Students try hand at courthouse design

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2001

Saturday, September 01, 2001

The Natchez Democrat

Nine architecture students from Texas Agricultural & Mechanical

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University are getting hands-on knowledge of historic preservation

at Memorial Hall this weekend.

The graduate students arrived in Natchez Thursday and will

leave Sunday. During their time here, they are measuring and sketching

the historic Pearl Street building in order to compile plans to

renovate the building for use as a federal courthouse.

In 15 months, Memorial Hall should be renovated, furnished

and ready to use as a federal courthouse.

But the students’ plans will not be used to actually renovate

the building – an architect will do that, said Natchez City Planner

David Preziosi.

Instead, the project will count as one-third of the work needed

for the students to earn certificates in historic preservation,

said Bob Warden, the university’s master of science in architecture


&uot;This is much more valuable than sticking in a classroom,&uot;

student Ann Thomas said, while wielding a laser device used to

measure the dimensions of the building. &uot;You can learn so

much more by actually seeing the building than looking at some

slides on a screen.

&uot;This is three-dimensional; that’s two-dimensional,&uot;

she added. &uot;And in reality, when you’re an architect, you

don’t stay in your office 24/7 – you out to go the building and

take a look. This way you learn how to investigate.&uot;

Outside, student Doratee Chootinun was busy sketching the outside

of the building. &uot;You get a lot more experience this way,&uot;&160;she

said. &uot;You get to see the details of the building – and this

is an outstanding building.&uot;

&uot;It’s an opportunity for them to learn more about historic

preservation and how those issues are addressed in Natchez,&uot;

said Preziosi, himself a Texas A&M graduate with a certificate

in historic preservation.

In planning the renovation of such a building, one must consider

not only the building’s history, but must follow local building

codes and specific guidelines for the building of federal courthouses,

Warden said.

While in Natchez, the students will also gather information

necessary to draw up plans for replacing another building, a Franklin

Street structure that was heavily damaged by severe weather.

They will also visit other sites, such as antebellum houses

– good background, said Warden, in case students want to later

write their theses on Natchez topics.

And after their Natchez trip, the students will build a model

of the building and the buildings surrounding it, Warden said.

&uot;They’ll be looking at the context of the building, not

just the building itself,&uot;&160;he said.