One for the ages

Babcock Place

Jim Williams, Dick Peters & Dennis Domer (Photo: Leilani Thornton Tuttle)

The Dennis Domer-moderated Q&A on May 7 between architects Jim Williams and Dick Peters at Babcock Place, the retirement home they designed in the early 1970s for the City of Lawrence, was significant not only for recognizing the work of these two august and unrepentant modernists but also alerting us to the fact that we’re probably going to live out our final days in one of these facilities. Which is why they’re so vitally important to the community. Lawrence is fortunate that the city commissioned Peters and Williams to do this work; Babcock Place has served its purpose admirably, providing quality low cost housing in an attractive, high quality environment for 45 years. And architecturally, their building has aged very well, unlike most Brutalist-tinged designs from that era. “The exterior is durable and the rough edges provided a texture that we thought was pleasing,” said Williams. Peters added, “As with all of our projects, we were working for the client, meeting their needs and designing in ways we thought were appropriate.” Among the many hundreds of buildings designed over their 56-year partnership, their most long-lasting and significant achievement may well be a nursing home, which, like nursery schools, are included among the great works of modernism. By this measure alone, their status is secured.

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Shannon Oury (Photo: Leilani Tuttle)

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Jim Williams (Photo: Leilani Tuttle)

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Tom Harper (Photo: Leilani Tuttle)

The May 7 gathering was a fitting tribute for two great shadow figures of modern architecture and an important day as we continue our mission to raise awareness of midcentury and modern architecture in Lawrence. We wish to thank the staff and residents of Babcock Place for allowing us to host the event and all those who attended.

—Tom, Dennis, Tim & Bill

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