Saturday, March 9, 2013

Idaho Architect Ernest Lombard Reveals His Modern Mastery

Posted By on Sat, Mar 9, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Lombard, left, sits with Preservation Idahos Dan Everhart during the second annual Modern Masters.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Ernest Lombard, left, sits with Preservation Idaho's Dan Everhart during the second annual Modern Masters.

Every year, the American Institute of Architects inducts architects into its College of Fellows. Of the 3,000 men and women honored by the AIA, few reside in Idaho. Ernest Lombard is one of them.

As one of few nationally-acclaimed architects in the Gem State, Lombard's contributions received homegrown accolades Friday evening in the second installment of a series called Modern Masters.

Idaho Modern, a sub-committee of Preservation Idaho, recognized his impact on Boise's built environment before a large audience March 8. The question and answer session was arranged not unlike an installment of Inside the Actors Studio and hosted by architectural historian Dan Everhart.

Everhart and Lombard's conversation revealed stories behind the construction of five iconic buildings, including the Wells Fargo Center on Ninth Street, with archive black-and-white photos flashing on the screen behind the two men.

"I'm a student of history, I guess," Lombard said. "My favorite class in architecture school was architectural history. I don't think you can be an architect without the context of all things that have gone before you, over thousands of years, from people living in a cave to now."

Visitors to Modern Masters perused a silent auction and snagged Lombard for questions after the presentation.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Visitors to Modern Masters perused a silent auction and snagged Lombard for questions after the presentation.

The crowd leaned forward as Lombard outlined the process behind designing the spacious auditorium at Boise State University's Morrison Center.

"That thing is designed like a giant musical instrument," said Lombard. "It's like a giant grand piano, you can look up and see the actual guts of the building."

According to Lombard, the pitch of the "instrument" can be adjusted via large breakers on the auditorium's walls, altering how the audience takes in a performance. But it was designing a home for himself, Lombard said, that was a rite of passage. His home exhibits his modernist flare with a symmetrical floor plan but draws attention to a front door placed slightly off-center.

"Every architect owes it to himself to design his own house. And when you do that, you're kind of baring your soul to the world; you're showing the world what you like," he said.

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