You may not realize it, but you know WD&D Architects' work. You see it every day on your way to work, on your vacations, on your lunch breaks. Some designs are even known across the nation, etched into American history.
Central High. Robinson Center. The Regions Building. They're all integral pieces of Little Rock, and they all came from the offices Wittenberg Delony & Davidson, WD&D.
As the firm marks 100 years, we caught up with president and CEO Chad Young to learn more about the profound mark its designs have left on our state.
What is it about WD&D that has kept it on the front lines of the design scene in Arkansas for 100 years?
Since it was established in 1919, WD&D Architects has strived to be an innovative and forward-thinking architectural and interior design firm. Because of this, we’ve had the opportunity to help create some of the most iconic structures in Arkansas from Little Rock Central High School to the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs. But above all, we’ve focused on building relationships and being a part of the community. Our clients trust us to bring their visions to life. This has sustained us for the last 100 years.
Many of the firm's projects are now landmarks in both the city and state. How does such a legacy inform the vision and future of WD&D?
We have a rich history of creative designs and we are excited to continue pushing the envelope in the future. Knowing that our buildings will last 100 or even 200 years has encouraged us to continually think of new ways to better serve our clients. With every project we undertake, we consider questions like, “How can this school design help advance education in Arkansas?” or, “How can this health care facility improve patients’ overall health outlooks?” We’ve seen firsthand the role great quality design plays in people’s lives, and we take our responsibility as designers seriously.
How long have you been at the firm and what keeps you coming back every day?
It’s been 24 years and I’m still excited about coming to work each day. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to design environments that leave a lasting impact on people. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to work alongside colleagues who are creative, committed and passionate about good design.
Is there a project that had a particular impact on you personally or that you connected with in a special way?
The Mid-America Science Museum is one of my favorite projects. Looking at science from a child’s perspective and creating hands-on exhibits was a lot of fun. Plus, creating a glowing treehouse in the woods with a rope bridge and climbing structures was about as creative as it gets.
What is one thing you wish people knew about WD&D?
Our firm strongly believes in giving back. Architecturally, one way we’re making a difference is helping design a brand new K-12 school in Africa through the ministry Acts4Rwanda. With the help of three talented interns from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, we hope to finalize the design later this summer.
Here's a closer look at the landmarks designed by WD&D Architects in the past 100 years:
Little Rock High School, 1927
Designed in 1926 with construction completed in 1927, the whites-only Little Rock High School was named "America’s Most Beautiful High School" by the American Institute of Architects.
In 1953, the school would add the word "Central" to its name. In 1957, it would become an iconic site of American history when nine African American students integrated the school after being denied entrance by the state's governor.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places list in 1977 and became a National Historic Site in 1998.
University of Arkansas Chemistry Building, 1935
Delayed by the Great Depression, the University of Arkansas finished construction of its new chemistry building in 1935. Designed in the Collegiate Gothic style, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Joe T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium, 1939
Sen. Joe T. Robinson was still representing Arkansas in Washington, serving as the Senate Majority Leader, when plans were first rendered for a new concert hall at Broadway and Markham in Little Rock. When Robinson died in 1937, the center was renamed in his honor. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
Arkansas Power & Light Building, 1959
Fred Arnold of WD&D began designing this modern building in 1953, though it wouldn't be completed until 1959. When it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, it was noted as being "designed in a variant of the International style that was fundamentally influenced by the designs of the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright." Today, it is an office for Entergy Arkansas.
Rubel Funeral Home, 1963
Designed in 1959, Rubel Funeral Home opened its doors on West Markham Street in 1963. At the time, its location was considered to be on the far western outskirts of Little Rock. Today, it's a quiet anchor doing steady business amidst its retail neighbors, such as Park Plaza Mall across the street.
Arkansas State Hospital, 1965
Construction finished in 1965 on this modern facility, designed in 1962. Today, it's home an administration building for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Arkansas Department of Health, 1966
This neighbor of what was then the state hospital still stands on Monroe Street. It faces another neighbor, War Memorial Stadium.
First National Bank Building, 1975
Now known as the Regions Center, this 30-story skyscraper reigned as the tallest building in Arkansas from its opening in 1975 until what is now known as the Simmons Tower topped off its construction on the next block in 1986.
Though it's been named after Regions Bank since 1998, some of the building's former tenants still have their names on the property.
Atkins Insurance Building, 1982 | Savers Bank Building, 1980
Both of these buildings in downtown Little Rock were designed by WD&D in 1980. The Atkins Insurance Building on the left, "a modem, triangle shaped office building of steel frame construction," later became known as 2 Union National Plaza and was home to many state government offices.
The 11-story Savers Bank Building, located just two blocks west, is now known as the USAble Corporate Center.
Excelsior Hotel and Statehouse Convention Center, 1982
These two projects were built together, beginning with the demolition of the former Manning Hotel in 1980 and its opening in 1982. The hotel was known as the Excelsior for 20 years before being taken over by the Peabody chain of Memphis. In 2013, it became the Little Rock Marriott.
The photo above was taken at the corner of Main and Markham Streets, before the Excelsior's name change and the Statehouse Convention Center's extensive renovations in 1999. The building seen on the left can also be seen below.
Doyle Rogers Building, 1984
This 25-story skyscraper was originally known as the First South Building, then the Doyle Rogers Building when it opened in 1985. Stephens Inc. bought the building, giving it its current name. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Arkansas.
First Security Bank Building, 2004
Built between Little Rock's River Market and the site of the Clinton Presidential Center, this 14-story highrise houses a 120-room Marriott Courtyard Hotel, 24 condominiums, offices for Crews & Associates and yes, a First Security Bank branch on the ground floor.
Mid-America Science Museum renovations, 2015
WD&D designed the Hot Springs museum's $7.8 million renovations which included a Science Skywalk, which juts into the forest canopy 30 feet above the ground.
ATA International Inc. Headquarters, 2016
The American Taekwondo Association opened its world headquarters, based in Little Rock's Riverdale, in 2016. The building is divided into three main programmatic elements: the 33,800-SF operations office, which is located on three floors of the main office tower; the 5,000-SF martial arts museum located on the first floor; and the 6,500-SF training center located at the southern end of the facility.
It won the AIA Arkansas People's Choice Award in 2017.
James Mitchell School renovations, 2016
Originally constructed in 1908 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, WD&D designed the renovations of the James Mitchell School, revitalizing it from its shuttered status to a planned charter school.