the porch summer 2011
A crop of Southerners you should know about
why DURHAM is worth a visit
URBAN STUDIO education+design+community
the porch summer 2011
OP-ED: CHANGED.................6 sometimes it changes you TIRED FOOD TIRED DESIGN....................8 one designer slash chef applies her philosophy on food to the interior of a south carolina restuarant HOMEGROWN DESIGN ............16 five creative forces using their varied talents to take southern art and design to a new level
an outreach inititiave through auburn university’s college of architecture and planning that is changing the state of alabama
in every issue
FROM THE EDITOR....................3 GUEST CONTRIBUTORS...........4 EVENTS.......................................5 to do and see around the south this summer
STUDENT WORK........ ...............10 architecture student thomas ragsdale fuses minimalist modern with deep southern roots
DETAILS......................................12 screen door sentamentality CITY PROFILE.............................14 durham, nc is worth a visit. good food, great art, and contemporary coolness.
VIEW FROM THE PORCH..........30 obsessed with being green? we are.
p00 p00 on the cover: “Red Chair 01” by Chip Cooper
from the editor
welcome to the porch. our inaugural issue is ‘homegrown,’ reflecting not only the summer season’s bounty of fresh produce, but also the soul of the south. pride in where you come from and social awareness are both qualities that, as the designers and artists included in this issue demonstrate, add depth and meaning to all creative works. being ‘homegrown’ doesn’t imply ignorance or lack of culture, but truth and awareness. from Willis Everett’s reclaimed wood installations to Urban Studio’s Small Town Design Initiative, the south is ripe with noteworthy design. it is talents and efforts such as these that represent the essence of the porch. one-third of the website on the porch, our magazine strives to report on southern design from a modern perspective. the word modern, in this case, has nothing to do with glass, steel, or minimalism, per se. rather, it refers to a mindset...to the purposes that guide design. why do we build things the way we do? what does that column mean, really? how can we make spaces that simultaneously reflect vernacular culture and emerging society? complex as these questions are, they are currently being explored by many forwardthinking southerners. the porch tells these stories in hopes of publicizing their talent and and the budding regionalism in the south’s art and design. yall enjoy, suzanne humphries
guest contributors Meredith Baird is a chef and interior
stylist from South Carolina. She focuses primarily on restaurant design and residential concepts, with a passion for creating kitchens that inspire good food and healthy lifestyles. See a collection of her inspirations at www.meredithbaird.com.
Meredith Carter is a native North
Carolinian and has gained her flair for design through proffessional experiences in fashion and communications. Her farvorite acquisition is a hand-me-down oriental rug from her grandmother, which she pairs with and abstract painting of the Tar River.
Katharine Runyan is a graduate of the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She received her Masters in Interior Design in 2011. Hailing originally from Memphis, TN, she has lived in New Orleans, London and Washington, DC. In her career, she hopes to share the righteous path of design with the masses. Follow her work at www.kmrunyan.com.
Thomas Ragsdale is a graduate
of North Carolina State University with a MA in Architecture and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill with a BA in History and a BA in Economics. He works with The Freelon Group Architects in Durham, NC and is currently involved in the realization of cultural projects located around the southeast.
MEMPHIS IN MAY //
Beale St Music Festival (5.1) and World Championship BBQ Cookoff (5.12-5.14)
12 ON THE STREET: CHARLESTON // Presesnted by the Gibbes Museum of Art and including live music, local fare, open bar and shagging in the street
12-14 ANTIONAL AIA CONVENTION: LEANS //
‘Regional Design Revolution’ is the central theme for this meeting that includes community involvement and vernacular exporlations
11 DIGITAL GRAFFITI: ALYS BEACH // Projection art festival that uses this Florida town’s signature white walls as blank
canvases, displaying digital art from around the world
PROJECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS: MONTGOMERY // Visual and performing art influenced by the work of John Cage. Run through 6.17 at the Montgomery Musuem of Fine Art
12 DEL MCCOURY BAND: CHARLESTON // Closing
out the city’s fine arts Spoleto Festival (runs 5.27-6.12), this bluegrass powerhouse revives the old school sound with an edgy twang
FESTIVAL FOR THE ENO: DURHAM //
Local art, music and culture celebrated in the name of fundraising for the area’s ecological persevers
FAULKNER AND FILM: OXFORD//
Scholars and fans from around the world gather in Faulkner’s native Missississippi to discuss literature and legacy
29 MANOLO BLAHNIK...THE SHOE: SAVANNAH
// Last day to see the 3 month exhibit at the Gustein Gallery. Funded by Savannah College of Art and Design and featuring shoes, sketches, and production documents
by katharine runyan
ecently at a dinner party, I ran into a woman from my hometown, Memphis, Tennessee. Over cocktails, she remarked that I have no southern accent. And, rather rudely, I gave her my got-to excuse: years back, my sister and I both decided we no longer wanted to be associated with the South…so we dropped the twang. But now, in retrospect, I’m not sure of the truth in that statement. Did I, as an adolescent, actually endeavor to change my cadence? Possibly. I do know for certain that I wanted to get far away from my hometown. It felt like a poorly fitting shoe, and my aspirations were either much bigger, or just different than my teenaged self believed that town could fulfill. During a trip home a couple years ago, I noticed a change in the landscape. The houses and buildings around Memphis, as I remembered it, were now either “improved” beyond recognition or torn down entirely. As in many cities across the country, smaller bungalows and ranchers -
