Jack Pyburn oral history interview, 2019-08-07

Georgia Institute of Technology Library
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LINDA DAVIS: The following interview is conducted as part of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Archives and Special Collections Oral History Project. Today is August 7, 2019. The interview is taking place at Georgia Tech's Library Records Center.

The interviewer is Linda Davis and the interviewee is Jack Pyburn. He is a FAIA, fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and a director and principal of the historic preservation area at the firm Lord Aeck Sargent. Thank you for participating with us in the project today. Let's get a little background.

JACK PYBURN: All right.

LINDA DAVIS: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

JACK PYBURN: So I was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Northwest Louisiana, and I grew up there. I went through high school and at that point I went to college. So it was all the regional service center at a particular petroleum mass bearing interest, or orientation business wise, particularly because of the oil fields that were in East, Texas and Louisiana and Arkansas, Oklahoma. My father was in the oil business, so he was located there.

LINDA DAVIS: Please tell me about your education and early career experiences.

JACK PYBURN: Sure. I went to Texas A and M and got an architecture degree. I basically, worked my way through college playing football. I went on a football scholarship. I crammed a five year program into six because I after my college eligibility I was drafted to play two years for the-- or I played for the Miami Dolphins, so I did that.

And I would go back and get my-- half of my fifty year in the spring. And I did that for two springs, graduated, and then I was ready to practice, to get some experience. I had a degree. I had never been an architect so I thought it might be a long-term prospects rule better in architecture than other alternative.

My early career really started in Miami. And I, by coincidence when I decided I wouldn't go play the third year, I was at a barbershop and a guy sitting next to me was an architect. And I introduced myself, and I don't remember how we I got to know that, but he ended up helping me get my first job with a firm called, Herbert Johnson and Associates.

They did a large, regional shopping centers. They did Bal Harbour Shops on Miami beach, which was a upscale shopping complex. And the lead designer there was a guy named, Mark Hampton, who was part of the Sarasota School of Modernist with Paul Rudolph.

I was oblivious at the time of the environment I was in, honestly. But very much appreciative for the experience and over time appreciative even more in recognizing what I was exposed to. So I did that for a little over a year, and I knew I mean if you go back to school because my architecture undergraduate suffered trying to play football and take architecture.

Both of them suffered frankly. But hurt by each other. But I made it through, but I did know I needed to go back to school. So I also wanted a different experience.

And I went to work. I was asked to join a different firm with a guy who had left Herbert Johnson and the firm was called, Pierce Garland and Freeman. And it was, what's known in the profession is a big e, little a. In other words, it was an engineering driven art-- with architecture, not an architecture firm, with engineering. So we called it the big e little a.

And yet it had a very interesting architectural group. We had a tremendous staff of Cuban architects who had left Cuba. And very talented folks who were just a delight to work with and to be exposed to.


We had Vincent Scully who is the noted architectural historian at Yale for generations. His son was there during that time. A guy named Richard Lyons whose father at the time was head of the Royal Institute of British Architects was there. And a guy named Ron Filson, who became the dean at Tulane for a number of years, was there.

So it was really unusual to be in this big e little a firm, and to have this group of Cuban architects, kids from other folks my age, from other places. And I was, again, just a novice wandering around like a marble in a boxcar. But it was good experience.

I did that for a year or so, and then I was ready to go back to graduate school. And I went to Washington U and St Louis and got a masters in urban design. I stayed in St Louis for a decade.

I joined a practice that was a young group that were a few years ahead of me from Wash U. But it was a very unusual practice in that we had architecture, we had landscape architecture, we had urban planning, we had real estate economics, and we had urban wall all in one practice of about 15 people. And the reason we did that was in part because-- two reasons.

One was the National Environmental Protection Act was being passed. And the law part and the planning part, all was a sphere that we were doing work for various federal agencies and we work with Patel, Core to do various studies for particularly public agency, meaning NEPO. They were required to meet the Natural Environment Protection Act.

LINDA DAVIS: This firm is EDAW?

JACK PYBURN: No. No, no. This firm was Team Four. Yes, no, it was Team Four.

And it was-- Team Four was actually a spoof of a name because it was for guys that came from Wash U. And at the time there was a bit of a renegade, internationally, modernist firm called Team 10, which was not a firm really. It was just a collective of people with like interest. But Team 10 was a big thing at the time and this was Team Four. It was funny.

So the one was the National Environment Protection Act. The other was-- Missouri had something called the Missouri 353 Law. And the Missouri 353 Law was called the Urban Redevelopment Corporations Law, and it actually gave eminent domain powers to private developers, which is a big deal-- the only thing progressive, maybe Missouri's ever done.

And it was intended where areas needed to be redeveloped, or ripe for reinvestment, that if you could assemble 90% of the properties but 10% kept you from getting the project done, it was a mechanism. The main mechanism that brought the urban along on was that the plan was not just an advisory document like most of them are. It was a legal document. And you had to declare what properties you would be condemning and under what circumstances.

