A travel quiz- beautiful structures, built NOT to last.

2 of these 3 buildings were originally built as “temporary buildings” to be later torn down? Which one was permanent? 2012-hall-of-state1 1280px-Parthenon,_Nashville Palace


















THE ANSWER: The top building was built to last. It is the Hall of States building at Fair Park in Dallas, circa 1936. To learn about the other buildings keep reading.

Consider today’s entry a travel blog. One of my encouragements to readers in my book, is that we must educate ourselves on architecture and a great way to do that is to travel. Here are 3 great buildings to visit, all here in the US of A.  The building at the top is in Dallas, the replica of the Parthenon is in Nashville, built-in 1896, and finally the Palace of Arts in San Francisco built-in 1915.

As strange as it may seem to us today. The Parthenon and the Palace of Arts were NOT built to last but rather more like movie sets. If you’ve read Devil in the White City by Eric Larson, about the World’s Fair in Chicago, you are familiar with this type of “temporary” construction, and the work that went into these grand expositions. These events were immensely popular and constructed to host and entertain the world for a short time.

On Thursday, the 22nd, I’ll be speaking to the Dallas Historical Society and Preservation Dallas about, The Timeless House. It will be held at Hall of State building on the Fair Park Campus in Dallas. Fair park was the sight of the Texas Centennial in 1936 and, as was typical for state celebrations and worlds fairs, a great fair ground was constructed with a wonderful collection of buildings.

state hall intThis picture shows the interior of the Hall. I learned a great deal about Fair Park from Marcel Quimby, a Dallas architect who gave a talk on the wonderful Art Deco architecture.




Fair Park

As you can see in the above post card, the fair included a race track, a stadium (the Cotton Bowl) and exhibit space, it was highlighted by the Hall at the end of a grand Esplanade, see below. FP Esplanade









In 1896, Tennessee was celebrating their statehood centennial and the center piece was a replica of the Parthenon, the famous Greek temple in Athens. Tn expo I visited Nashville and saw this wonderful building last year. For years, I had read and studied about the Parthenon in Athens but never having seen it in real life, I was fascinated to see its replica up close. It helped me gain a sense for the scale, its sculpture and decoration.











Pan expo Lastly, in 1915, San Francisco won the competition over New Orleans and DC to host the first world’s fair of the new century. Aching to show the world they had recovered from the 1906 fire and earthquake. San Francisco constructed a wonderful collection of buildings highlighted by the Palace of Arts. This world’s fair was called the Panama Pacific exposition to celebrate the newly opened Panama canal.





The wonderful Palace of Arts can still be seen if your driving north towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It sits like beacon of beauty near the water. It has always enchanted me and my friend Dan Miller sent me some pictures from his visit, see below.

pof a












Looking at the postcard view of the Panama Pacific expo above it is clear to see that we used to celebrate life differently. These buildings are fascinating reminders of how we used to think. They are exuberant fantasies that represented possibilities and hope for the future. They were attempts to show off and also pay homage to a meaningful building heritage and tradition. As you travel and learn the story and narrative about historic buildings, I hope it helps you find your voice and your story as you seek to build your own Timeless Home. If nothing else, now you know why they stand, and hopefully it can make your trip more enjoyable.

By the way, the Nashville Parthenon and the San Francisco Palace of Arts are still standing due to preservation and rebuilding efforts. Both buildings were rebuilt out of long-lasting more durable products years later. It seems people saw their natural and significant beauty and realized that they improved their lives. The great architecture elevated their tastes and desires. Thus these temporary buildings are now thankfully permanent.

Hope for the future of architecture and Timeless Building.

In many of the talks I have given over the past few months, the most common question from the audience is: “How do we fix the mess we are in”? “How do we fix architecture and start building beautiful homes again“? and ”WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN!!!”?

I’m quick to point out that things are improving. The low point, in my opinion, was 1970 and since then there are many positive signs of change. It starts with the building of Seaside and the rise of New Urbanism starting in 1980′s. Next is the rise of Classical architecture through groups like the ICAA in the 1990′s. These two things alone have led to renewed interest in traditional building methods. My book, The Timeless House, would have never been written if not for these changes in taste and design.

For more proof of this groundswell-of-change please read these two articles.

  • The first was on OP-ED piece in the New York Times that spoke about how the architecture profession needs to change.
  • The second is a Forbes piece that highlights the same concerns, showing some fine examples of the failure and how things need to improve.

The ideas of the Timeless House are relevant, not antiquated. The Lost Art of Building is worth recapturing. Please be encouraged that change is taking place, it just takes longer than we would like. Remember, it took over 30 years for modernism to take over the architecture profession, it may take at least that amount of time to win it back.

Patience, the tide is turning.

An historic lesson from 1934. . . Optimistically looking forward to 2015.

As a student of history, I’m amazed how many quotes there are about history repeating itself. Here are just a quick sampling.  

Gomorra: “History repeating itself?
Warlock: “History doesn’t repeat itself, Gamora, but sometimes it rhymes.”
Dan Abnett, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy    

“It is not often that nations learn from the past,even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.”
Henry Kissinger

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.”
George S. Patton

I share these quotes and these thoughts as we approach the end of 2014 and look forward to 2015. It is warning and a heed to remember the past and all it has to share. I recently ran across a bound set of American Builder magazines from 1934. The covers provide a keen history lesson into a critical period in homebuilding’s evolution.

If you’ve read my book,  The Timeless House, you know that my chapter on production building highlights the early influences that supported the eventual rise of builders like William Levitt. One key step was the government backing of home loans through the newly established Federal Housing Administration or the FHA. The 1934 covers of American Builder magazine highlights how dramatic this change were for builders everywhere.

In February of 1934, things are bleak and this cover reminds us how the Great Depression, that started in 1929 and now 4 1/2 years later, is still deeply effecting the job market.












By the spring, a rather lovely and hopeful cover shows men at work, building and crafting homes.











In the June issue, there is great optimism for home building as seen on this cover. A man ( a builder or tradesmen with his lunch pail) holds up a paper that reads “Home Building Comes Back”












By August things get interesting. It seems that the announcement of the new FHA plan was made in July of 1934. The August cover has a personal appeal from the FHA chairman, J. A. Moffett, encouraging builders to build. However it doesn’t end there.. .











In September the cover outlines this guarantee of private loans by the government. This is, by the way, one of the keys that allows Levitt to build with less financial risk. It is only when the GI bill is put in place in the late 40′s that the final piece of the financial puzzle is solved for Levitt and the production builders.












The October issue shows pictures of men at work and a pledge of allegiance from builders and the magazine readers,  to the FHA program.












Finally by November, Mr. Moffett is back with a personal request to continue the work and build new homes.













Sadly, as many of you know, the rebound did not happen in 1934. Instead the country slogged through the rest of the 1930′s and then had to wait-out World War II before things roared away in the 1950′s.

Homebuilding sat dormant for nearly 20 years (1929-1949ish) waiting for the economy to rebound. When the country did get back on its feet, Levitt and the other production builders couldn’t build houses fast enough. The lesson and question history poises for us is, are we advancing forward like 1950 or will 2015 be like 1935, a year filled with great expectations that go unrealized? There are eerie similarities between our great recession and the Great Depression. It is history, not repeating, but certainly rhyming.

Personally, I am cautiously optimistic and I look forward to 2015. None of us can see the future, but here in Fort Worth Texas, I am optimistic and prayerful that 2015 will be a great year for all of us.

God Bless. Thanks for the reading and I look forward to sharing more in 2015.