Journal | Newberry Architecture
On the morning of May 26, I casually walked into the kitchen at home and my partner told me that I needed to watch the news. “Another Black man has been killed by police officers,” he said, and then proceeded to show me the video of the murder of George Floyd. I stood there watching the horrifying images, and as I did, I became overwhelmed with emotion. I sat down in the kind of disbelief that can only come from knowing I was witnessing an innocent man’s life being taken by extreme and brutal force. I felt helplessness, anger and extreme sadness. But more than that, I was gripped by an overwhelming shame.
When my partner first told me what had happened, my immediate thought was, “I wonder what he was doing to get himself killed?” My reaction almost made me physically ill. And then I recalled that this had been my default response to so many other unnecessary deaths. In that moment, I questioned my character. What kind of person am I? What have I been doing?
At the beginning of 2020, I, like so many others, was looking forward to a great year and decade. I had plans for positive and exciting changes in my business and personal life. Although I knew it would be filled with a lot of hard work followed by much reward including my retirement, I knew it was coming and I anticipated its arrival with great optimism.
Then the pandemic became reality, and I found my plans turned upside down. I prioritized with the Principals of the firm to make decisions on how to proceed with business and take care of our team and clients. That became the new focus, and we had it under control. I was all set with a new plan of action.
Newberry Architecture is a small firm, and our team is a culturally diverse group of men and women of different races, sexual orientations and religions. After the senseless killing of George Floyd, we all agreed that we had an obligation to take a stand against racism. They gave me their unanimous support to write this piece as the founder of the firm.
With that, I am speaking from my heart and a place of love for my fellow humans – and for all of humankind.
Considering George Floyd’s tragic death and my initial reaction to it, I was in total conflict. Certainly, I am not a racist. How could I be? My partner is Dominican and Lebanese. I helped build an orphanage and school in Kenya. My best friend Horace was a Black man. Horace and I did everything together for over 10 years before kidney failure took him. We had many discussions about racism, and I experienced and witnessed firsthand the racist actions taken against us as friends and against him as an individual.
But it’s not quite that easy, is it? Did I experience racism with my best friend or did I simply observe it? How could I have such conflicting thoughts and actions? Is this part of systemic racism? I have so many questions and so much to learn.
What I do know is this: We have a problem with racism and the marginalization and oppression of people in our country and around the world. We all know children are not born racist. Racism is learned, and we will not stop it until we address systemic racism. It is time for a change. I am going to start with a self-audit so I can be part of this change.
I look at myself and realize that I have only stood up against racism within my own family. Otherwise, I have mostly remained silent. I have cut people out of my life that were racist, but I never did anything to change their hearts or to show them the pain they were causing. I took the easy path without conflict and never really made a difference. I have not stood up enough or done enough to fight racism. I have experienced prejudices against me my entire life, but I have never experienced racism. I have only observed it. I am a white man who for the most part stayed silent behind – and protected by – the color of my skin. I thought I was doing enough, but I wasn’t. I was actually asleep.
I am awake now and alive with a new awareness. I realize that my plans and ambitions for 2020 and the new decade were too small and self-centered. This is so much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and it is certainly bigger than me. I am hopeful the world is about to change. I am again reminded that I am just a grain of sand in God’s big plan. I understand there is immense anger, pain and suffering across our country and around the world. Racism and Covid-19 are part of a global pandemic that has polarized and divided us in ways we have not seen in a long time.
I trust God must have a plan to bring us back together. History has proven that change always comes after a tragedy. I will be part of the change by supporting and participating in peaceful protest. I will educate myself and others. And most of all, I will no longer remain silent.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
It’s time. Great changes are on the horizon, and I trust we will all find unity through acceptance, compassion and love to become active participants in driving those changes, both as individuals and as a society. Racism must end. The team at Newberry Architecture is ready to do whatever we can, however we must, to eliminate racism.
– Ken Newberry
We meet a lot of people in our industry that are inspiring and creative beyond measure. But, it is a rarity when we are completely blown away by one’s passion for design and architecture. We would like to introduce you to Ron Woodson and Jaime Rummerfield, co-founders of the interior design firm Woodson and Rummerfield’s House of Design. While running the award winning design firm, Ron and Jaime could not turn a blind eye to countless special projects being demolished time and time again. They decided to take action! And so was born Save Iconic Architecture! Keep scrolling to see their inspiration for the organization and how they have beat the odds for saving iconic buildings!
