Of Common Origin: New Architecture of the American South, a new book including exclusive interviews and photography of projects by seven notable Southern architects, highlights how Southern designers are shaping the American architecture vernacular today. Written and compiled by Barrett Austin, an Alabama-based writer who tackles the topics of architecture, urbanism, and design for a variety of publications, this volume features in-depth talks with Bill Ingram of Atlanta, Jeremy Corkern of Birmingham and New Orleans, Keith Summerour of Atlanta, Paul Bates of Birmingham, Pursley Dixon of Charlotte, Ruard Veltman of Charlotte, and Tippett Sease Baker of Montgomery, Alabama, along with striking imagery of their works that span across the region.
"Growing up in Alabama, I was well aware of the influence of the many talented architects at work in the state. We’ve had several generations of great classicists, but there is also a new generation of talent within our region fluent in a language that combines aspects of the more familiar historical architecture with a dash of vernacular charm and fingerprints of modernism," says Austin.
"As Ken Pursley says in the book, it’s an architecture that dumps together the Lego sets of modernism and classical architecture, and the alchemy therein produced is quite magical. Some of the homes in the book are more classical, some a bit more modern, but there’s a consistent respect for the lessons of history and architectural precedent. There are a number of architects working throughout the country producing work in this vein, and there seems to be a real respect among practices for the extraordinary talents at work today."
The architects featured in the book share some common threads beyond just their region. They all draw by hand, collaborate and work with craftspeople to bring their designs to life, and are very conscious of the materials they use and how they will hold up while still aging with grace. They also look to the architecture of the past to move their work forward today. While these architects are based across the South and work on projects throughout the country, many studied their discipline at Southern universities, and almost all of them launched their careers in Alabama, which intrigued Austin.
"The practice of hand-drawing was certainly an important commonality between all the firms in the book, and the interviews really delve into why it is so pivotal to their practices," adds Austin. "To see an entire set of drawings where every detail has been rendered by hand is incredibly special, and it speaks to the level of intentionality and attention to detail present in these practices. I don’t by any means denigrate the use of computers among the architects who do use them—they are extraordinarily useful. But drawing is so intimate, and I think it provokes the imagination in a way that more technical renderings do not. It’s a bit romantic, especially as our society grows increasingly digital and image oriented."
Austin is inspired not only by these architects' amazing bodies of work but also how they live. "I think the architects in our region have long considered precisely how a home feels rather than simply how it looks; there’s such an appetite for atmosphere, and I think the architects featured in the book are particularly adept at achieving this," says Austin. "I think of Keith Summerour’s towering stone farmhouse in rural Georgia or Ruard Veltman’s cottage on Bald Head Island in North Carolina. These architects live the lifestyles espoused by their work, and I think it makes them better suited to understand and tackle the challenges clients throw at them. I think clients recognize their passion and skill and that their work travels across geographies, whether it’s in Birmingham or Beverly Hills."
Austin, who started his own career in media and finance, spent his childhood in Montgomery, Alabama, and has always harbored a love for architecture and design. Austin credits his fascination with the discipline to historic spots like Henrietta Street in Dublin and Spitafields in London, places he visited while studying abroad in Scotland and working for a London-based media firm in his twenties. "In the United States, it’s the storied historic neighborhoods I most enjoy," says Austin.
"It’s a pretty special to experience the work of architects like John Staub and Birdsall Briscoe in Houston’s River Oaks, or Philip Trammell Shutze in Atlanta’s Tuxedo Park, but what’s more is that these neighborhoods are comprised of hundreds of other architecturally appealing homes in a range of historical styles, all set amid mature, intentional landscapes. It makes for such a uniquely American sense of place, and a wonderful mine for architectural interest." The book was published by Wythe Press, LLC, in May 2021.
You Might Also Like