Texas Architect Nov/Dec 2009: Industrial
This edition highlights industrial design throughout Texas, as well as the recipients of TSA's 2009 Studio Awards. Texas Architect, the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects|AIA, publishes the best projects by Texas architects and thoughtful articles on design and the architecture industry, and maintains an award-winning standard of quality.
texas architect 11 / 1 2 2 0 0 9 15 carolyn Peterson, Faia p h o t o c o u r t e s y K e n s l av in Peterson Is First Woman To Receive Top TSA Honor Carolyn Peterson, FAIA, is the forty-first recipi- ent of the Texas Society of Architect’s highest award – the Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Honor of Llewellyn W. Pitts FAIA – presented annually to a TSA member for contributions to the profession of architecture and their com- munity. From its inception in 1968 until this year, the honor’s awardees have been exclusively male. In fact, not one of the dozens of letters supporting Peterson’s nomination acknowl- edged that she might break yet another gender barrier in a lengthy career that has largely involved historic preservation through her work with Ford Powell & Carson Architects and Planners in San Antonio. How did her professional achieve- ments warrant this honor? In his letter of support, fellow preserva- tionist John Volz, AIA, stated: “Caro- lyn’s extensive résumé illustrates the comprehensive, positive impact that she has had on the preserva- tion of our State’s history, historical resources and the practice of archi- tecture. Her leadership as the state’s first female preservation architect is significant. She upholds the high- est professional standards and her approach to historic preservation as an architect is both scientific and sensitive. Throughout her career she has inspired, educated, and led numerous men and women into the field of historic preservation as well as the practice of architecture.” For nearly half a century, Peterson has been a meticulous steward of the state’s historic landmarks. Her work has included some of the state’s grandest buildings – including the Texas Capitol, the Alamo, the Spanish Missions of San Antonio, and numerous county courthouses – as well as a modest and long-forgotten South Texas treasure. Her intellectual curiosity for learning about an issue and solving a problem is supported by her encyclopedic knowledge of materials, an attribute noted by Stanley Graves, director of the Architecture Division of the Texas Historical Commission, in his letter of support of her nomination. In a profession long dominated by men, Peterson has demonstrated an extraordinary tenacity, dating as far back as the early 1960s when Carolyn Safar studied at the University of Texas at Austin. (She and Jack Peterson married in 1963, while both were students in the architecture program. In that era, women comprised only five percent of UT’s archi- tectural students. Today, women account for 55 percent.) The 1950s and early ’60s were a period of intellectual ferment in the school’s history, a golden age of inquiry initiated by the so-called Texas Rangers, the legend- ary group of educators. A beneficiary of the school’s esteemed former students was noted architect O’Neil Ford, who hired Carolyn and Jack Peterson and a dozen of their classmates. Together with Boone Powell and Howard Wong, both UT alumni who already were working with Ford, these young people were well grounded in the principles of architectural theory, in phi- losophy and history—in fact, broadly educated in the liberal arts. When they regrouped and coalesced with Ford’s group of stalwarts in the King William Street office on the banks of the San Antonio River, the most vital and creative period in Ford’s office ensued. For the first six years of the Peterson’s mar- riage, home was a cottage at Willow Way (Ford’s residential compound for he and his family) in the shadow of Mission San José on the southern outskirts of the city. Following the birth of their daughter, Kirsten, in May 1965, Carolyn used the cottage as an outpost of the King William office. By the late 1960s, Jack Peterson and most of the others had left Ford’s office to try their wings. Only Powell and Carolyn Peterson remained, as they remain today as keepers of the firm’s collective memory. In 1969, the firm’s first restoration job, major work at Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Antonio, was assigned to Carolyn Peterson, who would henceforth be the preservation specialist for the firm. Ford categorized people, and she lived conveniently close to the job. His intuitive choice was a brilliant one. Laurie Limbacher, AIA, another specialist in historic preservation and chair of the 2009 TSA Honor Awards Committee, recalls that after graduating from Texas A&M’s architecture pro- gram and entering the office of Eugene George, she looked to Peterson as her mentor. She was inspired by the notion that a woman – this was in the late 70s – could be an established profes- sional. The two women would work together for seven years on the Texas Capitol Preservation and Expansion Project as partners in a joint venture team assembled by the State Preservation Board. Today, Carolyn Peterson is a prin- cipal and vice president of Ford Powell & Carson, as well as director of the firm’s historic preservation division and its director of design. As she looks to the future, she is nurtur- ing a preservation group in the FPC office – including young women with master’s degrees in preservation from Columbia University and the University of Virginia – and delights in enlisting their help in solving dilemmas. Yet while bearing responsibility for a prodigious workload, Peter- son has a great capacity for friend- ship—never in a hurry, she is always gracious and ready to talk. In his letter of rec- ommendation, Richard Archer, FAIA, principal of Overland Partners Architects, offered this anecdote: “We were in the midst of a deadline for an important presentation. Working with Carolyn as our preservation consultant, I had come to depend on her knowledge and insight, so I called her to get advice on our project. She answered from the roof of the Alamo where she was taking advantage of a rare rain event to track down a leak in this Texas shrine. Still, without missing a beat, she answered my pressing ques- tion, then went about her more important work.” (Peterson reports that the leak still has not been found although every joint has been repaired.) Mary CarolyN Hollers GeorGe