By Gregory William Behlen, AIA, architect at D2C Architects and Regional + Urban Design Knowledge Community Steering Committee Member

Greg Behlen, AIA

Greg Behlen, AIA

Amidst the stay at home order, regional and urban design enthusiasts were able to meet virtually for an engaging historic preservation panel discussion by Colorado architects, Nan Anderson, Christine Franck, and Sarah Broughton.  Each shared their work as historic preservation architects and then engaged in a discussion about how history influences the design of the urban fabric of the region, and the nation.

Nan Anderson, FAIA, of Anderson Hallas Architects, began the presentation of her projects which can be described as new contemporary architecture with a historic emphasis. Among her projects are the: renovated State House and Senate chambers, originally a bland white acoustic panels refurbished to its original splendor; Iconic works guided by the national historic preservation act; a reconstructed backcountry chalet, destroyed by fire; and a historic Leadville house honoring the historic vocabulary of the place without replicating it.

In order to engage local communities about the relevance of these types of projects to their local culture, she is in tune with Historic Preservation Board initiatives and is sensitive to existing conditions. A challenge of preservation projects is finding skilled tradesmen or consultants who can accurately reconstruct historic architecture. Ultimately, she finds it comes down to hammering out the constructability, reasonability and aesthetics of these designs with the craftsmen.

Christine Franck, of Christine Huckins Franck, Architect, LLC was the next to share her work. She specializes in classical and traditional residential architecture. Her first project was the renovation of prewar apartment building which utilized new tradition with a classical motif. The anodized bronzed cresting’s over the glossy storefront of this renovation are new, but are still produced by the original manufacture of the historic feature of the street corner elevation. Franck’s initial concepts can be seen in her original schematic design water color sketches, a specialized skill not seen as often these days. She believes that this tactile approach to schematics, creates room for interpretation in earlier phase and lets owners feel more involved with the design. Ultimately, this project won a community improvement award for bringing back historic shop fronts and imbue it with a greater sense of place.

The other project was a new house for the owner of column manufacturer.  This project was about working in the traditions of place while meeting challenges of current codes addressing flooding.  Greek Revivalist was desired for this project and normally sits low to ground, however due to flooding requirements, a Palladian model with a high base was utilized to allow for inundation of water.  This project, with its mix of classical style, is a prime example of American classicism mixing of styles and adapted to place.

Sarah Broughton, AIA of Rowland+Broughton Architects spoke about her work between Aspen and Denver. Primarily she spoke about role on the Historic Preservation board as well as her work on the Hotel Jerome. This building is an eclectic mix of a preservation of national registered building, the Aspen times building, the hotel Jerome, and a new addition to the hotel. Built in 1904, the quaint wood building of Aspen times is a stark contrast to the stately strong brick building of the 1889 Hotel. Broughton’s team began the process of identifying patterns unique to each building to create a harmonizing dynamic between the two.  This is manifested in the new addition to the hotel which plays off the Aspen times preserved storefront, but takes the form and presence of the Hotel Jerome. An interesting note about this project; the Aspen time building was actually lifted off its foundations and moved to excavate a new elegant “speak easy” bar under the original building. Ironically, Broughton and her team got push back on the style of this feature from the Historic Preservation board because it didn’t match the original character of the building, even though it wasn’t original at all.  This question over appropriate historic stylings is a common debate in historic preservation projects, especially when it comes to applying for federal credits for these types of projects.

The session ended with a question and answers portion where participants were able to ask questions.  Much of this discussion centered on the federal tax credit structure which is a very detail process that should be started early in the design process. Also, when doing these projects one must balance between the classical stylings of our history and the contemporary culture we live in. With work from architects like these we can find these reinterpretations of classical styles in our modern buildings. These building in turn help tie us back to our history of where we were and inform how the fabric of tomorrow will form.