Friday, June 21, 2013

Mies-ian Style comes to Little Rock

The KTHV Building upon its completion in 1954

 Actual Modern architecture, referring here to the stylistic movement in architecture rather simply "modern" meaning current, is a rare find outside of major metropolitan areas in America. The big names in architecture from that period, such as Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Nuetra, tended to stay on the coasts or in Chicago. Be that as it may, here is an exceptional example of High Modern architecture in Arkansas. It is the KTHV Channel 11 Building at the corner of Izard and West 8th Streets. The building was constructed for television station in 1954 and designed by Dietrich Heyland of Crowell Architects, although it was called Ginocchio, Cromwell, and Associates at the time. This is the same firm that was partially founded by renowned Arkansas architect, Charles L. Thompson, but I digress. Heyland was from Louisiana original, graduating from Tulane University. After college he spent some time in California working under the famed Modernist Richard Nuetra. In 1950, he was recuited by Edwin Cromwell and moves to Arkansas. Shortly afterwards Neyland designed the KTHV Building. This building is in line with the almost minimalist work of Mies van der Rohe in his design for the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL, and more specifically in his design of S.R. Crown Hall (1950-1956) on that campus.
Mies van der Rohe's design for S.R. Crown Hall at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago
The glass curtain wall with exterior exposed structural supports and raised basements were trademark features Mies van der Rohe's work at this time. All of these features are also seen in the KTHV Building. The Modern features of this building are significant not only because they are so blatantly Modern in character but because the KTHV building was completed in Arkansas two years before Crown Hall was completed in Chicago. Despite the common conception that Arkansas is always behind the times on style, this building, along with the creation of the Arkansas Power and Light Building the year before, is evidence that Arkansas was actually right in line with the architectural mentality of the times, if not a bit ahead of it.
    While KTHV has done some renovations on the interior of the building, they have keep the exterior of the building in more or less the same form as it was in upon its completion in 1954, with the exceptions of some mild deterioration and paint color changes on the exterior. KTHV should be giving props for preserving the character of this historic building even though there is almost no public interest or attention given to it. Hopefully, this building will soon be recognized as the truly historically significant structure that it is and will continue to be a remarkable example of High Modern architecture in Arkansas for many years to come. 
The East and North facades of the KTHV Building as they look today.

The South and East facades of the KTHV Building as they look today.

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