The experience I had with it was not to move large numbers of people out. It was where the biggest project was the Wash U, Washington University Medical Center, was 8 institutions in the Central West End. And the Central West End had been declining and institutions were considering moving to the suburbs and dispersing. And they said, no, we're going to lose all our collective power if we do that, so let's invest in our neighborhood.

So we used 353 to say to property owners, many of them absentee, if you don't reinvest in your property, we're going to take that property. We're not going to tear it down, but we're going to get somebody that will reinvest in it. So that's how that application worked. It worked in different ways in different locations, but it's just an example.

So I did that for a decade. And Team Four had grown. We were, because of the early group we stayed around, we had a lot of folks that had been there for a 00:10:00while. We were a little top heavy.

And EDAW, a national firm at the time, and ended up being international, had looked at us too-- we'd discussed being the Midwest office of EDAW. EDAW had close there Midwest office in an economic downturn. They wanted to get back in the Midwest. We were there. We had gone to school-- some of my cohorts had gone to school with some of their people, et cetera.

So under that scheme, I was going to come to Atlanta and EDAW was trying to open an Atlanta office. And the merger for Team Four and EDAW, in St. Louis, fell through. But the opportunity for me to come to Atlanta was still there. My wife had finished her training and we were going to go somewhere so Atlanta was-- she was from New York, but went to school at the University of Texas and liked the South and was interested in coming this way.

So I took that position. She opened her practice in Gainesville, Georgia. And we lived in Gainesville for 15 years, and our daughter grew up here. And I started my practice there, after I left EDAW. I stayed with EDAW three or four years and it's an interesting sidebar that I was really very naive and not really thinking deeply enough about what the situation was.

Two things about the EDAW experience. One was that EDAW, at that time in Atlanta, was a joint 50/50 venture with Jordan Jones and Goulding, another notable engineering firm here, certainly in the '80s and '90s. However, like many alliances, they didn't quite get along very well. And so I really wasn't aware of that, get into it.

The second thing was that EDAW had a senior person who really was capable of running that office. And Jordan Jones and Goulding had a senior partner who was really capable of running it-- both of them women. And I showed up and there were two very capable people who could have done it because these two firms didn't get along.

Here I was showing up from out of town. So it was a very interesting phase. It worked out for three or four years, and then I was ready anyway to get on my own and particularly get back to architecture. For that 10 year period, I really did urban planning work and urban design work and even some real estate economics.

But we wrote the conferencing plan for the city of Atlanta-- I mean, the city of St Louis. I was staff planner for half a dozen municipalities in the St Louis area. So I was very much involved in planning and not so much in architecture.

And you can see I didn't have a whole lot of practice experience before. I did though, get my license in Florida before I left Florida. And that was one of the fortunate things I did do because I then, when I wanted to get back to architecture, I was still -- I'd kept that active. I could still--

So I moved to Gainesville, moved my practice-- or opened a little practice up in Gainesville. And moved into a house on Green Street-- just rented what was originally a bedroom in one of these houses, big houses, that have been converted to commercial. And the person across the hall was a woman named, Dale Yeager. And Dale was a landscape-- is a landscape architect, who had gone to University of Georgia in landscape architecture and in preservation.

So she had the room across the hall. We eventually joined up, and we shared space for a while, and then we formed a partnership. And it was common, typical for me. Team Four had this diversity. I was very used to that, and liked that environment.

And then I started moving toward architecture, back toward architecture. I didn't have a, as you could see, I didn't have a lot of experience. So I 00:15:00thought, well, gee, if a building is standing and I can work on that one, I didn't have to have the anxiety of-- as much anxiety of the structural aspects of it.

And so I started working on restoring buildings. And the first major client really was a guy who was a mill owner in Jefferson, Georgia, who was a director of the Crawford Long Museum in Jefferson. And so we did a master plan and improvement strategy for the Crawford Long museum. Tom Bryant was his name. Wonderful guy.

We actually worked with a fascinating medical historian from the Smithsonian who advised us on some of the ways to use the history of anesthesia and understand more broadly the history of anesthesia in that museum. And so I worked with him on and off for 15 years. It's not a big property, but it's a fascinating collection of three or four buildings.

And the first big project I got was, I guess the Gwinnet County Courthouse. And we actually won that project over Daniel Thusby ironically. And that started a sequence of working on 20 to 30 historic courthouses in Georgia. So I worked on a number of those, and then a couple of statewide studies of all the courthouses in Georgia.

So then that courthouse work, really was a foundational piece. I mean it was the, we call it the bread and butter because we had to go after each one of them, but what we did develop a bit of a focus on that. So I did that and then I started OJP in '95, in there. Maybe a little earlier because Dale and I co-located for a while before I moved to Atlanta, so it was probably a little before that.