many built during my father’s adolescence and lasting into my own - suddenly tripled in size, eating up the once generous lots, and taking on stylistic skins never intended by the original design. These homes of the 1950’s were not precious, architectural masterpieces, but they were my memories of home. The quirky rooflines of the midcentury rancher have been replaced with a pastiche of dormers, cedar shingles, and decorative copper flashing. The easy approachability of the low-slung bungalow lost out to the pomp of faux French provincial. The newness felt garish and wrong. By this point, my love of design and architecture had become a hallmark of my identity. And like a rudder, this identity now led me through my old neighborhoods. My dad and I decided we better take some pictures before these homes were bought up by the “others” who thought demolition was the only answer. Our self-righteousness was warranted by the little kids inside us screaming, “This is not how I remember things It wasn’t until that dinner party that I realized the odd juxtaposition of it all. Desperate to be something different, I discounted so much of what my birth city had to offer. I forged my identity, I thought, in exclusion of it, and focused on cultivating other interests. Chief among those was an appreciation of how the built environment influences our lives. And then, in a seemingly sudden fit, Memphis looked so different. In the face of this evolving landscape, my appreciation grew for the once familiar landscape. I wanted change for myself, but not for my home. I suppose this is just an irony of nostalgia. We progress and grow, but are often surprised when the stalwarts of our memories do the same. While my personal evolution and the advancement of my city may be at architecturally odds, the former has its merit: a greater respect for my heritage…accent included.
tired food tired design by meredith baird
photo of Sobyâ€™s, the proposed space in need of redesign
Updating The Southern Aesthestic the porch
esign in the south carries undeniable beauty. It can charismatic and grand, yet also unpretentious. It is based in tradition and has historic value. All of these assets are maintain the presence of southern design, but often, also hold it back.
An example is Soby’s restaurant. With “New South Cuisine,” they pride themselves on having updated food in a chic, modern atmosphere. While not bad, the design is tired. A restaurant should inspire your senses on all levels- tell you a story. The building is located in historic downtown Greenville, SC. The space itself is already full of natural charm and unique design elements. I want to leave these original, organic details exposed and enhance them by creating a tasteful juxtaposition between the existing structural qualities and a new sense of elegance and glamour. Since it is such a raw space, furniture and the lighting is an easy way to make Soby’s a better version of itself. In place of generic booths and chairs, I feel that each piece needs to be higher qualitynot just a place for sitting, but integratd into the overall design concept. Soby’s serves as a great example as to how we REALLY can update the southern aesthetic. How do we take all of the quality, history and beauty that it has and push it forward? To me, the answer is simple. Southern designers need to look more closely to the natural world for inspiration. Southern design tends to be over manipulated and lacking in natural elements. Have you ever been to a beach house with heavy curtains in the Carolinas? Probably. Why is design in the south often so heavy and disconnected from nature, the environment, and the people who inhabit it? In the south we are lucky to have many warm and sunny days. So why limit ourselves to the exposure of natural beauty with heavy drapes, overstuffed furniture and overfilled shelves? As the saying goes, ‘you can’t improve on nature’- or can you? I argue that you most certainly can, and that great interior design is the way to do that. In order to modernize the style we should look to nature as our inspiration. This doesn’t mean that design has to be earthy or rustic- we can still embrace the bold glamorous side of design while incorporating natural elements. When nature meets glamour- you have the perfect marriage.
THOMAS RAGSDALE M Arch / North Carolina State University
Growing up on a farm in rural North Carolina, I was unconscionably influenced by the honesty and practicality of agrarian materials, textures, colors and forms. In his work, these simple elements combine to create a contextual architecture that is sympathetic to the proud history of the people and places of the region. His design for the Tyson + Jones Buggy Museum does just that. Produced during his time as a graduate-level student at North Carolina State University’s School of Arcitecture, this project translates regional vernacular into a contemporary structure. The large front porch and simple “shed” form of the building relate to the agrarian past of this small rural town. The angled form attempts to attract visitors, both vehicular and pedestrian, while providing a tempting glimpse at the interior attractions. The varying width of rooms, ceiling heights, and floor treatments create a hierarchy that distinguishes the varying parts of the program and helps guide patrons through the museum. The circulation through the building is designed as a loop that casually leads visitors past the all the content and delivers them to the unexpected promontory, providing expansive views to the north across the sandhills region.
