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Design Digest: Schooley Caldwell Associates

Brent Warren Brent Warren Design Digest: Schooley Caldwell Associates
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With their work on high-profile renovation projects such as the Leveque Tower, the Atlas Building and the Ohio Statehouse, Schooley Caldwell Associates has earned a reputation for historic preservation work. They’ve also done plenty of work on new-build projects, though, such as the Wood Company Building in the Short North and the new OSU dorms planned for the North Residential District.

Bob Loversidge recently took the time to answer questions from Columbus Underground about the firm’s history, their role in preservation efforts in Columbus, and the responsibility that comes along with making “100-year decisions.”

Q: Can you tell us a little about the history of Schooley Caldwell Associates?

A: Our firm was founded in 1944 by two architects — Ray Sims, an established designer of elegant homes, and John Schooley, Sr., a former state architect — and a mechanical engineer, Burt Cornelius. The firm was called Sims, Cornelius and Schooley. In the early days they designed both large and small projects, including an addition to what is now Sullivant Hall at OSU, fraternity houses, car dealerships, schools, state hospitals, etc. Gradually the emphasis went towards one-of-a-kind public works – still a hallmark of our practice today. In the 1950’s, John Schooley, Jr. joined the firm, and in the 60’s Bob Caldwell joined. We have completed projects in most states, Europe and Asia. Today the firm is owned by five principals: Terry Sullivan, Jayne Vandenburgh, Tom Matheny, Rob Smith, and myself. We are still multi-disciplined with architects, engineers, interior designers and planners.

Q: Schooley Caldwell has worked on a wide variety of projects, doing design, architecture, engineering and planning work – you’ve also developed an extensive historic preservation portfolio. Would you say there is an overall philosophy that applies to all of your work?

A: Yes, one of our corporate goals is to ‘make a difference.’ Most of our work is public, institutional, or historic preservation, all of which require a keen sense of responsibility – often to future generations. We keep our design skills current, but avoid being trendy. For projects like the Ohio Statehouse restoration or the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, we are often called upon to make 100-year decisions – a responsibility we try to treat with humility and respect. Four states (Ohio, Kansas, Utah and Minnesota) have entrusted us with preservation and restoration of one of their most important treasures – their state capitol.

Q: Columbus used to have a reputation for tearing down its historic buildings instead of preserving them – do you think that’s changed in recent years?

A: I distinctly remember the Friday night surprise demolition of Union Station in 1976. The following year we formed the Columbus Landmarks Foundation, on a virtual shoestring, and it’s now a respected organization that has helped give a voice to the logic, quality, and economic rationale for preservation. So I do think it has changed. It was really exciting, for instance, that the former Lazarus department store was repurposed instead of becoming landfill, and Casto’s eclectic rebuilding of Broad and High has given unique life to our most important corner.

Columbus developers have only more recently begun taking advantage of the historic preservation tax incentives that have been around for decades, resulting in great renovation projects like the LeVeque Tower, the Atlas building and Cristo Rey Columbus High School (at the old Ohio School for the Deaf on Town Street). Still, we have lost so much, especially in downtown, and we are now gradually rebuilding the five story red brick city that existed before the freeways and parking lots.

Another plus is that the movement towards sustainability has given a real boost to the notion of reusing rather than replacing our architectural resources. We like to think that the “greenest” building is one that is already built.

Q: Do you see good things happening in the next 20 years? From both a historic preservation perspective and in terms of new architecture and design, do you think Columbus is on the right track?

A: Definitely. Our downtown is experiencing a renaissance. We have a mayor and a business community that are working in sync to redevelop our city in a high quality way, and I think this will continue. The Design Week sponsored by The Center for Architecture and Design is helping to build awareness of urban design issues, along with the AIA, ASLA, ULI and the Knowlton School of Architecture at OSU. Mayor Coleman talks of Columbus becoming a “design city.” This kind of encouragement is vital as we go about the important business of “filling in the holes.” No city I know of has had the opportunity to rebuild a whole quadrant of their downtown like Nationwide has done so well in the Arena District. Look at German Village, the Brewery District, and the Short North – new and old combining to add character, vitality and economic stability to our city.

There is much to be done, especially in the near neighborhoods surrounding downtown, where there is great potential. Public/private projects like the Scioto Mile, Columbus Commons, and the Scioto Greenway are tremendous additions and catalysts for further redevelopment. Franklinton may be next. It’s very satisfying to me that preservation and adaptive use have become a major part of the urban redevelopment toolbox. We will still have some demolition “battles,” but they will be more rationally considered than they were 20 years ago. Who knows…maybe we’ll even join the mass transit club one day soon!

Q: Are there any exciting new projects that you’re currently working on, or looking forward to in the near future?

A: Yes, we’re really excited about a couple of projects right here in Columbus – we’re starting work on OSU’s North Residential District Transformation (we’re part of the design-build team), and we’re just beginning a project, teamed with our friends at DesignGroup, to design the new office building on Front Street for the City of Columbus. And of course, continue to watch the steady revitalization of Columbus’ iconic LeVeque tower.

Q: Anything else we should know about Schooley Caldwell?

A: Right now we have the best group of emerging professionals on our team that we have ever had…this gives me great optimism for the future of our practice and for our city. We’re very proud of our almost 70 years of creating meaningful places in central Ohio and way beyond. And as the economy very gradually recovers, it becomes easier for us to achieve one of our other corporate goals – to have fun along the way.

More information about Schooley Caldwell Associates is available at www.sca-ae.com.

All photos via Schooley Caldwell Associates.

From September 23rd to September 29th, Columbus Underground is Celebrating Design Week, brought to you by the Hamilton Parker Company. With a 15,000 square foot showroom located just outside Downtown at 1865 Leonard Ave, the Hamilton Parker Company has been your go-to local resource for home and business improvement projects of all sizes and budgets. Find out more at www.hamiltonparker.com.

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