Few lines will surely not do justice to the topic of modernism in Fayetteville, North-West Arkansas, the place that hosts an excellent design department of Arkansas University, as well as cherishes a sound memory of the creations of E. Fay Jones, one of the most distinguished students of Frank Lloyd Wright the father of American modernism. In fact, E. Fay Jones was himself a son of Eastern Arkansas.

Having these in mind, we describe here one of the most interesting recent projects, the redesigning of the Fayetteville ex-public library, by the architect Marlon Blackwell, himself a student of E. Fay Jones, one that is searching for new modes of expression nevertheless, including the use of vernacular in modernist contexts.

The ex-public library of Fayetteville was built in 1962 by Warren Segraves, a contemporary of E. Fay Jones. The building displayed grids, flat roofs, and an overall airy structure and appearance, suited to the hilly terrain on which it was built.  In 2004, following successive extensions, the library moved to another location.

Marlon Blackwell and his team of architects converted the ex-library into an office space,  The Fulbright Building. The conversion consisted, among others, of the addition of a floor, new spatial joints between the old and the new parts of the building, and, above all, developing a “ship in a bottle” design concept, clearly defining interior spaces in relation to the envelope and the existing steel structural grid (1). 


In addition, we give examples of a few functional modernist buildings that employ brick and wood as raw materials. These, albeit not being the signature of remarkable designers of modernism, build-up on a local tradition that witnessed the transition through all colonial and historical styles since the creation of the city, in the late eighteenth century. This means that today`s modernism hints to past modes of expression like Baroque, Art Nouveau (vernacular), and Art Deco.

About The Fulbright Building: https://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/8169-the-fulbright-building [accessed on 31st of July 2019]

About Marlon Blackwell: https://www.marlonblackwell.com/profile/ [accessed on 31st of July 2019]

Text: Raluca Goleșteanu

Photos: Rod Jacobs

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