Monday, August 19, 2013

"Tee" Time

   As I mentioned in last week's post, North Little Rock did a great deal of public building in the late 1950's and 1960's. Fire Station No. 6, from last week, was one such project. This week we are going to looking at another project, the Burns Park Golf Center building. This building was designed by local architect Dan Stowers in 1964. The Golf Center Building is an interesting and very unique structure for the area. It contains the locker rooms for men and women as well as a lounge/eating area. The building is situated on one of the highest points on the golf course, which allows golfers a sweeping view of the course from the lounge room. However, it is the roof that is the truly striking and note-worthy feature of the structure.

An aerial view of the Golf Club taken from Google Maps showing the radial origins and the central oculus.

   The scalloped, radial roof of the Burns Park Golf Center Building is a feature that we don't really see in many buildings in the whole of the Modern architectural canon, much less on a building in Arkansas. Thin form concrete arches were not an uncommon feature in Modern architecture in America, especially in places like Palm Springs and Las Vegas, however the radial origin of the arches, which results in scallops, is very rare. There is a similar radial design in the Pan Am Terminal at JFK Airport, also known as Worldport, which was designed by Walther Prokosch of Tippet, Abbett, McCarthy Stratton. This similarity includes the oculus skylight at the center of the building. However, the Pan Am Terminal is not scalloped. If we look at the architecture of Mexican architect Felix Candela and his design for  Restaurante Los Manantiales in Mexico City (1958) or perhaps Eero Saarinen's design for the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport (1962), we see similar but more extreme versions of this scalloped roof design. However, the Golf Center Building is not as curvy as Candela's or Saarinen's work but more curvy than Pam Am's building. Really, this places the building half way between these design extremes. This creates a building with a fairly unique architectural position, not only in the state of Arkansas but in the full array of global architecture.

Structural Columns in front of the glass curtain wall of the lounge

     The roof is not the only Modern and not-worthy feature of this building. The structural load of the building is supported by a series of white concrete columns that surround the exterior wall of the building, and are attached to the ribs of the scalloped roof. This allows for an open design scheme in the floor plan as well as glass curtain walls in the lounge area. In theory, the building could be gutted and redesigned without compromising the structure, making a future remodel or adaption not only possible, but fairly easily done. However, these structural columns are somewhat unique in and of themselves. They are not the standard round or square columns that we typically find in public buildings. These have an almost Art Deco quality to them, with their modified Greek cross section. This makes these columns a unexpected surprise within the overall design of the building.
     The Burns Park Golf Center Building demonstrates that even a place with the rural reputation of Arkansas can have some surprising and innovative pieces of Modern architecture. It seems that in Arkansas, no place is off limits for stunning Modern buildings, whether it be on a remote river overlook, in the middle of a slum, or hiding within a 20,000 acre park.

For more information on the buildings mentioned above, please click on the following links.
Pan Am Terminal Building by Walther Prokosch.

Restaurante Los Manantiales by Felix Candela.

TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen. 

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