GROUND FLOOR PLAN
Carefully placed windows and skylights allow natural light to illuminate the exhibits as well as the circulation path while presenting controlled vistas of the surrounding site. The simple pallet of materials – white painted board and batten siding, corrugated copper expanded metal mesh and pine - attempt to blend the building into the surrounding context , enriching and inspiring the lives of Southerners for generations to come.
Tyson + Jones Buggy Museum
opposite page: Ground Plan this page: Exploded Axon
he transition from afternoon to evening in the humid summers of the South is a magical time. Through the screen doors’ wire mesh the smells of dinner and notes of music waft outside. Once in, the joys summer days linger in the echos of cicadas and tree frogs that reverberate through the porous portals.
SCREEN DOOR by suzanne humphries
The screen door, a staple of Southern architectural heritage, is a multi-directional gateway that connects the home to its surrounding environment and vice versa. Serving as a sensory mechanism for auditory, olfactory, and visual stimuli coming from both outside and in, the screen door ties the two spheres together, making the home an active part of the world around it. Spring hinges replace the need for a doorbell, announcing arrivals and departures with a slam that varies from gentle to jolting. The smells, sounds, and the dampness of rain bring the spring season indoors; and in autumn, the softness of falling leaves and crisp air announce the coming of a new school year and, of course, football season. Technically speaking, the screen door functions as a protective, yet penetrable opening that supports interior hygiene and ventilation. Dirt and bugs stay out, while fresh air enters and circulates. Also known as a storm door, it is typically installed in front of an exterior door to protect the interior space from weather. Some screen doors have interchangeable panels made of either glass or wire mesh, but the typical model of the South permanently ventilates interios. It is usually crafted from wood and fixed, with full or half screens. Metallic screening was patented by John Golding of Chicago, Illinois, in 1884, introducing the screen door as an important architectural detail for homes and business. The climate of the South, with warm temperatures and frequent breezes make it an ideal location for screen doors. Now, it is an emblem of vernacular design throughout te region. Its form follows both its function and the cultural tendency to integrate outdoor life inside. Screen Doors are also economical. They require little wood for construction and can function at less that one inch thick. The hardware is minimal…a handle and hinges…and only a small amount of paint or sealer is necessary.
Aesthetically, the screen door holds an important place as an architectural element representing the Southern vernacular. It greets guests at the main entrance and is a first sign of the hospitality waiting inside. It’s relaxed, simple to operate, and gives preview of sounds and smells wafting from the interiors. With their multitude of beneficial traits, it seems odd that such a functional design element be reserved only for the main jnctions between outside and in the house. Why not incorporate the physical and metaphysical properties of the screen door inside a given space? Providing a barrier without total partition, interior screen doors allow sound travel, visual separation, and a sentamenal notion of summers past. the porch 00
DURHAM/NC by suzanne humphries
often overlooked, this budding city is edgey and downhome. itâ€™s the grit.
this page: photograph by Jessie Gladin-Kramer opposite page, clockwise from top: chefs Drew Brown, left, and Andy Magowan of Piedmont Restaurant by Derek Anderson // owners Brian and Erin at Ox & Rabbit Soda and Sundries by Jessie Gladin-Kramer // guest room at Kingâ€™s Daughters Inn // The Nasher Museum of Art
where to eat
401 Foster St, 919. 683.1213. Located by the city’s farmer’s market, this spot capitalizes on the adjacent produce, using local ingredients in fresh new ways.Live Bluegrass on the weekends make Piedmont an ideal choice for a lazy Sunday brunch.
914 W Main St, 919.680.8611. Locals flock to “the Fed” for the patio and people watching. Eclectic pub-inspired menu and rustic atmosphere make this Durham hotspot worth the wait.
where to stay
King’s Daughters Inn
204 N. Buchanan Blvd, 877.534.8534. Reopening its doors in 2009 after over 80 years of existence as a retirement-esque home for elderly, single women, this boutique hotel combine modern luxury with local charm. Colin and Deanna Crossman purchased and renovated the entire building, boasting sustainable and unique (each guestroom is different) designs throughout. Amenities include healthy, homemade, and packedto-go breakfasts, complimentary bicycles, and locally crafted bath products.
where to shop
548 Foster St, 919.688.6960. More than a thrift store this gem has a little bit of everything that you never knew you wanted. Recycled, re-used, and reduced prices…a great source for one of a kind home goods and vintage rarities.
