Asheville architecture from the ground up

As a rule, people don’t usually think all that deeply about buildings. Sure, we all know that at some point, someone must have put them there, but we rarely think about the stories behind them.

Built to last: The Asheville Citizen-Times building was designed by Anthony Lord, the man for whom Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium is named. Such local architectural trivia will be featured in an upcoming lecture by John Rogers. photo by Jon Elliston

Even in a city like Asheville, with its abundance of grand old buildings, it can still be a little tricky for a lay person to explain what’s so special about them, other than the fact they look somewhat more appealing than, say, a hastily constructed mini-mall.

If only there was someone who could explain all of this to us—some kind of, say, architectural storyteller. If only … of course! There’s the Asheville chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and telling people about how and why buildings came to be is exactly what they do best.

Throughout April, the AIA will be “Celebrating 150 Years of Asheville Architecture,” a series of free lectures and discussions about local structures at Lord Auditorium in Pack Memorial Library. For instance, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, local architect John Rogers will share anecdotes about some of the more colorful and eccentric local builders in “Stories about Asheville Architecture.”

“It’s going to be pretty much off-the-cuff,” Rogers says of his presentation, which will include a slide show. He knows plenty of stories, though, having started his career at a time when it was still possible to rub shoulders with famed visionaries like Asheville City Building designer Douglas Ellington. “I plan to reminisce a bit about those guys and their work and their careers. These were pretty interesting guys, and many people don’t know that they were deeply affected by the Depression and the Second World War.”

In addition to the architects, Rogers plans to talk about the structures themselves—“to put the characters of the buildings that are preserved here in Asheville into context,” he says. “Many of the downtown buildings were built in the pre-Depression boom years, and the designs are exuberant. I’m also going to talk about what made it the city look the way it does, what ideas shaped it, and what I think about it.”

Other lectures in the series include:

• “Asheville: Local History You Need to Know,” by historian Rich Mathews, on Thursday, April 19, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

• “Asheville, Looking Forward,” a panel discussion “the future of Asheville architecture and urbanism,” on Thursday, April 26, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. A reception follows at the Asheville Design Center (8 College St.).

For more information, visit AIAAsheville.org.

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