Perspectives in Architecture: Firm behind iconic buildings celebrates milestone

Preston Stevens Sr. and James R. Wilkinson

At the end of World War I, naval reservist Preston Stevens, Sr. (1896-1989) partnered with fellow Georgia Tech alumnus Flippen Burge (1895-1946) to form the architectural firm Burge & Stevens in 1919. The ornamentation and classical forms of the firm’s suburban residential projects reflected the architects’ Beaux Arts education in college. After the death of Burge in 1946 and the promotion of James Wilkinson, FAIA, to partner in 1947, the company was renamed Stevens & Wilkinson.

Harnessing Wilkinson’s experience as an architect and engineer, Stevens & Wilkinson (S&W) became one of the first Atlanta firms to forgo classical architecture for the minimalist detailing of modern architecture and to incorporate structural, electrical, and mechanical engineering into its design services. Preston Stevens, Jr., FAIA observed this novel design approach from the age of 15 as a gopher for his father’s firm through his tenure as chairman (1980-1990). He notes that “S&W became the place to go for modern architecture.”

A rendering for Atlanta Memorial Arts Center, now known as Woodruff Arts Center.

Stevens & Wilkinson has designed ground-breaking local projects since its earliest days: the first modern school in the South with the now-demolished E. Rivers Elementary School (1949), the first underground transit station in metropolitan Atlanta with the Decatur MARTA Station (1974) and the first major solar-powered school in the United States with Ralph Bunche Middle School (1979). Many of the firm’s projects have become treasured landmarks for Atlanta residents and visitors, including the Woodruff Arts Center (1962), Tower Place (1974), Atlanta Downtown Central Library (1980 in partnership with architect Marcel Breuer), Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (1980), and Atlanta Financial Center (1982).

A rendering of the new state judicial center.

The acquisition of the firm Stang & Newdow in 2003 renewed the firm’s focus on innovative design, technology and entrepreneurship; spurred a commitment to develop a diverse workplace; and brought in Bill Clark, AIA, current president of Stevens & Wilkinson’s Georgia office, and other talented leaders. In recent years, Stevens & Wilkinson has earned a multitude of design awards for projects ranging from the restoration of the Ellis Hotel (2007) to the new Georgia State University School of Law (2015).

Clark takes pride in the firm’s distinguished civic projects near the Georgia State Capital, such as the Liberty Plaza (2017) and the Nathan Deal Judicial Center. Upon completion, the latter project will house the Georgia Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The architect observes, “The Nathan Deal Judicial Center is one of the most important structures in the state. The work done in this building will touch every Georgian.” One hundred years as a widely admired design firm, Stevens & Wilkinson continues to create iconic buildings in Atlanta and the metropolitan area.

Melody L. Harclerode, FAIA promotes significant natural, historical, and cultural sites as a non-profit leader, architect, and writer.

 

 

No Comments Yet

Comments are closed

Sign up for our emails

Enter your email and stay on top of local news!