Ox & Rabbit Soda and Sundries
732 9th St, 919.286.7850. This reincarnation of an old school drugstore keeps the good stuff (soda fountain offering all natural milkshakes) and replaces the geriatric (instead of orthotics, owners Brian and Erin stock gourmet sweets and hip gifts).
where to go
Nasher Museum of Art
2001 Campus Dr, 919.684.5135. Duke’s forward-thinking art museum that combines visual exhibitions and community interaction. From contemporary to traditional, the Nasher museum stimulates conversation about art and society. A not to be missed example of contemporary southern culture. Current exhibitions include “Building the Contemporary Collection,” which celebrates the museum’s fifth birthday. the porch
HomeGrown Design Fresh and innovative, these artists, architects, and designers share more than Southern roots. Through their respective disciplies, they fuse creativity, intellect, heritage, and progression...producing art and design that makes us proud. by suzanne humphries
top left: ‘Grand Canyon View Two’ by Pat Potter // Gelman Salop House by Travis Price Architects // ‘Oakplace’ by Chip Copper // House in Mt. Arlington NJ by Lynde Easterlin // Residential Staircase crafted from antique wood from Vintage Lumber Sales
this page: Rear View of Priceâ€™s House opposite page: Bous House Photographs by Ken Wyner
ravis Price credits the successful deign of his home in Washington, DC to power of mythology. “To me,” he says, “all design is about storytelling, which modernism has lost in lieu of the machine.”
His copper-clad dwelling was realized with the intention of creating a state of mind. Price calls it “modernism with a soul,” as his design approach involved questioning all relevant assumptions in terms of nature. Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between a tree and a rock that merged into coexistence on the backside of his property, Price created a structure that relies entirely on the interplay between friction and gravity. The fully functional composition floats above the earth, anchored by 40 foot steel rods that penetrate three stories into the soil. The rest of the house literally hangs from the frame of the rods, stabilized in the rear by what Price calls “5000 pound earrings.” The architecture is balanced in such a way that the load bearing elements rest on the building’s frame, allowing the interior walls to exist primarily as partitions.
To Price, ‘decoration’ is a four-letter word. He believes that there must be a dichotomy between taste and science when it comes to objects within a space. About an alligator skull that presides, like a piece of sculpture, in the far corner of his living room, Price asserts that it is not only aesthetically interesting, but also totally functional as it once fed an entire group of travelers while on location in the Amazon. “Everything should tell a story,” he says. Such a philosophy was instilled in him early in hid life. Growing up in Georgia, he recalls the traditionally Southern style of his home. “But it wasn’t designed to be Southern…it just was,” he remembers. Relics from his family’s past made his family home relevant, as they were expressions of the people who inhabited it. Price, a practicing architect and professor, cites an affinity for minimalism and the subtleties it sanctions: “It all begins with gestures of nature, and the struggle as a designer is finding that.” Within his home there are several instances of the porch 00
such techniques, one being a central staircase that acts simultaneously as an air duct and a four-story light bulb. Many of the details are idiosyncratic, with ends of walls extending beyond their joints and structurally unnecessary gaps between the plywood (yes, plywood) wall panels. These details all work together to enhance the experience of a floating continuum. However, Price’s design philosophy extends far beyond his own architectural endeavors. Working with students and various artists and designers, he initiated the Spirit of Place, Spirit of Design project…a study of architecture and culture almost 17 years in the running. Each summer Price heads up a team that travels to a specific location and works with local builders to construct a design imagined and drafted by his students duringt the preceding semester. “It’s about a state of mind,” he says. “You must consider what lenses are being looked through and manifest a design that draws you into the particular culture.” In terms of the destination for the land installations, Price insists he doesn’t pick them, but rather the inverse, that such places find him. Working with a vast network of artists, academics, and government officials, Spirit of Place, Spirit of Design finds its calling organically. This year, Price and his team will travel to the Namje and Thumki villages in eastern Nepal and work with an existing coalition to promote education and humanitarian aid to locals. Titled “Memorial to the Ancestors” and thematically driven by the indigenous Magar culture, the collaborative project is currently under design. Whether autobiographical or a journey into the psyche of distant cultures, Price’s designs are intentional narratives representing people, place, and incorporeal feeling. “We must bring out the authenticity of the past and meld it together with the actuality of the present,” he urges, “because good design is a search and desire to be authentic.”
top: Price’s Porch photographed by .... bottom: Student Generated Model of 2007 SOP Design, ‘Temple of the Tides’
‘Cotton’ by Cooper
hip Cooper is more than a photographer. Much more. The images Cooper has produced over the past several decades powerfully capture the distinct but nuanced place he calls home. He considers it his duty to reveal, through art, a more authentic depiction of the South.
