelopment, Main Street planners and others are flocking to various sites in the city for the month's Architecture Lecture Series. It kicks off Aug. 29 with Jill Duncan, a workplace strategy consultant, who will present a film on architects Charles and Ray Eames.

The couple was a husband-and-wife team who made a national name for themselves. Duncan's lecture, like the others in the series, costs $10 per person.

Architecture Month 2006
Five nationally recognized speakers

Chalk Art Festival Sept. 9, at the Downtown Farmers Market

Architects Home Tour Sept. 24



Other presentations include one by Thomas K. "TK" Davis, design director for the Nashville Civic Design Center. On Oct. 3, his lecture at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will be on the subject of "Architecture, the City and Film" - which is also a course he has taught at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

"I love Memphis, and I was there just three or four weeks ago, actually," Davis said. "There was a panel discussion on creating a regional design center, which I was a part of."

Davis' return trip to Memphis follows his involvement on the panel that touted community design centers - think tanks where issues related to urban design and planning can be hashed out.

The Memphis chapter of AIA has been given a $10,000 award by the national AIA group to get such a center started. (See the July 13 edition of www.memphisdailynews.com for our full story about the Memphis Design Center.) It's an example of the fact that almost everywhere you turn in Memphis, it seems, people like Davis are deeply interested in architecture and the building blocks of the city's future.

"Memphis, in my mind, has always had a very vibrant art community and an architecture community, as well," Davis said.

Beauty is truth

Architecture Month will afford the general public a chance to see firsthand the truth behind that statement. Also scheduled during September is a tour of four Downtown homes sporting designs unlike anything else in Memphis.

Three are perched atop the South Bluffs. One is in the Harbor Town Community on Mud Island. The Memphis architectural firm Archimania designed two of the South Bluffs homes, one belonging to developers Phil and Terry Woodard and one belonging to Gregory Vaughn.

The Woodard house is a mélange of unusual angles and sharp corners. Much of the house that faces the river is glass.

"We're big fans of great architecture," said Terry Woodard. "This is our love, our life, our avocation, our vocation and everything else."

This year's Architecture Month has another feature, one that should appeal especially to children who've ever used chalk to draw a four-square court or hopscotch boundaries. A Chalk Art Festival will be held Sept. 9 on the site of the Memphis Farmers Market Downtown.

"We really wanted to get the family involved and children, too," West said. "And we thought the chalk art festival would be a really cool way to do that. The farmer's market is such a wonderful event and such a positive thing for people already that we felt it was a great joint effort."

During the chalk art festival, children's activities include face painting, balloon art and caricatures. Individuals and groups will register in advance for their chalk art space and will receive goodie bags when they check in. The bags will be filled with chalk, wipes, supplies and a few surprises.

It's an effort to create a close-knit, street fair atmosphere in Downtown Memphis, which was chosen to host the event because of the architectural masterpieces that dot the skyline there and because of the area's resurgence as a place to live and work.

"Architecture Month was really created for the city, not just for the people in the design community," Baugus said.

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