And then in '07, until '07, Lord Aeck Sargent approached me about joining forces with them. They were my main competitors. I was their main competitor.

And they were in part, I think, I wouldn't say total, but they certainly were cutting their competition by bringing me in. I had no succession plan, so it really worked great for me. I had my folks put a longer term option. And several of them are still there. We've been there since '07.

And the thing that most appealed to me was I'm interested in the relationship or preservation to design, and it gave me this opportunity to work within its bigger practice that I had a new construction design, and how you integrate that preservation ethic into a larger practice? So that's where I am. Excuse me.

LINDA DAVIS: Will you tell us how you initially became involved with Georgia Tech?

JACK PYBURN: I guess it was Doug Allen. Doug-- I'm sorry. The dean, at the time as you know, and I'm trying to-- Galloway, died suddenly. And Doug Allen became the interim dean. Everybody, I mean, you ever talk to anybody that knew Doug Allen, he was a wonderful human being.

And I had expressed an interest in preservation in architectural education. And 00:20:00actually one other piece is, along the way, sometime around '02, or '03, there was an opportunity to get involved with a AI historic resources committee, an AI national. And I expressed an interest in being a part of it, and they invited me to join the five-person advisory group, which is a group that runs it. You rotate through and you're chair the fifth year, and then you go on.

And in the first year, one of my mentors-- David Woodcock from Texas A and M, who ended up starting the preservation program at A and M-- sent an email. It said the National Architectural Accrediting Board is going to have a review of their accreditation criteria. And if you want to send this to the historic resources committee. And if you want to have a voice in it, they're meeting in Santa Fe in three weeks.

And so I said, gee, I'm interested in that. So my cohorts on the advisory said fine. And so I went to develop a white paper in three weeks on preservation in architectural education, and I went to Santa Fe.

And from that we got the AIS, the student group, involved. We got the NCARB, the licensing group, involved. We got the ACSA, the faculty group, involved. And we had good support, and we built an advisory, larger and larger group around this subject. And we would organize at ACSA events, sessions on preservation.

Because architectural education has moved away from what I would call a more disciplined orientation of students to history. And it's all about the future. And there are fascinating ironies that precedent is still a aspect of the design process, but no real depth of understanding of what that precedent was. And so it's a pretty shallow form look at what precedents are.

So it has been very difficult. I would say after six or seven years we never really made serious progress. Though I think we made some progress.

One of the people that came-- we had an event at Cranbrook. One of the people that came was guy named Kwesi Daniels, who is now head of the architecture program at Tuskegee. And Tuskegee is now starting their first preservation program at an HBCU.

So they're not big huge swaths of change, but they had some value, I think. Good effort. A lot of good folks.

I mean, we had the best folks in the country in preservation involved in it, and some of the best folks in architecture, frankly. Donna Robertson, the dean at IIT, was very much actively supporting the whole thing. And I say that because it was in that time that I had this conversation with Doug. We went to lunch a time or two. And I expressed my interest in it, and he offered me the opportunity to teach a course.

And then Doug left, and I guess George Johnson was an interim. And then they offered me a year at Harrison Design in Delman, the position that he had. And I did that.

And then I Alan Balfour was very supportive. And so I ended up teaching four, five years. And being able to weave some of my interest in pre-cast concrete into the preservation studio with buildings that were important historic pre-cast buildings.

And so it was really through Doug Allen and then with George and Alan Balfour's support from there. The current leadership, I talked to him about continuing that, but they didn't seem to be interested in it. So that's where it ended.


LINDA DAVIS: OK. Well we want to talk a little bit about software. You have bridged the gap between pre-computer and post-computer. So talk a little bit about how you started including software in your practice.

JACK PYBURN: Well, I'm trying to remember whether we had computers at EDAW I came to EDAW in '81. and I left in '84. And I was still doing planning work, so I have an idea we did. I'm just having trouble.

I mean, I can visualize my office, but I can't visualize the desk on it. And frankly, I mean, writing plans, I wrote, hand wrote, plans. It might be 150 pages of notebook paper. I mean, it's an astounding and my handwriting is deplorable as a result.

But my first recollection is the computer I bought when I left EDAW, and that's the one it was a compact, I guess they call it portable. I called it a luggable. It was heavy. It looked like a sewing machine in a case. And the keyboard was the bottom.

You took the keyboard off, and you had a little screen, and you had a floppy disk drive. And at that point I was still writing plans. And actually going way back, and I won't retrace all of this, but the first professional paper I presented when I was in St Louis was to the-- because I was and American Planning Association member that I unfortunately let drop. But I took the exam and did all that when I was in St Louis.

And I did a paper on my thesis in Wash U, which was helping the African-American community deal with their infrastructure and Centralist county. I was at the APA meeting in San Antonio. Leon Eplan was the I was the director of planning for the city of Atlanta for a number of years-- was the president of APA. And I got to know Leon through a couple of quirks.