“I felt a need to visually show an area that is often misunderstood and trivialized,” he says. In 1994, Cooper did just that, with the publication of Silent in the Land. A compilation of architectural photographs and essays, this publication was a joint venture through Cooper, historic preservationist Robert Gamble, and essayist Harry Knopke. Using images and text, the character and beauty of decaying, nineteenth century homes in rural Alabama are revealed. Inspired while driving through the state’s Black Belt, Cooper says inspiration for the book found him while he was driving through the state’s Black Belt. Now littered with the skeletons of plantations and farmhouses past, the Black Belt’s fertile crescent was once an agricultural gold mine. A fallen house atop a hill, basking in the glow of late summer sun captured the attention Cooper and his camera. “I am going to be the champion of that house,” he remembers thinking. And he was. Of that one and many others. Silent in the Land documented not only the prototypical plantation, but also homes of all rank. From dogtrots to shotgun cottages, Cooper’s photographs tell the story of an entire region, past and present. “As I walked through the old houses I felt the warmth of a room or cool breeze of a porch,” he recalls. “Theses are the things that should help educate why we design…architecture today is as much about living spaces the porch
as it was then. It’s not just aesthetics, we must build in tandem with nature.” Cooper works to instill such ideals about culture and the built environment in his students at the University of Alabama. He believes there is a wealth of creativity in everyone and, as a teacher, he aims to ignite it through abstract and conceptual exploration. Interdisciplinary collaboration is one way Cooper pushes his students to oscillate between figurative and literal thought, a practice he considers pivotal to the creative process. But whether he is teaching photography or creating images, Cooper aims to make art that inspires viewers to feel. His latest venture takes him out of the South, into an equally rich and misinterpreted culture. Commissioned by the Cuban government in 2008, Cooper and native collaborator, Nestor Marti, are wrapping up the publication of Lado a Lado / Side by Side. Documenting their work and following a dual 2009 exhibition that opened in both Habana, Cuba and Tuscaloosa, AL, the book is expected to be complete by mid-summer. Much like his previous work, Lado a Lado / Side by Side, visually explores the cultural fusion of history and modernity, illustrating how a society continuously adapts while also honoring tradition. Recalling his uncle’s advice, Cooper is ever mindful that “if we don’t understand and apply our past, we can’t live for today or plant the future.” Through photography, he synthesizes the experiences of generations past,
‘Gainswood’ ‘Hampton Island Staircase 03’ and ‘Boy Walking Malecon, Cuba’ by Cooper
Various Interiors Designed by Easterlin // Photographed by Sarah Beth Turner
ynde Easterlin is not afraid of the big city. With grace and gumption she has established a successful interior design firm in Manhattan, after only ten years in the industry. Recently featured as a ‘taste-maker’ on the wellknown home goods website, www.onekingslane. com, Easterlin is giving New York a new taste of the South. Originally from Atlanta, Easterlin received her degree in design from the University of Georgia and immediately started working for John Rosselli, a highly regarded antiques dealer in Manhattan. Although the position focused mainly on sales, she considers her time there an extremely important and beneficial introduction to New York’s design culture. Easterlin’s next few steps continued to shape her into the designer she is today. Working for various interior design firms in the city, she gained insight about the range of New York City aesthetics “I’m so glad I was able to work for multiple firms,” she says, “They were all so different and you really only learn one style if you just work in the same place.” Before launching her own firm in 2009, Easterlin spent some time working forf interior designer Charlotte Moss. A native southerner herself, Moss introduced Easterlin to myriad of influences and methods with which she later fused her own homegrown taste and metropolitan sophistication. With Moss’s blessing, Easterlin struck out on her own, beginning with a client Moss had reccomended. “From there it has just been recommendation after recommendation,” Easterlin remembers. Achievement, however, has not come without hard work and dedication. Currently living and working out of an Upper East Side home office, Easterlin admits “It is strange to transition from an outside office to an office at home.” But she acknowledges the perks of her current set-up. With the amount of work Easterlin currently juggles, anything that makes her life easier is a welcomed relief.
