Southern Architects

Since I’m going to write about the south, I need to search my ipod for some Neil Young… Crap?, Neil Young’s not on my ipod? Give me a minute & I’ll fix that. Talk amongst yourselves for a bit….<loads itunes> Ahh.. better – “Southern Man” starts in earbuds…

Shoot, I just realized this song’s not the Southern Anthem I thought – it’s kind of about slavery, but let’s move on…

I think being Southern has formed the foundation for my work. Or, at least it’s guided me well throughout my career. I grew up in Knoxville, TN. at the foot of the Smokey Mountains (Granted, there were a few miles of strip mall between my house and the mountains, but close enough). I’ve moved around a bit since I graduated from the University Tennessee, mainly, following my mid-western wife from place to place. But, about 8 years ago, we moved back to the south to Durham, NC. (Dirty D!). We wanted to plant roots as we say. I wanted to be back in the South, and we wanted to be as far away from family as possible (not really). Durham was perfect! My wife works in heaven (also known as Duke University). We live in a forest, within walking distance to heaven and downtown. We have chickens in our backyard, and they’re not our chickens. The neighbor’s dog is lying in the middle of our street. My front porch is covered in scooters and Halloween candy. I still have a Christmas wreath on the front door. My 4-year old (Eddie Steven) is playing with the water hose right now, while Mom washes the car in the driveway, and, I assume, Eddie’s naked from the waist down. (or “nekkid”, as we say) – Ah, it’s good to be home…

Southerners are ironic. We have a mellow center of “it’s awwh-rite” unless you’re on our lawn and then you might “wanna get’awn outta-thair”. We’re a combination of fierce-independence and laid-back acceptance. We don’t flaunt our wealth & we really don’t need to know anything about your money either. The richest and the poorest man in town both have a Ford F350 and a dog. In fact, I just saw a brand new F350 driving through downtown today on my way to lunch. He honked at me and waved. It was Shelton, the guy that cleans my gutters. Shelton only has 3 teeth, but he has a brand new F350. Shelton’s southern. We’re hard working & lazy, at the same time. We have a rich understanding of irony-it comes out of our pores (like sweet tea). We never say exactly what we mean. We sugar coat-it, or inflect the tone of it to mean the exact opposite of what we just said. My mom calls my work “interesting” – that’s not what she REALLY means… Southerners are charming and/or cynical, depending on your point of view. All this contradiction can lead to some fantastic Architecture.

So, here’s a few of my favorite Southern Architects (By the way, I found all of these images on the Architect’s websites & you can just click on the names to get there to see a lot more):

Merrill Elam & Mack Scogin, Georgia

Frank Harmon, North Carolina

Coleman Coker – Building Studio, Tennessee

Sam Mockbee – Rural Studio, Alabama

Southerner’s build some of the best Architecture in the world. I think it’s that bottomless pit of contradictions they have to pull from that makes for such good design. I love the comfortable balance between formal and informal in the designs. And, who else would use car windsheilds to clad a chapel. That’s some serious irony…

Jody Jae Brown (note-I’m using my full redneck name here. That’s “Jae”, with an “e”. Don’ya judge me…)

Glass Chapel in Mason's Bend, AL | Photo by Audrey Alverson, Feb 2009

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