Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities
When George Wittenberg sent me his address I didn’t look at it closely. It wasn’t until the morning of our interview that I read it and thought, “Huh? This isn’t near the River Market.” I was so certain that was where he lived. I plugged the address into Mapquest and, again, nowhere near the River Market district. I e-mailed Wittenberg for confirmation. “Between 15th and 16th,” he replied. In the Abeles complex.
Where did I get the idea that his home, which is legendary for its sophisticated and gorgeous aesthetic, was near the River Market? It dawned on me: It’s because that’s where I’ve heard people talk about him and his home. It’s a testament to the crucial role Wittenberg plays in the continued development of downtown Little Rock; you can’t talk about it without his name coming up.
About his home: You have to see it. You won’t believe it. It’s the most interesting home in Little Rock. You’ve never seen anything like it. Unless you’ve been to New York.
It also has a clean, functional aesthetic with a hint of playfulness and a hint of edginess. It is signature Wittenberg. You have to see it.
But even more interesting is the home’s location. South of I-630, past Juanita’s, west of Main. Surrounded by buildings of all sorts — hopelessly rundown, livable but sad, well-tended, immaculately restored.
Let’s back up and talk a bit about who George Wittenberg is. If the name sounds familiar, there are at least two good reasons. Wittenberg is a third-generation architect; his grandfather was, in 1919, the first registered architect in the state of Arkansas. The firm he established and where his grandson was once a partner, Wittenberg, Delony and Davidson, has been a force in Arkansas architecture for almost 90 years. George Wittenberg’s name has also been in the news regularly since he left the family firm in 1992 to help found the Urban Studies and Design program at UALR. The program teaches urban planning and design through a combination of classroom and real-world experience. That real-world experience largely comes through working with Wittenberg on community-driven planning projects.
Wittenberg’s heart may have always been in community projects. He said that he was always interested in studying “architecture’s relationship to the community rather than architecture’s relationship to itself. It is not isolated.” After completing his master’s degree in architecture and design at Harvard University, Wittenberg went to work for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. There, he worked largely on the redevelopment of downtown Boston. When he returned home to work at the Wittenberg firm, he had more public clients, like the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
As part of the Urban Studies and Design program at UALR, Wittenberg and his students have completed more than 200 studies on community design for public and private investors. Wittenberg’s goal for the UALR program is to make the city, especially downtown, what cities should be: a place for people. Several of these studies have resulted in large projects, such as the Junction Bridge, that are now in various stages of completion. Here are two:
Block 97 is the block southeast of the Pulaski County Courthouse (between Second and Third and Spring and Center streets). County Judge Buddy Villines wanted an affordable, community-friendly, attractive way to add parking near the courthouse. He was joined by the city of Little Rock, the Downtown Partnership and Metrocentre Improvement District in commissioning the study.
Block 97 is largely vacant, with the exception of a handful of historic buildings along Second Street, most notably the Center Place building. Initially the plan called for underground parking and a park “dedicated to Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation.” It would have been a green spot in the middle of the city with benches, trees, sidewalks and shade.
He's a monster with monsters who aid his unholy lust