Her current projects range from East Hampton estates to modest city apartments…a necessary balance that keeps Easterlin challenged and busy. The larger projects are more profitable and constitute her “bread-and-butter”, but Easterlin enjoys working with other young professionals who may be using a professional designer for the first time. She admits hardships accompany smaller projects that often move slowly, often with only one design phase completed each month. “You have to have patience to do that,” Easterlin admits. But, to her, the gratification that comes with making even the smallest spaces more enjoyable homes is worth it. It is this aspect of the business side of interior design that Easterlin admits has been one of the toughest challenges in managing her own firm. On the subject of paperwork and invoices, she simply mutters, “kill me.” After all, office management is not her passion…it is artistic expression that she craves. From the creativity instilled by her mother, whom Easterlin claims rivals Martha Stewart, to an upbringing surrounded by “gardens, history, and elegance,” she credits Southern heritage for shaping her design approach. Easterlin even acknowledges her drawl as a tool useful in the professional world. “Everyone I’ve met in New York loves a Southern accent!” she claims. Believing that the sound of one’s voice makes a substantial impression, Easterlin feels that her gentle way of speaking communicates understanding, friendship,and positive energy. But, for her, it goes way beyond spoken words: “Everything has a story in the South…so much character and history.” Hoping to incorporate meaning and personality into the often-faceless apartments, Easterlin is in the business of creating homes. And she must be doing something right, as she has already taken on new clients in the Hamptons, Colorado, New Jersey, Manhattan, and even back home, in Georgia.
illis Everett, you might say, was born in the wrong century. His passion and knowledge lends
itself to a commodity that, is presently in rare supply. Prevalent throughout the South during the time of its settlement, fine hardwoods such as Cyprus, Cedar, and Oak are now scarce. However, Everett has built a business that offers designers and clients another option.
Vintage Lumber Sales sources reclaimed and antique fine woods from around the southeast region, providing timber that is environmentally conscious, rich with history, and incredibly beautiful. Everett started VLS in 1982 after dealing with the frustration of construction on his own house. He was unable to find either high quality wood or competent distributers who understood its characteristics, which inspired Everett to create that very resource on his own. However, he took it a step further, cultivating a true “reverence for the wood” that is immediately obvious to anyone who steps foot in Gay, Georgia. “It was a dead town,” Everett says. Born and raised in Atlanta, he traveled the 70 miles to Gay often to visit his grandparents. Like the wood it sells, VLS’s offices and showrooms are reclaimed. Adaptively reusing an entire side of what was once main street Gay, Everett fused together a bank, a law office, and a general store to create a space that simultaneously displays his company’s products and celebrates Gay’s architectural history. Outfitted with examples of the different types of wood offered, VLS headquarters gives potential clients tangible representations of ways in which vintage woods can be applied. “Rustic, casual, and refined,” are the words Everett uses to describe the aesthetic created by integrating his reclaimed woods into any interior, whether it’s traditional or modern. His efforts to reincarnate regional materials, though, go beyond procurement.
about the imags.........
“The difference between other wood suppliers and our company is our interest in the final results.” Everett works with architects and designers from start to finish, contributing his own connection? to the raw wood, and ensuring that it’s history is best reflected within the space in which it is used. Sourcing wood from old homes, churches, mills, barns and even the depths of Georgia swamps, VLS stores and mills their acquisitions on site. Just a few steps from his office, Everett built a compound of warehouses and milling facilities. By employing local craftsmen, VLS not only instills a great sense of pride within the community, but it also guarantees quality control. With a watchful eye, Everett enforces a check list of tests that each piece of wood must pass before it is considered for use on a project. In one of the VLS warehouses, lots of plain cut “pecky” Cyprus are stacked neatly on display for potential clients. Its unique texture is a result of a fungus that eats away at the surface of the wood, resulting in a sponge-like appearance. Curious beauty combined with fascinating provenance makes pecky Cyprus one of Everett’s most impressive products. Dredged from the marshes of northern Florida by professional swamp divers, the fallen Cyprus trees are excavated after resting in the muddy waters for up to 200 or more years. Working closely with those who are adventurous (crazy?) enough to descend into the depths of the bog, Everett procures distinctive and interesting timbers for clients. Everett uses pecky Cyprus most often for ceiling installations, and admits that it comes with a price. “But if you’re willing to pay romance,” he says, “it’s worth double every dollar.”
at Potter has always sensed her calling. “I always knew I was an artist”, she says “but it has taken me a life time to find out what an artist is.”