And Leon and I reconnected when I came here, and we didn't work together. So when I went on my own, Leon and I were still doing work together and still are friends to this day. And so what we were doing-- I don't know how I got off on that. It has nothing to do with computers, I don't think.

But anyway. I guess my point was, I was still good at planning work.

LINDA DAVIS: Well, you had gone back to your thesis for your masters.

JACK PYBURN: Well, that was really the first thing I ever had published or presented professionally. And it was just a coincidence that Leon was president of the APA, that I had met him when I came through Atlanta in the '70s. Going back to Florida to finish my exam, I stopped in Atlanta and looked him up, called him, and he invited me to come over and spend an hour with me. I mean, I was just a kid out of college.

And so we had this sequence of connections. And I was still doing that when I went on my own. And Leon and I were doing planning work. I was using my computer, my own, this luggable computer, to write plans and so forth.


JACK PYBURN: So that was a contact portable. That was my first computer. I think Dale was using a Mac. And I then migrated to a Mac.

And when we were in the same practice, we actually had our Macs all hard-wired up. It was like a big deal up to the front. I think it went-- all it did was go to a printer.

It may have gone to the workstation up there, but there was no main computer that got everything to my regulation. In fact, I still have the hard drives, et cetera, on my Mac. I still have the Mac.

And I told Wendy, I'm comfortable. I may want to keep one of them, but I've got two of them, and I've got the hard drive. And I probably got-- I think I've got 00:30:00a lot of the software that I'll get together and get to you all as well. Because I don't remember what specific programs were, but we weren't doing-- during that time we were not doing architectural work on the computer. That was all correspondence, submittals. Would not-- like we could do it all electronically now, but we kept up with on the computer.

When I moved to Atlanta-- I moved to Atlanta in '95 when my daughter was in the sixth grade. She transferred from the Gainesville school system to Westminster here. She and I moved down to Colony Square, where we had-- that was our getaway living in Gainesville. People in Atlanta were going to the mountains. We were coming to the city.

And so Lillian and I, moved into our unit there, and my wife was still closing her practice down in Gainesville. It took a while to do that. And I hired a guy to do computer work for me.

And he would come to my unit every day. And I had a table and a computer on it. Again, I don't have a visual image of what that computer was, but I suspect it was just a more conventional box. I'm pretty sure I don't have that piece of hardware. I may have the software somewhere, but I don't think I have the hardware.

And fairly quickly, I found, out of the way, a little cubbyhole at Colony Square and rented that. And I don't remember-- probably about that time, because the workload had gotten bigger, we probably moved to AutoCAD somewhere in there. When I got to a point that I needed to deal with engineers I knew-- and I think the program that I used was something like, DigiCAD Does that ring a bell? Or VersaCAD-- one or the other.

Then when I got to needing to deal with engineers, I knew I had to go to AutoCAD because the complexities that I had heard about of converting from non-AutoCAD to AutoCAD, which was what all the engineers used, was so risky that you couldn't trust that it was going to come out on the other end of the conversion-- why it had to be. So we then converted to AutoCAD and stayed with AutoCAD.

LINDA DAVIS: Do you know what hardware you ran AutoCAD on?

JACK PYBURN: I think it-- well, it was an IBM-like machine. It was-- heck, it may have even been DOS at the outset. But however, I don't remember when we went to Windows. Was there something between DOS and Windows or did Microsoft--

LINDA DAVIS: I'm pretty sure--

JACK PYBURN: It was Windows?

LINDA DAVIS: It was Windows.

JACK PYBURN: Then that's what we-- I had a-- excuse me. I had an employee who now works with Georgia Tech, whose brother-- a simple computers. And we wanted one that had enough capacity-- excuse me, goodness-- had enough capacity to be able to handle our files.

And so he basically assembled for us boxes. And at one point I think we had two in serial connection some way. And I think I have one of those. I know I have one, and I think that's one that he built.


And we had-- one, two, four maybe? Four or five workstations. When I went to LAS, we had 10 people and about 10 people. We were still doing preservation planning work as well as architecture. Though, some of it was written words, some of it was drawings. Some was both. Most of it was both.

And then before I went to LAS, Rivet had already happened. And so we bought, I think, one Rivet license, maybe two. And we actually brought the first-- LAS was on Intergraph.

And I was telling Wendy, that Tony Aeck, of Lord Aeck Sargent. His father was an architect here. And when Tony got out of school, he went to work with his father. But Tony, to my knowledge, did traditional architectural work. He actually invested in Intergraph.

He was like one of the early licensor to Intergraph. When you want to talk to somebody about software history, he would be a good one to talk to. And he was doing John Portman's work.

