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AIA150 program set to showcase Mississippi’s architecture

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is currently celebrating its 150-year anniversary. And in accordance, it has initiated a number of programs and events titled AIA150 to commemorate the milestone.

The cornerstone program of AIA150 is “Blueprint for America,” which has provided funding for community-service projects in 156 communities across the country. And, one of those communities is the Mississippi chapter of the AIA.

The AIA150 project looks to show architect’s role in designing structures of today and tomorrow, but it also looks to celebrate the accomplishments of the past. To this end, the AIA Mississippi has initiated a project that will allow Mississippians to vote on their favorite structures in the state.

Love that building

As part of its 150th anniversary commemoration, the national AIA has given a $7,500 publicity grant to AIA Mississippi. The grant is funding a four-part community service program. These parts include: an educational component aimed at providing a basic curriculum for grade school students to learn about architecture and what architects do; a series of radio spots designed to profile good architecture, and will spotlight John Maxwell as Mississippi’s citizen advocate for good architecture; and, special projects across the state focused on how architects give back to the community.

The other part is unique, and mirrors the national AIA’s “America’s Favorite Architecture.” A survey conducted by Harris Interactive, “America’s Favorite Architecture” gave people a chance to vote on their favorite structures in the U.S. Now, the AIA Mississippi is looking to localize that polling, allowing folks to vote on their favorite structures right here at home.

Jackson buildings and more

The national “America’s Favorite Architecture” is dominated by public structures in Washington, D.C., such as the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, as well as architecture in the nation’s largest cities including the Empire State Building in New York and the Sear’s Tower in Chicago. (Interestingly, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York placed “in absentia,” ranking 19th.)

“Mississippi’s Favorite Buildings” also includes a number of public and private buildings in the state’s largest city and capitol, Jackson, such as the Old and New Capitols, Governor’s Mansion and the Standard Life Building. More than a third of the structures on the list are located in the Capital City.

While Jackson architecture is well represented, structures from north to south are included. Some of the state’s best-known structures, such as Windsor Ruins in Port Gibson, Waverly in West Point, the Biloxi Lighthouse and the Meridian Opera House, are candidates, which is not surprising. Other structures that are perhaps something of a surprise include the Police Station in Meridian, the Lauren Rogers Museum in Laurel, Crosby Arboretum Pavilion in Picayune and the Neshoba County Fair Founder’s Pavilion in Neshoba County.

In total, 32 structures will be included in the list of candidates.

Joe Blake, executive director of AIA Mississippi, praised the efforts of his group in getting the survey together, particularly Michael Grey Jones of JBHM Architects, who is spearheading the local AIA150 projects and events. At press time, Blake said photos were being gathered for the online list of buildings. He added that his group plans to hold a press conference sometime in early July to formally announce the poll as well as the AIA Mississippi’s other efforts and activities centered on AIA150.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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