A preservation project on one of Mississippi’s iconic structures is underway, and is already drawing interest, particularly among architects.
The Pinecote Pavilion at The Crosby Arboretum in Picayune is currently the focus of a study led by the architectural firm Howorth & Associates, and the nearly 30-year-old structure is earmarked for work to ensure it is still wowing viewers decades from now.
“I want to stress that this is a preservation project, not restoration,” said Pat Drackett, director of The Crosby Arboretum, which is owned and operated by Mississippi State University. “The Pinecote Pavilion is lovely. We are just wanting to make sure it stays that way.
“We have a lot of people all the time who stop in here just to see the pavilion. It’s on their bucket list of things to do.”
Why all the to-do over a pavilion?
Pinecote was designed by famed architect E. Fay Jones. A former mentee and close friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jones (1921-2004) was a modest Arkansan who preferred rural living. This was reflected in his designs that were generally smaller projects — chapels, pavilions, private homes, etc. — and that were noted for incorporating native materials and blending aesthetically with their surroundings.
Among his most enduring and endearing designs is the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista, Ark., Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Ark., and the Pinecote Pavilion.
Jones’ awards were numerous, and included the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1990, that organization’s highest honor. That same year, Pinecote won the AIA’s Honor Award for Design Excellence, becoming the first Mississippi structure to earn that designation.
Tom Howorth, FAIA, principal architect and president of Howorth & Associates, says Jones’ award-winning concepts — use of native building materials, natural aesthetics, repetitive themes — are all incorporated in the Pinecote Pavilion.
Howorth said Jones won the AIA 25 Year Award largely on the strength of three designs, “and one of those is Pinecote.”
The pavilion is an all-wood construction, built of the area’s yellow pine, and connected with dowels and nails. Among its most unique features is that all of the construction elements are visible and exposed.
This, however, also means the elements are exposed to the weather, making preservation a key concern.
Begun in 1985 and completed the following year, Pinecote has seen its share of storms, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm heavily impacted the structure, leaving a two-foot hole in the roof.
The roof and other visible damage was repaired, but it was found that the structure has warped slightly. Howorth said part of his team’s report would address whether to fix that issue, which is not readily apparent, or to leave it as is.
Beyond that, Howorth said the work would focus on preserving the structure — both short and long term. Thus, part of Howorth & Associates’ challenge is to draw up a maintenance plan.
“The pavilion is at Crosby, which has a staff, a maintenance team on the grounds, that is skilled in such areas as carpentry,” Howorth said. “Our state chronically struggles with maintenance of facilities.”
His team is drawing up a plan under which the Arboretum’s personnel could see to ongoing preservation and maintenance, he added.
The Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, through its Bureau of Building is funding the project.
Project leaders are hoping to let bids for Pinecote in November, with a scheduled completion date of June 2014.
Perhaps no one anticipates the opening of the “new” Pinecote Pavilion more than Drackett. The Crosby Arboretum sees between 8,000-14,000 visitors per year, many of whom visit just to see the pavilion.
It is also an important revenue stream. It is a popular, in-demand site for weddings, meetings/retreats, parties, etc.
“We do a lot of weddings — I mean a lot, too,” Drackett said. “I just want to stress again that this is a preservation project. There is nothing shabby about Pinecote Pavilion, I assure you.”
Howorth, who never got a chance to meet Jones but did meet his wife once, recommends visiting at noon (11 a.m. during daylight savings time). As with many of his structures, Jones oriented the pavilion facing polar north (not magnetic north). When the sun reaches its highest, the skylight of the structure casts a shadow on the trees, just as Jones had planned it.
“It is absolutely stunning,” Howorth said.
For more information about the Pinecote Pavilion, including rental rates, visit the Crosby Arboretum’s website at crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/.