So Portman didn't have a computer. If they did, they supplemented it with Aeck and associates Intergraph set up. And Tony was-- maybe he did for Stevens and Wilkinson too, so the large firms that had not fully invested in software.

So LAS was still Intergraph in '07. And I brought the first revenue model, revenue placements over. And they then had to, themselves, bite the bullet about whether they were going to stick with Intergraph or go to Rivet. And they moved over the Rivet-- '08 or fairly soon after we got there.

I mean, the external forces driving that, not us. But none the less we-- the last iteration of software for OJP was Rivet. And I was always interested in trying to keep its current with what the software was, to be able to do the things that it could do. I mean, to be able to take advantage of that.

I mean and now, where we used to go hand measure a room, we'd come in with a scan or just a scanner. We set up a scanner and it shows that camera and all its detail. I mean, it's amazing.

We use drones now. I mean, that whole-- it's so terrific in such a short period of time. But anyway, so that's the journey through software.

The only other thing that came to mind was we did start to develop websites, or a website. And I heard this guy who-- a very interesting guy. He wanted to be a writer, a creative writer. And so he did that on his off time. But he also would-- he did our website.

And then we would do things like-- we had one section on our website that was restaurant reviews. And we were out in these little bergs, these little rural areas, working on historic buildings. And they would always have a meet three or some sort of local kitchen that somebody had set up, and we would come back and write a food review on having at the Doc's Cafe in Decatur, Alabama, or something like that.

But he set up the website for us. And again, that was such a funky time of when what you were using to set up web sites were changing almost daily, that it's hard to keep up with and up-to-date website. Probably still is, but it was really challenging then. There was no little standardization. People did their own things.

LINDA DAVIS: Some websites have changed. And order of magnitude change in a very short amount of time.

JACK PYBURN: Yeah. Yeah.


LINDA DAVIS: I remember the early ones.


LINDA DAVIS: How do you imagine software might affect architecture, historic preservation, and design in the future?

JACK PYBURN: Well, I mean, it's already having huge affects. Taking preservation for starters, the reality of preservation, you start with a building. So you're trying to understand everything you can about that building. And as I said a minute ago, the ability to do a laser scan of a building is just astounding.

And in preservation, there are standards that are mainly set up by the National Park Service, and the National Archive, of what they will accept. And they've been very slow, and probably with good reason, to evolve. I mean they have just gotten past requiring hand drawings for the National Historic Building Survey, which is their National Archive Records System.

And so the idea of them accepting a 3D scan as an acceptable documentation-- of course it's removed that human aspect of it. But it is just unfortunate for the value of having to look so carefully, when you're measuring, to now receiving this scan and having not having the process for being so intimately engaged with the building. That's been a challenge, particularly for younger folks in their profession that didn't have that orientation going in.

But the ability to get that scan, the ability to the level of detail you could never get, and to get it quickly and efficiently and cost efficiently and otherwise. So you're getting multiple times of data in a fraction of the time. You just couldn't-- it's humanly impossible to get that much physical recording of a building. So that's a huge thing.

And as I said, scans are another-- I mean, drones are another factor that-- both from used to-- is that lift? OK. Used to-- we would have to get on a crane to get up to see it. Now we can send a drone up with a camera on it. And so that's huge.

Now, on the architecture side it's all becoming integrated. In fact, Lord Aeck Sargent has been purchased by this tech startup that is not delivering you a wall system or a sink you can buy and put in your architectural design. They're selling you the whole building-- built in a factory, 30, 60 days, bring it to the site. And it's all in this machine designed to build the assembly. That's where this thing is going-- where the profession's going.

LINDA DAVIS: What's the most interesting or most annoying aspects of your work?

JACK PYBURN: Well I think the most interesting is that every project is special, and every project has a fascinating history to it. And I think the opportunity and the honor and to be able to be stewards of these resources is really quite special. Right now, most of my work is on civil rights, on century civil rights work, in Birmingham.

And the idea that a kid who was may one in the class, segregated high school classes, has the opportunity to work on preserving in the South, people in the South, worked on preserving the sacred civil rights sites, is sometimes it's a very humbling experience. And so then I would say that's--


LINDA DAVIS: So let me just quickly say, those sites would be the 16th Street Baptist Church?

JACK PYBURN: 16th Street Baptist Church and Gaston Motel. I worked on the Montgomery Bus Station.

LINDA DAVIS: Which is now the Freedom Riders Museum?

JACK PYBURN: Right. Exactly. We're working on the motel right now. And the African-American Masonic Lodge here over at Auburn Avenue and in Birmingham. Again, these were such special places. I mean, it is really humbling.

LINDA DAVIS: I'm glad we're, as a society, getting around and taking care of this overlooked part of our history. What type of personality traits do you think it takes to make a good architect?

JACK PYBURN: Well, it's a very diverse profession. So it's not-- I mean, people think of it as the Howard Roark, kind of the starchitect. But it really accommodates a wide range of people.

