Each year, preservationists and vernacular architectural historians produce hundreds of high-quality reports that do not take the form of books or published work: National Register nominations, exhibits, restoration plans, documentation projects, and digital productions, for example. Many of these receive limited recognition yet inform and inspire those in vernacular architectural studies. In 1993, the VAF instituted the Paul E. Buchanan Award to recognize the study and preservation of vernacular architecture and the cultural landscape presented in this so-called "gray literature." Named for the long-time Director of Architectural Research at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, this award honors both Buchanan and the work that most of the VAF’s members and professional associates perform.
The 2011 recipient is the Georgia State University Heritage Preservation Program for its project, "Single-Family Residential Development: DeKalb County, Georgia, 1945-1970." In partnership with the DeKalb History Center, graduate students of Georgia State University’s Heritage Preservation Program produced a historic context report for mid-twentieth century housing in the suburban county of metropolitan Atlanta. Spanning the period from 1945 to 1970, the report delved deeply into the obvious and intangible factors that created DeKalb County's built environment. Using archival research, site visits, field work, and oral histories, the authors examined all aspects of suburbanization including national and regional policy developments, demography and segregation, architectural styles, and building industry professionals. Their subjects ranged from the level of national social history to that of individual subdivisions across DeKalb County.
The DeKalb context is "on the cutting edge of projects nationally," stated Richard Cloues, Georgia Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. Only now is research examining the post-war built environment as it reaches the 50 year old demarcation, and GSU's project is a template for such studies focused on a countywide basis, according to Cloues. Along with the project's timeliness, the committee was impressed with its comprehensiveness. Under the direction of Project Supervisor Professor Richard Laub, the students successfully meshed the larger social and cultural trends of the post-war period with local history and vernacular architectural analysis derived from field work. Beyond its academic value, the report serves as a useful reference for Section 106 review of potentially threatened landscapes. In local government, it acts as a crucial tool for future planning in DeKalb County. Finally, with its seventeen student contributors, the effort is a model for team research that trains the next generation of preservationists who will specialize in the recent past. The Buchanan Committee is very pleased to award its prize to Georgia State University’s Heritage Preservation Program.
2011 Buchanan Award Committee: Janet Ore, chair, Kingston Wm. Heath, Marianne Hurley