Born in Charleston, South Carolina and raised in Anniston, Alabama, Potter grew up in an environment surrounded by creativity, the arts, and science. Her father was of French descent, an architect, and an acrobat…and although he passed away prematurely, his influence on Potter has been substaintial. With an education as eclectic as her heritage, Potter received her undergraduate degree from the Atlanta College of Art, her Masters in Architecture from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, and researched with the National Treasure Konbu in Yoshino, Japan. She has been a professor of architecture, an artist in residence and has returned to England, France, and Finland to lecture and exhibit her work. Nevertheless, her quest to determine the meaning of her artistry led her back to Anniston, where she currently resides and works. Surrounded by her art in a tri-level, self-designed tree house, Potter combines studio and living space. Constant interaction with her work, both past and present, ensures subconscious inspiration for future endeavors. At the time, Potter is currently designing a memorial commissioned by a local patron for the First Methodist Church. ‘Window One’ by Potter
“Good projects in Anniston, Alabama don’t come often,” Potter admits. But this particular project she considers not only good, but a culmination of all her work thus far. Walking around the lower-level studio, Potter explains her creative process. She believes that the best part of being an artist is if you choose a path that is a dead end, you can always go in another direction. Even the preliminary process work Potter does is inspired. She creates illuminated models, sketches, and studies that helps Potter conceptualize her analyses into a coherent design. One especially beautiful creation evolved from her observation of smoke. Noting the ritual of burning used to memorialize the dead, she lit several sticks of incense and studied the patterns of the smoke’s movement. Potter then used a translucent wax crayon to reproduce the shapes on white paper. Integrating her study with the objects she used, Potter dusted the paper with ash from the burnt incense and was then inspired by both its form and color. In the following stages of design development, Potter explored concepts of 3D energy maps, observing that the universe’s dark space is actually interactions of energy and matter. “I don’t like the word “dark” to describe the invisible matter and energy of the universe,” she reveals. To her, it connoted negativity...where in fact, there is much positive action. To capture such multi-dimensional action, Potter developed a design for the memorial that includes a floating, ethereal mass of undulating plastic that is suspended by cable on three sides. The plastic is etched with unidentifiable characters that, once strategically illuminated, cast shadows on the surrounding walls. The mysterious markings are actually names of church members who have past on, thus deciphering the memorial within. Potter feels that this element of projection bridges her installation with the existing building. “My favorite part,” she says, “is how the names instigate stories among the viewers.” Interactivity with art and architecture is a common thread throughout Potter’s work. The spiral path one must walk to navigate through her home and studio mimics the experience Potter generates in all her work. The feeling of actually being in art instead of simply observing it is both overwhelming and invigorating, and doesn’t stop with the design of the space. Her artwork and furniture all seem to draw the observer in, to move around, and to explore. About her identity as a Southerner, Potter is hesitant: “I don’t feel like my work is Southern but I know that I am.” With her overwhelming hospitality and family pride, it would be hard to argue with her. Rethinking her distinction between work and geographical identity, Potter took a step back admitting that perhaps it is best not to define oneself and one’s work when the two are so closely intertwined: “Some of my favorite people say ‘It is what it is,’ and that works just fine for me.” clockwise from top: Potter’s Studio // Porch Studio // Rear View of her Treehouse
UR BAN ST UDIO
exploring design’s ability to improve culture and society in the state they’re proud to call home: alabama
by suzanne humphries
Portions of Urban Studio’s Small Town Design Initiative Poster for Fairfield, AL
Dr. Paul Johnson, Director of the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, Meets with Visiting Students from RISD // Photographed by Matt Leavell
Downtown West Blocton, AL // Photographed by Matt Leavell
ounded to promote “learning by doing,” Urban Studio grants students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a professional environment and interact with surrounding communities, all in the name of good, responsible design.
Associate Professor Franklin Setzer and Dean Daniel Bennet launched the program in 1991, in downtown Birmingham, AL. Through interactive projects that combine research conducted both on-site and in the studio, students have the chance to simultaneously participate in both the professional and the academic aspects of design. Currently, Urban Studio is under the direction of Cheryl Morgan and is making a name for itself as an innovative force of optimism and hope across Alabama. Working with over 65 communities across the state, Urban Studio’s Small Town Design Initiative (STDI) combines outreach and planning, working toward an ultimate goal of improving daily life for everyone. “We have not been in the habit of valuing our small towns,” Morgan says. Acknowledging what they have to offer and then building on the distinctive assets of each place, Urban Studio works toresourcefully revive each town. “The difference between other school’s programs and ours is the method of reporting our work,” Morgan explains, referring to the end result of the STDI. Once research and planning are complete, students at Urban Studio design a poster that illustrates each town, as it will be once the prescribed changes are implemented. Concurrently acting as a master plan, motivational media, and developmental advertising, Urban Studio’s posters are distributed throughout the community. The point of the poster is to initiate identification and