Jaime Rummerfield + Ron Woodson
Newberry Architecture: Your work in preservation for iconic architecture is captivating. Can you dive into what makes you passionate about saving iconic architecture?
Jaime: In design school, and in my travels still today, I cannot get enough history of architecture. I absolutely love how the stories of the past influence the future and bring so much meaning. Today, we live in a world of rapid demolition and disposable construction. We have witnessed far too many notable structures disappear and realized something more needs to be done to bring awareness and protect iconic architecture as art.
Ron: My passion for iconic architecture started from a very early age. My father was a noted jazz musician and he took me with him to various rehearsals and events. I got to experience and enjoy incredible homes owned by luminaries such as Doris Duke, Ray Charles, Sammy Davis, and Eva Gabor to name a few. This passion has never waned, just flourished through the years.
Newberry Architecture: How do you manage a successful design firm and maintain devotion to SIA Projects?
Jaime: Our design office is over 15 years old. We are lucky enough to have amazing clients, incredible design projects and a great staff. With that support comes our A+D community that helps us charge the fight to Save Iconic Architecture with enthusiasm and education.
Ron: SIA was formed because Jaime and I witnessed all too often the destruction and demolition of so many noteworthy homes and structures here in Los Angeles. We’re appalled by the caulis nature at which people feel its OK to destroy these structures. It’s the same as animal poaching and we could no longer sit by and not give a voice to this plight. Because architecture is such a passion, the work I do for SIA is not really work. We managed to run both the design firm and SIA seamlessly with the help of our staff and now board members.
Newberry Architecture: How does your team find projects that may be considered iconic and how do you find out they are in danger of being demolished? What are the first steps in recognizing a project worth saving? What is the process in deeming a project historical?
Jaime: As Los Angeles interior designers, we are out in the field everyday with clients, meetings with realtors and architects, many legendary structures appear on our radar first hand. Sadly, many people don’t know what they have and the structures are usually not landmark protected. For us, saving an iconic structure starts with recognizing a notable architect. When we realize an estate is designed by someone legendary such as Paul Williams, John Elgin Woolf or Neutra the first thing we address is the importance of saving such a pedigree. Most people have no clue who those architects are and it is our job to educate.
Ron: Because of our passion for and keen knowledge of architectural history, we know what structures still exist and which ones have been demolished. We work with architectural historians, realtors and fellow preservationist to gain awareness about the status of various iconic structures. The first steps to identifying and deeming a structure historical would be who the architect was, who lived in the home or structure and what cultural relevance happened in the structure.
Newberry Architecture: What has been your favorite saved iconic project? And, what has been the most heartbreaking loss?
Jaime: My favorite saved iconic project is Silvertop by architect John Lautner and the most heartbreaking loss is Enchanted Hill by architect Wallace Neff.
Ron: I have a couple of favorites, one being the Bullock Wilshire department store here in Los Angeles and the other would be the Sheats-Goldstein House. One of the most heartbreaking losses was the Chasen’s estate by Paul Williams.
Newberry Architecture: How can your fans join the movement and help save iconic architecture?
Jaime: We are beyond grateful for the supporters of SIA. We ask when designers and clients are working on a project, to question the contractors and outside opinions about disposable construction especially to a great or notable property. Not everything old should be torn down. Adaptive reuse is heroic and inspiring. Become a SIA member and join us at our next event at an iconic location.
Ron: Fans that are interested in helping us save iconic architecture can become members at www.siaprojects.org and give money generously so we can keep this worthwhile and essential organization going.
Each year families wrap up their summers and prep for the new school year. While many parents are clearing the aisles of target with carts full of school supplies, other families are not as fortunate. We decided to join forces with Marie Flanigan Interiors to collect supplies for a local school in need.
The staff at Benbrook Elementary are an amazing group of inspirational educators! They are leading our youth to a successful future and we are beyond EXCITED to assist in their determination and drive for a hopeful tomorrow. We would like to thank all of our friends who supported us!
photos by Keith Huckabay Photography
We contacted HISD to find a school that the students could really benefit from our donations. We were directed to Benbrook Elementary School, and we have to say we are thrilled to be supporting the bears! This school shows amazing support to their students and even after being impacted by Hurricane Harvey, the school rallied together to keep their students on track!
Please join us in our efforts to donate school supplies to Benbrook! Drop off locations include our office along with Marie Flanigan Interior’s office! Donations will be accepted through Friday, August 10th!