General /

Parchitecture

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“I’m not really a fan of parks. Very noisy, barbeque smell all of the time.” – Parks and Rec TV show

If you were asked about the places of note in St. Louis, what places would first come to mind? Some people might automatically conjure images of the Old Courthouse, Busch Stadium, or City Museum. Others may consider iconic structures such as the Wainwright Building, the Gateway Arch, or the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. I would venture to say that few people would suggest our St. Louis parks as notable places in the city. But they are! If you look at a map of the city, it is speckled with green space, most of which is kept up and regulated by the city. In fact, St. Louis boasts over 100 parks to its 62 square miles – almost two parks for each square mile.

I took an afternoon and drove through the southeast part of St. Louis to get familiar with some of the parks and what features made each one unique. I started with Lindenwood Park, which is approximately three blocks by two blocks of space located near Maplewood. The park is pristinely manicured, like most green spaces in this part of town, but lacked tree coverage. In fact, its sign names it the “Sunshine Garden,” but all the same, it could be a scorcher on a sunny day! It contains a jungle gym for children of all ages, several soccer fields and – wait for it – a skating rink.

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General, Inspiration /

A Mid-Century Modern Childhood

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When Lawrence Group moved from Lafayette Square to downtown St. Louis in 1992, my mother, Martha Ohlemeyer, presented me with a painting of the Old Courthouse that still hangs on the wall in my office. She painted it over the course of a few days (which still blows my mind), thinking it important that our new office have some artwork representative of downtown.  She did it as an homage to one of her favorites, Fred Conway, who she studied under at Washington University in the 1940’s. Look him up and you’ll see the inspiration. She credits him in the upper right corner. It was he who steered her to fine art rather than commercial art. Always practical, her idea had been to be a magazine illustrator. He convinced her otherwise. She enjoyed a prolific career of painting and sculpting in multiple media, teaching, showing and occasionally selling. Selling her work was never a goal, though it was certainly nice when it happened. Her art was just what she did. She never bragged about her talent, but was very comfortable knowing she had it. She worked hard at it and enjoyed it and, in the process, inadvertently made my childhood mid-century modern.

A lot of my school breaks as a kid were spent hanging out with mom and her art friends either at the Artist’s Guild when it was next door to Soldan High School, at one of her friend’s homes or maybe even accompanying them on a plein air outing. I had no idea of the culture rich environment I was immersed in, I was just enjoying it for what it was and soaking it in unawares. If I didn’t have my own coloring books or modeling clay, they’d give me scraps of ‘the real stuff’ to play with. Among her friends was Ruth Schweiss, an art school classmate who had gone on to study at Cranbrook under Carl Milles (sculptor for the fountains in front of Union Station and the Climatron). She created the ballerina sculptures in front of the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton. The Schweiss family lived in a house designed by Bernoudy-Mutrux. As a kid, I remember always liking the house because it had lots of cubbies, nooks and crannies and windows that were somehow different than anything I had seen anywhere else. I had no idea I was moving about a mid-century modern classic work of art. It was just a fun place to play.

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General /

How to Guide: Installing James Hardie Lap Siding

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I am not a big fan of waking up super early, especially at 5:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning. However, I recently decided to do something I had never done before — volunteer for Habitat for Humanity (HFH). Lawrence Group was set to have its “build day,” and I figured I would give it a shot. So after convincing my fiancé to join me, a group of LGers young and old made our way to North St. Louis to work on a series of small houses for the local community.

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Architecture, Inspiration, Projects /

Security Building Mural

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It has been nearly 15 years since Lawrence Group acquired the Security Building in downtown St. Louis and renovated it as our corporate headquarters. Being a native St. Louisan (and one to never turn down the opportunity to hear a good story), I’ve enjoyed learning about the role the Security Building played in St. Louis history. Some of the stories are verifiable, but some of the best ones are not:  Charles Lindbergh signed the financing deal for his historic transatlantic flight in the bar of the Noonday Club on the tenth floor (or did he?); the Security Building actually bests the Wainwright Building as being the first steel frame high rise in St. Louis (or are the dates on the Security Building construction drawings somehow misleading?).