Some people are good at free association, design, creativity. Some people are geared toward organizing information and presenting it clearly. Some people are good at managing a team. Some are better being a specialist in a particular aspect of it.

So there's really not one personality type. I think that's one of the things that I thought preservation was so important to have an education because not everybody is a designer. You go to architecture school and it's all focused, or majority focused, on design.

And for those who are in their particular interest or their strength, I think it's a responsibility to inform all students that this is a very special way to practice architecture. And so I think there's just not a single answer to that question.

LINDA DAVIS: Well, maybe this one will help. Did you have a favorite project at OJP?

JACK PYBURN: Well, let me say my favorite project to date is the Hinman building at Georgia Tech. And I think it is the most successful integration of a new use into a historic environment where the design, while looking fresh and creative, is absolutely integrated into the history of that building. Every decision in there is intentional and related to the history of that building. It is a really special project.

The Gwinnett County Courthouse project is one, obviously my first major courthouse. So I think that would be one. But the the great thing is they're all special.

I worked on a slave quarters at the Oakland Plantation. An absolutely amazing experience to do that. I mean, so it's, I mean, that's one of the things I'm so fortunate about is that every project is special.

I mean, and it's just, it's hard to describe. I mean I know if that's unique. There must be some weird about me, but that's just the way it is.

LINDA DAVIS: I wanted to know what the impetus is behind the courthouse city hall study. And you sort of answered it saying, you did Gwinnett first, and then--

JACK PYBURN: Well, that's a little different animal. So what happened was, when George Bush was governor of Texas-- and this is a bit mythical I think but to some degree probably right-- he got the idea that if he came up with a fund to improve the historic courthouses in Texas, he could have good feelings for all the judges in the state. I mean, because they have judges not commissioners. And he could get a photo op on the courthouse in every county in the state of Texas.

So they could come up with this annual fund. And I don't know, they started out of, $60 million a year, but then they kept it up for years. They had a lot of gas money, they had sources they could do that.


So there was the idea, why don't we do that in Georgia? Georgia has more counties than any other state, except Texas and California. So we have a lot of them. And many of them are in places that don't have much economy left and need some help.

And so the idea was can we do that in Georgia? And the first question was, well, if we do that how much money do we need? So the Georgia tri-state, the state preservation office, and the association of county commissioners jointly funded an exercise to try to figure out what that cost was. And as one would expect, it was complicated methodology and a moving target.

But the number was astounding, it was breathtaking, and not politically something anyone could swallow. It was one big number. So we then just-- we gave them a number in the background, but we also tried to come up with what a reasonable starting point was.

It never got legs, but interestingly some rumbling about it happened bringing that up again. That's where it came from was really the Texas example and seeing if that could be done in Georgia.

LINDA DAVIS: Well, there's a wealth of resources in the collection now.

JACK PYBURN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

LINDA DAVIS: I would like you to talk about some of the big projects. And in my way of thinking, the big projects are the ones that have taken up so much shelf space. C3B, which is the Cherokee County Community buildings.

JACK PYBURN: Well, that's a very interesting project. I mean, as you can see, it's a new building. And there were five-- what was it? Five, four, five power stations and community buildings. And we'd done the courthouse for Cherokee county.

And they'd liked what we'd done, and they said, we're going to do these. Would you do those? So we said, yeah.

And so it was basically a design for three pieces of fire equipment, a community room on one side with a small sheriff's office in the back, and then the support for the fire services on the other side. So it included restrooms, showers, bunk space, and administrative space-- control center. You could then do a two-bay window, or you could do a three-bay window. So all you do is just adjust the bay. Everything else was the same.

We got the drawings done. We bid the project. The county wanted to have what's called liquidated damages. So from a documentation standpoint, it was a fairly straightforward. And for us, it was a big project. For Lord Aeck Sargent or other firms, it was puny. But for us it was a big project.

So they hired the contractor and liquidated damages-- are you familiar with liquidated damages?

LINDA DAVIS: Why don't you explain that a little bit.

JACK PYBURN: So liquidated damages is you agree to have the project finished by a certain date. And if you don't have it finished, then you have to pay some amount back for every day after that, that you don't finish. So the contractor got behind.

And they put a temporary-- they had two or three of these growing at once, and they put a temporary roof on them and started doing drywall work on the inside. And a big storm came, blew the temporary roof off, which was really just the underlayment for the permanent roof. Flooded the buildings.

We stopped the construction, we brought in an environmental firm-- the county did with our assistance. We brought in an environmental firm. They assessed the, mainly mold issue.

That was all remediated. The environmental firm-- by the contractor, according to what the environmental firm designed. The environmental firm came back in and cleared it. They went back and finished construction. About a week before the statute of limitations was up, I got a visit from the sheriff with a suit for $60 million.

