Working with Rachel, our resident preservationist at Ascent Architecture & Interiors, has given me a renewed appreciation of historic structures.
On a recent trip to Southwestern Oregon, my wife and I stayed at the Ashland Springs Hotel for a weekend getaway, and I was impressed with how well the building (constructed 1925 and designed by J.E. Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel, who also designed the Idaho State Capitol Building during the same era) had survived the ages. As architects, we’d probably never design a building in the same style as a historic structure such as this, but building materials and functional spaces that remain useful for nearly nine decades have much to teach us.
As I entered the lobby, I was immediately struck by the quality craftsmanship and selection of materials. An inlayed terrazzo covers the main floor lobby and looks as good as when it was first installed, demonstrating that durable materials are sustainable choices. Terrazzo remains an excellent choice in our current buildings for high-traffic spaces such as lobbies and hallways and can incorporate recycled glass or marble chips.
As great as the original structure may be, it’s sometimes necessary to update certain aspects of the building. For example, the lobby chandelier has been outfitted with compact fluorescent lamps to reduce the energy use. A modern elevator has replaced the original lift, and life safety features such as fire alarms and fire sprinklers were added. And for structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, careful attention must be paid when improvements are made to the exterior of the building that might change the original aesthetic, such as window replacements, brick cleaning and repair, and awning repair and replacement.
With my renewed appreciation, I look forward to visiting, and learning from, more historic structures. And perhaps, with Rachel’s expert guidance, Ascent will have the opportunity to renew and revitalize a once-great building and give it new life.