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Architecture, Projects /

Sun Theater – Revisited – Part 1

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Anyone tired of hearing me talk about the Sun Theater Historical Restoration yet? Well tough. But I am going to highlight something that I have not highlighted before. The extensive plaster restoration that took place. This is the most eye popping and jaw dropping part of the restoration (at least that’s what I think!)

Well let’s start with my first visit to the space. Aside from some sunlight coming from a “skylight” (hole in the roof) it was pitch black in the theater. It was clear that the elements had their way for quite some time. We cautiously walked across the stage being careful not to fall through. As we walked into the theater we turned our flashlights on the space and only then did we really understand the magnitude of what we were attempting.

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General, Inspiration, Uncategorized /

Biking St. Louis

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I have been fortunate enough to live in several different US cities. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I spent a summer in Memphis over a decade ago, suffered through a couple winters in Chicago and then ventured to perpetually sunny Las Vegas to finish college. I spent two years enjoying Los Angeles, and since January I find myself nestled here in St. Louis. Throughout all of the change, however, one thing has remained constant – I love to cycle, and there is nothing that could get me off my bike. I bike for fun, for exercise, for transportation and for competition.

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General, Interior Design, Uncategorized /

Another Perspective on Millennials

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If you read any reports on Millennials in the workplace, you’ll probably see the phrase “entitled.” But, people often forget that Millennials were raised in a different time than Gen X or Y and went to school under a different style of learning than most of us.

Back in the early 2000s, a style of learning and teaching in primary schools was introduced called the Individual Education Program or IEP. This program was introduced to combat the issues that children with learning disabilities experienced in the standard classroom. The most basic definition of an IEP is a customized learning plan. It was the first type of pedagogy that worked to tailor the learning experience to the student’s individual learning style. (more…)

General, Uncategorized /

5 Habits for a More Sustainable Lunch at the Office

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With every new season come new adventures, new opportunities and new chances to make small changes to your everyday lifestyle. Reporting on behalf of the Green Team, an internal Lawrence Group committee dedicated to sustainability, this summer we’re exploring ways to incorporate sustainability into our everyday habits, starting with the office lunch hour. Inspired by incredibly dedicated, environmentally conscious Green Team members (and my pretty new lunch box!), here’s a list of sustainable habits to incorporate into your daily lunching routine:

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Architecture /

Designing Forgiveness

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Design perfection requires intentional forgiveness. I am going to let you in on little secret in our profession. We are not perfect!  Okay, well maybe that’s not a secret! We are a peculiar bunch of people with an O.C.D. like complex for perfection. If we had it our way: buildings would always be the right shape and size! Drawings would be the most perfectly clear, complete set of instructions, and contractors would ask ZERO questions, finishing with perfect execution. The end result would be a magnificently crafted building with perfectly plumb and straight walls, all gaps perfect, parallel and pointed.

But unfortunately, that won’t happen. It can’t happen, at least while humans are still involved in construction (remember we aren’t perfect). Here is how I propose we solve that problem so that things turn out “perfectly.” We design in forgiveness. Examples of this idea are evident in almost every product and every design solution. Materials are always imperfect, substrates bowed, corners not square, walls not plumb, and lines untrue. The idea is to accept these imperfections, even embrace them, and provide construction detailing with forgiveness in the design so that when constructed it looks perfectly intentional.

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Architecture /

Parking Beautifully

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Can parking garages be considered beautiful? Is there a way to design parking garages that positively impact the built environment of a city? Every day, I find myself walking past Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, which is in the middle of construction as part of City Arch River. One garage in particular will be a main backdrop for the new design. With Kiener Plaza getting some much needed attention, it struck me that the parking garages surrounding the plaza are in need of some love as well. It doesn’t have to mean redesigning the whole garage, but instead potentially focusing on the façade and exploring different ways to liven up the design and the spaces it impacts.

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