I thought, gee whiz. One, that ought to be anxiety provoking, but I frankly 00:55:00didn't get too excited because for one, I didn't have $60 million. The number didn't mean anything.

That suit went on for a decade, and it really was not deemed to be of merit. The firemen brought it against everybody. They had an aggressive lawyer and used the system in every variety of ways. And at the end of the day, the buildings were occupied and used.

But it's just one of those cases where everybody gets brought into it and we'd throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. The contractor ended up going out of business, over the project, which was unfortunate. But that was, I think, in part related to the volume of the documentation, was because it took so long and it included so much communication back and forth about where documentation of what exactly had happened.

But there were nice little buildings and seemed to be working fine. And I'm proud of the outcome. It was really the construction phase that caused that to be a problem.

LINDA DAVIS: Another one that has a lot of volume to it is Canton High School.

JACK PYBURN: Well, Canton High School was a very interesting project, in part because it was three buildings. And one of the fascinating things about working on 20th century buildings is you had this late 19th century introduction of modern materials called, engineering materials-- glass, steel, and concrete. And those were, you had to engineer their strength.

I mean, you had to be able to predict what they could do because they were, in effect, created not by just trial and error over like masonry-- low-bearing masonry walls. That was trial and error over eons. And so what you found in the 20th century, or the first half of the 20th century, was this bringing together of different materials, and trying to figure out how they could work together.

I mean, you can see some of it in early courthouses where they would use concrete as a fire proofing, and everything else was low-bearing. Masonry wood frame was old 19th century construction and before. Except you would see these new-- these new assemblies.

And one of the most dramatic buildings-- I didn't work on it, but I had the opportunity to see it-- is the courthouse in Somerville, Georgia. If you look at that courthouse in Somerville, Georgia, you would say this is a mid-19th century, low-bearing masonry building of neoclassical style with columns in front, et cetera. And a dome, a big dome on it.

You go inside, concrete building, steel frame structure for the roof. It is absolutely in every way, construction wise, a modern building. So that's one of the fascinating things about the evolution of construction work. What was your question? I wondered off.

I'm sorry, I lost my-- I got all engrossed in that, so I was going somewhere with that, but I didn't--

LINDA DAVIS: Well, we were talking about Canton High School.

JACK PYBURN: Oh, yeah. Yeah. OK.

So Canton High School was one of those buildings. And it was an early 20th century building. And it had some absolutely unusual-- I've never seen it again-- wall assembly that they used in that building, that from a waterproofing standpoint, was very challenging.

There was no cavity. There was no-- there was this hollow brick and plaster on the inside. And over time, it had not held up well.

And so we had to figure out why it didn't hold up well. But it was all about these assemblies of new materials that hadn't existed before, that the architects were using to produce what, in effect, was a very traditional almost collegiate Gothic in a very simplistic way, elementary and high school building.


LINDA DAVIS: Interesting stuff. Well, I don't want to let you get away before we talk a little bit about your Olympic venue.

JACK PYBURN: Well, that was a fun thing. Now, I didn't actually design the Olympic venue. So when we moved to Gainesville, it's on Lake Lanier. And Lake Lanier, well, because of my football, in my mid-30s I just couldn't run anymore for exercising. My joints started bothering me.

And I'd grown up on lakes in Louisiana. I thought, gee, I saw a picture on Patagonia Catalog actually, of a retired psychologist on a Colorado mountain lake, in a single shell, and it just looked like a religious experience. And so I found somebody that sold shells and I bought one and learned to row.

And then when the Olympics came along, I said, gee, if there's anything I'd like to try to be involved with, it would be the rowing venue. Well, they announced it for Stone Mountain. That didn't work because it would cost too much. They then announced it for Rockdale County on a place that didn't have a lake yet.

And I had already gotten to unlearn the design criteria for the venue. And so I had rowed on a part of the lake that met that criteria. But we tried to communicate to the Olympic Committee that there was an option up here. They wouldn't talk to us.

So I told a friend of mine in Gainesville, and I'd drawn up this plan, that we had an option. That if we could just get an audience with the Olympic committee, we could show him an option anyway. Because I knew rowing enough at that point, because I'd done a little bit of recreational competition, that rowers do not like places where they don't have water and can't test it.

And this, Rockdale county, they couldn't predict they could even have water, much less test it. So Acock wouldn't give us the time of day. And I called the US rowing in Indianapolis, and I said we got an option here.

I knew the rowing community was not happy with the way Acock had handled it. And they said, well, if you come up in two days, the International Rowing Olympic Association will be here, and we'll wait for you to present it to them. We got up there and, lo and behold, the guy who wouldn't talk to us, that they had the Olympic Committee, was there. He was not happy.

But the guy that was my friend in Gainesville, his mother was Zell Miller's sister. And so we got the governor's plane and we loaded this thing on it, and loaded up the county commissioner, and all went up to Indianapolis and made our little pitch. And there, everybody was pretty close to the chest about the reaction to it.

