Architect Ron Shelby on Moving the Frank Lloyd Wright House to Arkansas

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 12:00 am  

Ron Shelby

Hight-Jackson and CEO Ron Shelby were chosen to oversee the reassembly of the Bachman Wilson House, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and moved from its previous home in New Jersey, on the grounds of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Shelby studied architecture under Fay Jones, for whom the University of Arkansas’ architecture school is named, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in architecture in 1974. He came to Hight-Jackson Associates in 1976 and has extensive experience in designing higher education and K-12 school facilities, including Bentonville High School North. He’s a member of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects & Interior Designers, the American Institute of Architects and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International.

Tell us a little bit about your architecture firm, such as what kind of projects you specialize in and projects that you’re particularly proud of.

We have always specialized in K-12 educational facilities and have a large project and client base in that area of expertise. We have in the last 10 years expanded our client base into health care, higher education and corporate markets as well as private developer work. We have always done some of that, but now we are seeing a broader range of clients and our portfolio reflects this diversity.

You’re now the ninth-largest architecture firm in Arkansas, based on the number of registered architects on staff, and northwest Arkansas continues to grow. What are the biggest challenges in responding to this growth?

Achieving that status is one thing, but the fact that half our professional staff is registered speaks volumes about the type of associates we have in our studio. It is our job to keep that talent challenged and fully engaged with the scope of our projects. Young interns come into the profession with a lot of passion for what they do. We, as a firm, must give them an outlet for that passion through design opportunities and diversity of work.

You have a number of LEED-accredited staff members. How important is sustainable design to your clients? Is it a subject that your firm broaches or do clients come to you seeking sustainability?

Obviously, sustainable design should be a part of any project. We find most clients are receptive to certain components of sustainable design. Conserving energy is an easy selling point. The use of renewable resources in our design can be somewhat harder for clients to appreciate. We always look for opportunities to educate clients when they discuss sustainable design.

How did your firm become involved in the reassembly of the Bachman Wilson House on the Crystal Bridges grounds?

We partnered with Crystal Bridges a few years back with the construction of the Turrell Skyspace. We worked closely with the artist, James Turrell, to create the necessary construction documents for its construction. Mr. Turrell had very tight tolerances and high expectations for structure. We successfully created the necessary details and oversaw the construction of that to the satisfaction of people at Crystal Bridges and, maybe more importantly, of the artist, James Turrell.

What are the biggest challenges of this high-profile project?

Meeting the high level of expectations of the staff at Crystal Bridges as well as the public. Crystal Bridges is a great work of art. We are approaching the construction of the Bachman Wilson House as if we are re-creating another work of art that meets the high standards that the public has come to expect in anything that happens on the campus of Crystal Bridges. We are honored to be a part of anything on its campus.



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