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Brantley Hightower

GUEST POST: FORMER LF’ER PUBLISHES BOOK ON CENTRAL TEXAS COURTHOUSES

Posted by on 6/22/15 at 04:43pm

One of the things I have always appreciated about the work of Lake|Flato is their deep respect for vernacular buildings. Sure there are plenty of lessons offered by the monuments of great architecture from around the world, but there is also lots to learn form the more modest buildings in our own backyard of Texas.

Of course, not all Texas buildings are humble. County courthouses, for example, were designed as architectural celebrations of their communities. The values expressed by these buildings align closely with those of Lake|Flato – they use a palette of regional materials to create buildings that are tactile and modern (for their day at any rate); environmentally responsible and authentic, artful and incredibly well-crafted given that many of them were built at the literal edge of the frontier.

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(Above) The Hill Country Courthouse represents Dodson’s ultimate realization of his vision of courthouse design. With its massive limestone base and soaring Second Empire-style tower, the Hill Country Courthouse dominates the flat north-central Texas landscape for miles around. The mostly white palette of materials dramatically reflects the low morning and evening sun.
A fire in 1993 effectively destroyed the building, but an extensive restoration project rebuilt it. This painstaking reconstruction helped inspire the creation of the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program in 1999, which provided both technical and financial resources so that other counties throughout the state could engage in similarly ambitious preservation efforts.

As a county’s most important public building, the courthouse made a profound architectural statement about a community’s prosperity and aspirations. Thus, a study of county courthouses tells a compelling story about how society’s relationships with public buildings and government have radically changed over the course of time, as well as how architectural tastes have evolved through the decades. I know all this because I wrote a book about all this that was recently published by the University of Texas Press. The Courthouses of Central Texas is available from all the usual sources but as my role has changed from content creator to product salesman, I have started organizing lectures and book signings. The first of the latter will be held this Tuesday, June 23rd at The Twig Book Shop here in San Antonio. I’ll talk a little about the process and a little more about some of the lessons I learned along the way.

**UPDATE: My next lecture and book signing is scheduled for Thursday, September 24th, at the AIA San Antonio Center for Architecture. Read more about it here.