Model Created by Students during a Collaboration between US and RISD // Photograpged by Faculty
remembrance, with documented success in those places most using the poster. One example Morgan especially enjoys recalling resulted from US’s work in Moundville, a small town with a rich history and fascinating topography. Publicity generated from STDI’s work caught the attention of a Moundville transplant that had relocated to Aspen, Colorado. The Alabama native not only bought property back his hometown after hearing about the project, but also initiated further development in Moundvile, greatly benefitting the community. Moundville however, like the majority of struggling towns across the South, needed more than just money; a morale boost was also necessary. “Its amazing how many communities we go to and they don’t realize how wonderful they are and how many great things they have,” reveals Morgan. She guides the students to approach the STDI by showing citizens that there is something in their towns to be proud of, despite negative outside and opinions or stereotypes. For example, one of the qualities US notes is Alabama’s rank as the second most ecologically conscious state in the country, with 25% biodiversity in its freshwater lakes and rivers. Additionally, the state is the second most forested; it is a leader in the science and technology industries; it boasts the longest canoe trail in America, and is home to a cycling trail that follows the course of the Underground Railroad. Morgan is baffled as to why most Alabamians have no idea what their state has to offer, explaining “I mean how many people here even know about these things? Not nearly enough.” Urban Studio helps small town dwellers understand how the relationship between their resources and their heritage can work together to generate economic success. Their ap-
Movie Theatre in Fairfield, AL // Photographed by Faculty
proach through the lens of design allows the students to create a tool for economic success within the targeted community. “Design thinking is powerful and with it we are able to create hope and opportunity,” Morgan explains. After observing a plethora of historically rich buildings crumbling in dilapidation, US realized that citizens of the communities targeted by STDI felt they did not deserve good design, and instead, had been resorting to poor quality and makeshift structures. “I mean churches made out of metal, how shitty is that?” Morgan questions, enraged by the design ethos that is so readily accepted in today’s society. “We strongly believe that everyone deserves good design, buildings created with love, and the socio-cultural benefits that follow,” Morgan and Urban Studio project manager, Matt Leavell, wholeheartedly agree. Such a philosophy links Urban Studio to its sister program-Rural Studio. Widely known for founder Samuel Mockbee’s prominence in the design world, Rural Studio uses a different method of instituting social change through design. Focusing more on what can be accomplished with the available resources in a given place, RS’s work is centralized to
Abandonned Church in the Oakmulgee District of the Tallega Nation Forest // Photographed by Matt Leavell
nearby Hale, Perry, and Marengo counties. Despite the different modes of implementation aside, both of Auburn’s design-outreach programs agree that to make anything happen in a given community, leaders must be involved and a dialogue must be generated that unites all parts of society. While Urban Studio leaves construction to the town itself, its work gives citizens the tools that help them to identify new opportunities. It allows them to use their own resources, and to take full advantage of what already exists. The town of Marion is a great example of the attainment of the ultimate goals of Morgan, Leavell, and the students that circulate through US. Though five years after participation in the STDI, little construction of development has actually taken place in Marion, those at US believe that success was achieved because of the newfound confidence and realization of the potential that now exists among the inhabitants in the once dying town. “At the end of the day, it’s all about pride,” Morgna says. “How we have chosen to live has degenerated quality of life and civitas.” Morgan and everyone involved with Urban Studio, strive to create designs that maintain a constant discourse with history, nature, and society. This, to them, is good design.
view from the porch WE are
well aware that Pantone’s 2011 color of the year is Honeysuckle, but in the spirit of staying true to our roots, we felt that Mythic Paint’s Fresh Cut Grass was in keeping with the taste, and ever-so-slow pace, of all that is...
HOMEGROWN by meredith carter An homage to the plush gardens of the South, this unique, textured piece was created using paper mache. Garden stool, DIGS, Nashville, TN, (615) 385-2846
The yarn and the brazen use of color are a bright reflection of Elizabeth Yarborough’s North Carolina pedigree. Neon Green Bangles, Yarbie.com
It was William Faulkner who gave Lee and Pup McCarty their start with his gift of a clay deposit found on his property. McCarty Pottery has prospered for over 60 years and is still faithfully run from their barn in Merigold, Mississippi. Collectible Pitcher from the 1950’s; Mccartyspottery.com
These carefully-crafted flies are largely collected by Nashville’s finest and displayed in rustic, dark oak boxframes as an outward expression of the fisherman at heart. Petite Cascapedia Flie; Taigon.com - FowlerPeriod Gallery
The most comforting shades of green are often found at the “Southern Table”; lucky for you, it’s Frank Stitt’s at Highland’s Bar and Grill in Birmingham. “Southern Table”, Highlandsbarandgrill.com/
Texas-born sisters, Katharine and Susan, of Hable Construction, have created several collections of fabric that will make your house guests green with envy. Hedge Ball and Chain/Wheat Linen Pillow (Left) Clover Poppy/Oyster linen fabric swatch (right), hableconstruction.com
Alena Hennessy, a North Carolina-based artist, resides in Asheville and finds inspiration in the serenity of her surroundings. The Magic Hour, Alenahennessy.com
Fleming Harris produces her custom children’s clothing in-state to support North Carolina’s textile industry. Annie-Fleming Ruffled Bloomers, Flemingclothing.com
the porch 2011
Published on Apr 29, 2011