But it was clear fairly quickly that they were interested. And ultimately that happened. And I then became the probably the liaison for the Gainesville community, from a technical standpoint and so forth. I had researched who owned the land.

Fortunately, the Corps of Engineers owned the land. So you would think the corps would have big environmental concerns. They were, turns out, pushed out of the LA Olympics previously. They were very upset they didn't have a more positive role in the LA Olympics, so they were really tickled to have this be in our corps of engineers venue.

So I end up managing the boathouse and just having several years of fun experience, rowing primarily, and being around the lead rowers. That was really-- the main work I did was knowing what a venue required, knowing where there was a site, and then showing how the ownership and the layout could accommodate an international event. And generally, it worked out. It was fun.

LINDA DAVIS: And it looks like the venue is still going strong today.

JACK PYBURN: It is. One of the venues absolutely is. In fact, I saw on Facebook last night, that a friend of mine is the announcer for the Canoe Kayak, which still has an active program there as well. I mean, they're having their national championships there.

LINDA DAVIS: I think they had them in '18. Yes.

JACK PYBURN: I mean, it's one of the top venues because the water is so perfect. 01:05:00It's one of the top venues. It's river life, but is a lake.

So it's still-- you have to have a certain flow. You can't go beyond it. So you can't have a fast river for a sprint race.

LINDA DAVIS: Of all the different topics we've discussed, have any of them affected your personal growth?

JACK PYBURN: Well, I think, I mean, I had some unavoidable that it hasn't shaped what my values are and my interests are. You can't have the experience like working at Meacham Park, and working on the civil rights sites and not have it affect your personal growth. Certainly, my respect for the value of history to the future is one, but it's just a part of me.

LINDA DAVIS: Most archivists will share that feeling with you.

JACK PYBURN: Those are the things that come to mind.

LINDA DAVIS: Are there is some further experiences you'd like to share, or any tips for new budding future architects out there?

JACK PYBURN: Well, the one I would that haven't-- I've just touched on-- is I have invested a lot of personal time out of interest. But partly because, in large part, because my father-in-law who I had the opportunity to know for 20 or 30 years. And the history of architectural pre-cast concrete, which I think is not very well-- people aren't aware of it at this point.

And as a result I've been able to continue to research. I've had several research grants. I've got one small one out of Duke. The final step. I'm trying to organize a book on the subject.

And I'm going to give a talk in Morocco in October on the subject. And I'm a part of EU project on concrete and I'll go to Warsaw this fall. And that's been a particular hobby, if you will.

Because I've done it-- pretty much been on my own initiative. It's not a part of Lord Aeck Sargent or an academic particular program. So that's a piece of my interest that's taken up 15 or 20 years at this point and will probably pick up a little more in terms of focus, but has provided a wonderful opportunity to experience the world and people and other folks with interesting ideas and interest along the way as well.

So I would say that's one other piece of my activity. It's my preservation. It's very much a part of preservation interest, but also has a family connection and as an international preservation connection. I've been working with the Getty on-- it's a part of some of their expert panels and so forth. It's been a real treat to be able to do that.

LINDA DAVIS: I would imagine it has been. And advice for a budding architect?

JACK PYBURN: Well, I don't know whether-- it's hard to say be interested in preservation. I would say that for architects, in general, I would hope they would have the opportunity to be exposed to and to consider the appropriate role of preserving as a part of sustainability. And not just the physical environment, but the cultural history and the cultural environment, as a part of architectural practice.

And that it's a part of their value system. Because it at the end of the day it's the value system that influences one's approach to something. And if 01:10:00there's not some balance and some respect for the cultural component of human life, then it gets lost. And as a part of that community of experience that informs the future that will make the future harder and man not as rich and so forth.

So that would be my hope for architects in general. And then I hope for those who could find a rewarding career in it, I would hope they have the opportunity and take the opportunity to consider what preservation can be. We just had a Georgia Tech student-- they have zero exposure.

Well, I shouldn't say zero. They have a little bit of exposure. But I wouldn't say it's a more engaging preservation fear of work or thinking.

But this person has just decided they want preservation. The preservation guide-- the board of regents, they have one person. He's had a huge impact on campuses across the state.

I went to Georgia Tech. Had no exposure of preservation. Just said I want it and I'm going to figure out how to get there through the Georgia Tech program. I mean, this was 30, 40 years ago. But I think those are the things that I would hope students would both have an opportunity to and consider as well.

LINDA DAVIS: Well, on behalf of myself and Georgia Tech Libraries and special collections and archives, thank you so much for participating today.

JACK PYBURN: Well, it's a treat to be here. Thank you very much.

LINDA DAVIS: I'm so glad you could join us.

JACK PYBURN: Thank you.