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American Institute of Architects New York State Honors HHL Architects

Martin House News
December 17, 2019

The American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) has awarded HHL Architects a 2019 Design Award for its 25-year, multiple phased restoration effort at the Frank Lloyd Wright Martin House estate.

AIA New York State’s Annual Design Awards celebrate local, national, and international projects that achieve architectural excellence designed by architects throughout New York State. HHL Architects, located on Allen Street in Buffalo, received an Award of Merit for the Martin House project in the Historic Preservation/Adaptive Reuse category.

“The opportunity to repair and restore Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, a self-proclaimed opus of Prairie house design, took the entire firm on an incredible journey,” stated Matthew Meier, AIA, HHL’s managing partner and the Architect of Record for the restoration. “We are honored to accept the award on behalf of the devoted HHL staff and the talented team of specialized engineers, consultants, and advisors who partnered with us.”

Working with New York State’s Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service, HHL and the Martin House Restoration Corporation oversaw the significant project. The estate was named a NYS Historic Site in 1986, thus the restoration and reconstruction efforts followed The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

“The dedication and talented efforts of the team at HHL over these many years have been superlative,” said Mary Roberts, Martin House Executive Director. “The final product of our beautifully restored campus of buildings is a direct result of HHL Architects’ considerate and faithful interpretation of Wright’s original design genius.”

The project required substantial ingenuity and creativity to insert modern materials and systems into the historic fabric. Custom ceramic roof tiles from France and individually-cut roman bricks were researched and fabricated to emulate original materials. Interior design elements including intricate woodwork, custom color finishes, and a massive four-sided glass mosaic fireplace were refurbished and reinstated. Three supporting structures on the estate required total reconstruction. During the past two years, the project entered the final phase of implementation that focused on the rehabilitation of the Wright-designed landscape plan.

“There is great reward for the entire city when reinvestment happens in historic buildings like the Martin House,” explained Meier. “And the firm experienced countless educational opportunities along the way as we deciphered 100-year-old design and construction techniques in addition to the procurement and replication of 100-year-old materials.”

Meier credits the success of the Martin House restoration to HHL Architect’s founding partner Theodore Lownie, who passed away in 2017. A leading architect in the Buffalo community, he also served as a clinical faculty member with the University at Buffalo for more than 20 years while leaving his mark on high-profile projects throughout the city. Meier considers Lownie the “heart and soul” of the Martin House restoration efforts.

The Martin House currently welcomes 40,000 guests each year from across the world. It is widely recognized as one of the first preservation projects that symbolizes the Buffalo community’s reinvention and renaissance capitalizing on its architectural legacy.

AIANYS Executive Director Georgi Ann Bailey said, “The quality of our members’ work and contributions they make to continuously advance the profession inspire me. I commend the recipients on the projects they designed to preserve and enhance our communities and their passion to transform the profession of architecture.”

Out of three hundred submissions in 2019, twenty-five projects were recognized for awards in multiple categories. Roberts accepted the award on behalf of HHL Architects at a luncheon held on December 6, 2019 in White Plains, NY.

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