After WWII, states looked at their aging capitol buildings and considered sweeping new plans to bring technology, commerce, government, and even the performing arts into the full 20th century. One of the few state capitols to actually achieve this was Albany NY. The Empire State Plaza is series of Modernist office and cultural buildings that started in the late 1950’s, and it’s gorgeous. It’s a stunning achievement spearheaded by NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller and designed primarily by architect Wallace Harrison.
Albany’s master plan was so successful, other states wanted to do the same thing. One of those was North Carolina. In 1965, the State Capital planning Commission issues a report and a design they had been working on for several administrations. The goal was, like Albany, to transform the epicenter of downtown Raleigh, the state capitol, into a city of the future. The blue ribbon panel of architects, consultants, and government members presented a beautiful plan.
One of those consultants from 1965 is a young man with a lot of potential who just turned 90. Lewis Clarke is one of North Carolina’s most celebrated and prolific landscape architects. Clarke came to Harvard on a Fulbright Scholarship taught at the the NCSU School of Design from 1952 to 1968. His teaching influenced generations of architects and his 1300 projects, papers, photographs, and slides are now at the NC State University Special Collections Research Center, their third largest collection. And he’s received awards from Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, and Nancy Reagan.
Erin Sterling Lewis is a partner in situ studio in Raleigh. Her firm won multiple design awards, including our own Matsumoto Prize, and she teaches at NC State University. She was President of AIA North Carolina representing the thousands of architects in the state. She also works with NCModernist on our high school outreach program, Project BauHow, and has served on countless AIA committees plus the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the Raleigh Planning Commission.
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