Archive for Monday, May 20, 1996


May 20, 1996


The commonplace architecture in eastern Kansas will be studied and celebrated this week.

The alleys of East Lawrence and a concrete elevator north of the Kansas River are among the attractions luring at least 235 architects, urban planners and historic preservationists to Lawrence this week.

The occasion is the 17th Annual Vernacular Architecture Forum, a conference devoted to studying common buildings and landscapes. Dennis Domer, an organizer of the four-day conference which starts Wednesday, said vernacular architecture includes buildings that weren't designed by architects.

``They're the common buildings that are repeated over and over,'' said Domer, associate dean of Kansas University's School of Architecture. ``It's everything from a 19th-century barn to a Kentucky Fried Chicken on 23rd Street.''

Domer said the largest block of conference participants, including a member of the Smithsonian Institution's staff, will be coming from the eastern United States, but the West Coast and South also will be well-represented.

A number of walking tours of downtown Lawrence and adjoining neighborhoods will be conducted. On Friday, participants will have an opportunity to compare the architecture of the working-class neighborhoods in East Lawrence with the merchant-class homes in Old West Lawrence.

``We're looking at the role of buildings in an economic system,'' Domer said, noting that the study also includes utilitarian farm buildings.

``This is a place where city and country are deeply obligated to each other,'' he said.

On Thursday the group will leave Lawrence in buses for a Flint Hills field trip that will include a dinner hosted by the townspeople of Alma.

Friday afternoon's agenda includes lunch at the Vinland Methodist Church and tour of the town site, which Domer said is an example of a ``failed urban landscape.''

Domer said he's not surprised that so many members of the forum are interested in coming to Lawrence, which has preserved much of its vernacular architecture.

``It's a national treasure and they recognize it. Because of the type of planning we've done, there are not many places like it,'' he said.

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