Architect must get inside designer’s head

Anyone wanting to know minutia detail about the life of famed architect E. Fay Jones has two options — spend hours reading and researching or just make a quick call to Tom Howorth.

A simple question about Jones, and Howorth can give a dissertation

Rowan Oak

Rowan Oak

Howorth, principal architect and president of Oxford-based Howorth & Associates Architects, has been charged with preserving the Crosby Arboretum’s Pinecote Pavilion, one of Jones’ most famous designs. It has required some serious study on Howorth’s part, as much about Jones, who is now deceased, as the structure itself.

“In any project like this, you have to get inside the designer’s head,” Howorth said. “You want to stay true to the original concept. That is the key to success in these preservation or restoration type projects.”

While this is Howorth & Associates’ first work on a Jones structure, the firm, founded by Howorth in 1986, has an extensive restoration portfolio. A sampling of the firm’s projects include:

» Rowan Oak, Oxford — The former home of author William Faulkner, the firm designed and administered a $300,000 general construction restoration. The project was completed a month ahead of schedule.

» Ventress Hall, University of Mississippi — Built in 1889, Ventress Hall was the university’s first building designed specifically to function as a library. The Renovation of Ventress Hall received a Heritage Award of Excellence from the Mississippi Heritage Trust and a Certificate of Merit from the Mississippi Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors for Excellence in Construction.

» Molpus Woodlands, Hattiesburg — The “new” headquarters for the timber company Molpus Woodlands was actually the former Tatum Lumber Company and was built in 1916. The three-phase project took two years to complete, and included a commissary and office annex.

» Cutrer House, Clarksdale — Playwright Tennessee Williams visited this mansion, built in 1916-1917, and the owner provided inspiration for one of his most enduring characters, Blanche Dubois. Later, it became a school, and Howorth worked to ensure the school’s growth did not negatively impact the house.

» In 2010 alone, Howorth & Associates won four Heritage Awards presented by the Mississippi Heritage Trust. The restorations of the L.Q.C. Lamar House and of the Lafayette County Courthouse both earned Heritage Awards of Excellence. The Thompson House renovation won a Heritage Award of Merit. The Burns Church stabilization won an Award of Excellence in African American Preservation. All four of the buildings are located in Oxford.

So, with this experience and knowledge and after doing his homework, Howorth says he is not overly stressed over working on an iconic design of one of the most noted architects of all time.

“There’s nothing new about the Pinecote Pavilion project in that area,” he said. “You just want to make sure you understand the designer’s original intent. That is true of all work such as that at the Pavilion.”

However, he has been commissioned to be another project at the Crosby Arboretum, and he admits that has caused a little bit of the jitters.

“I am also designing the new Education Center at the Arboretum,” Howorth said. “So, my design is going to be in the same vicinity as E. Fay Jones’ Pinecote Pavilion. Now, that is a little stressful.”

 

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