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Noted Atlanta Architect Shares Thoughts on Modern Design

Architect William Carpenter, FAIA, PhD is a busy guy. In addition to being the founding principal of Lightroom Studio, Carpenter works as a professor at the Kennesaw State University School of Architecture and is soon to be president of the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Educated at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in the United Kingdom (PhD), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (masters) and Mississippi State University (bachelors), Carpenter has been in practice for 25 years. Since the early 1990s, he's been based in Atlanta and is known for cutting-edge contemporary architecture, fitting modern designs into historic contexts. He is also a champion of preserving Atlanta's Modern Architecture gems. In this week's installment of Field Note Fridays, Carpenter chats about huge local losses, new media and more.

CURBED ATLANTA: Not just an architectural practice, Lightroom bills itself as a firm for "architecture and new media." Can you briefly explain what that means, why you practice beyond the realm of just brick and mortar architecture and the intersection between the elements of your practice?

William Carpenter, FAIA PhD: We create website[s], branding and graphic design as well as modern architecture. The cross disciplinary approach allows us to work at an array of scales.

CURBED: Lightroom's architectural style is sleek and elegant. How do you approach a new project and what drives you in your approach to architecture?

CARPENTER: Every project is site specific; we spend a great amount of time working with our clients to define the needs and then doing research and studying the sites. The approach is derived from the site and client needs.

CURBED: The distinctly contemporary buildings you design are likely often at odds with the prevailing style of places you design for. Have you ever met with opposition, how do you approach contextualizing your designs within more traditional settings and how do you meld styles together (like in your addition at Candler Park)?

CARPENTER: I think at Candler Park we really got a great deal of support from the neighborhood. For the Leila House we had to work closely with the mayor and the city council in order to interpret the guidelines to create a modern house in the historic MAK district.

CURBED: You are a proponent of preservation of modern buildings in Atlanta. What qualities do you see in modernism and what makes buildings that many would see as run-of-the-mill midcentury worth preserving?

CARPENTER: That's true. I believe that modern architecture and many buildings in Atlanta are worth preserving. For me, losing the Bruce Goff Mercedes dealership in Buckhead and the Turner Center at Emory by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam were huge losses for the city.

CURBED: And what are some of your favorites that are in need of preservation?
CARPENTER: I love the library at Decatur High School; it has such an optimistic concept; floating the knowledge above the students as they enter school.

CURBED: Often, outcry for preservation focuses on more traditionally styled structures, while modern buildings slip under the radar. What can people do to advocate for the preservation of modern buildings in Atlanta?

CARPENTER: The American Institute of Architects (Atlanta and Georgia) has a very strong voice; I think groups like Modern Atlanta also help to gather public interests and help create a larger collective voice. We worked hard to help save the Bell Building downtown recently.

CURBED: Lightroom put its studio in Decatur on the market a month ago. What prompted the move and do you have any plans for a new space?

CARPENTER: We are designing Lightroom 3.0 which will be very exciting working together with one of our clients. People approached us about possibly selling Lightroom 2.0 and so we are considering that possibility.

CURBED: Finally, what places in Atlanta do you love the most?

CARPENTER: Lullwater Park and L5P.

[Headshot via LinkedIn.]
· Lightroom Studio [firm website]
· Field Note Fridays coverage [Curbed Atlanta]