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Peterson Is First Woman To Receive Top TSA Honor

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 architectural 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 legendary 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-

photo courtesy Ken Slavin

Carolyn Peterson, FAIA, is the forty-first recipient 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 community. 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 acknowledged 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 achievements warrant this honor? In his letter of support, fellow preservationist John Volz, AIA, stated: “Carolyn’s extensive résumé illustrates the comprehensive, positive impact that she has had on the preservation of our State’s history, historical resources and the practice of architecture. Her leadership as the state’s first female preservation architect is significant. She upholds the highest 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 Carolyn Peterson, FAIA field of historic preservation as well losophy and history—in fact, broadly educated as the practice of architecture.” in the liberal arts. When they regrouped and For nearly half a century, Peterson has been coalesced with Ford’s group of stalwarts in the a meticulous steward of the state’s historic King William Street office on the banks of the landmarks. Her work has included some of the San Antonio River, the most vital and creative state’s grandest buildings – including the Texas period in Ford’s office ensued. Capitol, the Alamo, the Spanish Missions of San For the first six years of the Peterson’s marAntonio, and numerous county courthouses – riage, home was a cottage at Willow Way (Ford’s as well as a modest and long-forgotten South residential compound for he and his family) in Texas treasure. Her intellectual curiosity for the shadow of Mission San José on the southern learning about an issue and solving a problem outskirts of the city. Following the birth of their is supported by her encyclopedic knowledge of daughter, Kirsten, in May 1965, Carolyn used materials, an attribute noted by Stanley Graves, the cottage as an outpost of the King William director of the Architecture Division of the office. By the late 1960s, Jack Peterson and Texas Historical Commission, in his letter of most of the others had left Ford’s office to try support of her nomination. their wings. Only Powell and Carolyn Peterson In a profession long dominated by men, remained, as they remain today as keepers of Peterson has demonstrated an extraordinary the firm’s collective memory. tenacity, dating as far back as the early 1960s

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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 program 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 professional. 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 principal 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 nurturing 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, Peterson has a great capacity for friendship—never in a hurry, she is always gracious and ready to talk. In his letter of recommendation, 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 question, then went about her more important work.” (Peterson reports that the leak still has not been found although every joint has been repaired.) M a r y

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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 offi...

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This edition highlights industrial design throughout Texas, as well as the recipients of TSA's 2009 Studio Awards. Texas Architect, the offi...