Ithaca Homegrown Architecture Firm – HOLT Architects – Turns 50!
Reaching a Golden Anniversary is an amazing accomplishment for anyone – let alone a local, privately-owned, and community-based architecture practice such as HOLT Architects who will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2013.
While many firms that reach this milestone have experienced mergers, takeovers, or re-structuring, HOLT Architects has remained privately held and perennially focused on community, business, healthcare and higher education clientele since its founding by Peter Levatich as a sole proprietorship in Ithaca in 1963.
For some, reaching fifty can be associated with being old and “over the hill”. But as witnessed from the enthusiasm and energy surrounding the Rolling Stones’ fiftieth anniversary tour and the excitement behind the elite car company Lamborghini’s release of a new fiftieth anniversary model, being fifty is just the contrary. And for HOLT Architects, being fifty means having a large and loyal client base, deep-rooted ideals, decades of institutional experience to pass along, and many lessons learned on which to base an innovative future.
Being a part of the vibrant, innovative, and activist Ithaca community since 1963, the architects at HOLT have seen a lot happen in the building community over the last five decades.
Sitting with HOLT’s current “éminence grise” David Taube, he recalls his early days in practice – “Being an architect in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Ithaca meant witnessing the loss of many great buildings. However, we weren’t around just for the destruction, but fortunately also for the revitalization – The Ithaca Commons, Ithaca City School District, and Tompkins Community Hospital to name a few.”
This longevity also means understanding the importance of an architectural heritage and communicating it to the next generation of architects and community leaders to make sure societies hold on to their historical legacy. As well as build on it.
“There is so much history that can be lost if it’s not communicated. It boils down to people and their institutional memory. A structure in its original state may not last, but the history can be carried on through knowledge and communication. HOLT’s office building – The Crescent Theater – has been revitalized several times since it was built in 1916 as a silent movie house during Ithaca’s heyday as the center of the film industry. But without the people preserving and sharing this knowledge with younger generations, this information could be forgotten” states Taube. “When we renovated the building in 1985 we tried to keep as much of the original fabric as possible, while repurposing it for its new life as an office building.”
But it is not just history that HOLT knows is important, it is learning from times gone by and applying this knowledge to future efforts. In order to avoid repeating some of the excesses and mistakes of the past, it is important not only to understand the built environment around each structure, but the cultural shifts in society – and to recognize which ones will make an impact.
“Being in practice in Ithaca for 50 years, we have seen the effect of society on buildings, and conversely buildings on society. As responsible architects and deeply invested members of the community, it is our job and our passion to look at the changes in our culture and translate them into what it means for our clients and in a broad sense for architecture” states Vice-President, Steven Hugo.
An example of this is sustainability – which was a mission that HOLT embraced early – before the catchphrase even came about. HOLT called it responsible architecture, which to them was a reaction to the energy crisis.
“We started integrating sustainable elements into our designs to reduce energy consumption and reuse materials. It was something that was new to everyone, and our clients put trust in us and got on board too” says Principal, Paul Levesque II, one of HOLT’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professionals.
To the architects at HOLT, part of looking forward is looking back – and they certainly have a lot to look back on. With hundreds of projects throughout Tompkins County and New York State – including hospitals, schools, residences, restaurants, offices and apartments, HOLT has been a part of both the challenges and solutions of a growing and changing community.
And when asked what the next fifty years holds, President and 30-year HOLT employee Graham Gillespie states “What I can tell you is that we have learned so much over the past fifty years about what brings success to both our clients and our company – heritage, service, quality, and responsible architecture. And we will continue to hold these core ideals high so that the succeeding generations of HOLT leaders will also respect and celebrate the past while welcoming the innovations of the future.”
HOLT Architects is an award-winning architecture, planning and interior design firm, employing 30 professionals and providing socially and environmentally responsible architecture to community, business, healthcare and higher education clientele.