In this place where Colonial architecture has existed for at least 350 years, Modernism seems quite young. Virginians have not easily warmed to Modernism, but these three architects practice a form to which traditionalists might positively respond. They work in different kinds of practices, but they are equally committed to the movement's place within the historic context of Richmond and beyond. They are connecting interior spaces to the outside and integrating craft with current technologies — ideas that interested Thomas Jefferson. They also share a passion for building and making things themselves. They are attracting clients and making architecture that may stand the test of time.
With an uncle who was a bricklayer and a grandfather who worked in a foundry, a proclivity for making things must be in Chris Fultz's blood. Just out of undergraduate school and living in Dallas, this Texan happily divided his time working as an architectural intern, building furniture and experimenting in metal sculpture.
Fultz applied to both art and architecture programs for graduate school, but it wasn't until he sat on the Rotunda steps at the University of Virginia and looked at Jefferson's Lawn that that he knew architecture was the right path for him. "Ironically, in my modern work I look to people like Jefferson," says Fultz. "I draw my inspiration from history and the land. I love working within a historic fabric."
Since being recruited to Richmond firm SMBW Architects 12 years ago, Fultz has helped bring the firm numerous design awards for residential and commercial work. Now he's a principal in that firm and at a turning point in his career.
"Even though I'm not a Virginian, I'm in love with the place and want to be a good steward here," he says. Luck Stone's new corporate office building in Goochland County, a project designed and led by Fultz, is a testament to that belief. The client wanted to add a significant amount of space that would inspire collaboration and creativity without intruding on the pastoral landscape and views. Fultz's solution, now in its finishing stages, is a three-story structure that integrates eight outdoor rooms, capitalizes on natural light and views, and steps down an existing slope to not only minimize its profile, but to also recall the stepped benches of a quarry.
Charles Luck IV, president and CEO of Luck Stone Corporation, believes the new building thoughtfully represents the company in ways he could never have foreseen. "Chris' concepts on paper were really inspiring and thought provoking, but once the building was complete, it moved us on a whole new level." Since moving into the space, Luck has seen changes in the way his associates are working. "We've definitely seen more openness," he says. "People have a certain excitement. They come in the space and just feel better."
As an architect practicing in Germany, Lothar Pausewang was accustomed to living and working in ways that are rarely supported in places like Virginia. Commissions for modern design were plentiful, and no one ever challenged his extended vacations. Little did he know that after closing his own modernist practice in Hamburg, working a while in Berlin and traveling through Asia for a year, he would find himself practicing his craft for clients like the Virginia Historical Society.
It was his photographer girlfriend, now wife, Regula Franz, who beckoned Pausewang to Richmond nine years ago. Now he's working for Glavé & Holmes Associates, a firm that has given him opportunities to work on modernist projects and allows him to travel 10 to 12 weeks a year.
Pausewang stresses that his travel refuels him professionally as much as personally: "I don't know where I get my ideas, but they come more from outside [of the office] — theater, art, walking along the street somewhere in Asia. Some things stick. This is my secret library."
Pausewang's "library" was put to the test recently when Union Theological Seminary challenged Glavé & Holmes to use an abandoned library building at the corner of Westwood Avenue and Brook Road, to house offices, classrooms and a chapel. The 1897 building, which had been modified more than once, presented numerous structural as well as design obstacles. In it, Pausewang has created a dialogue between materials like wood and metal, the human hands that crafted them, and the otherness of the natural light that illuminates them.
Gayle Haglund, vice president for institutional advancement, worked with Pausewang to ensure that the project, recently inaugurated as the Allen and Jeannette Early Center for Christian Education and Worship, fulfilled promises made to the project's donors. "Lothar was particularly exited about how light was going to play in that room," she says. "The project wasn't about Lothar's modernist imprint, it was about our mission. What this building does is celebrate the past while telling a new story. It stands as a metaphor for us."
Camden Whitehead's work as an artist and designer surfaces in an interesting cross-section of venues. An associate professor in VCU's interior-design department and a practicing architect with Sadler & Whitehead, a firm he shares with wife Mimi Sadler, Whitehead splits his professional time between the theoretical and the practical. Somewhere in between, he paints landscapes and makes furniture.
The demands of his teaching and committee work (Whitehead is helping to "green" VCU's School of the Arts) limit his own studio time. Every five years or so he manages to take on projects. Even then, he keeps the design process at a manageable pace so that he has the time to consider his task. "I prefer drawing by hand so I have time to reflect and make decisions," he says.
Whitehead practices a stewardship that's usually under the radar. He wants to be a good citizen by making sure his buildings are sustainable, but doesn't practice in order to make "green" buildings. His aesthetic of simplicity, he believes, is a less wasteful approach then designing complicated structures built with numerous materials.
Of all his built projects, the copper-clad Fulton Hill house designed for VCU School of the Arts faculty members Kristin Caskey and John Malinoski may best represent his idea of conservation. Interior partitions are kept to a minimum and the materials used are humble. Beams are exposed and interior walls are clad with plywood, but the construction is executed with a high degree of craft.
Malinoski credits Whitehead's unexpected use of materials for the home's unique character. "I remember our first night there," he says, "I told Kristin that the last time I felt like this was my first night in a European country. It's really different… really exciting."
"I wish he would build more, but I also understand how maybe he builds enough," says Malinoski. "He's so involved in the process. He and I poured the front steps. He actually built the pulls for the cabinets and the pull for the door."
Currently the architect is in the early stages of designing a house and guesthouse to be located on the Chesapeake Bay. A cardboard model of his design demonstrates a playful, Cubist manipulation of indoor and outdoor spaces. Even at the schematic level, the project suggests the possibility of the unexpected.