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Smokey Hollow Commemoration Wins Statewide People's Choice Architecture Award

Lewis and Layerd at Smokey Hollow commemoration
Jessica Palombo

Two Tallahassee structures are among the public’s favorite recent architectural achievements in Florida. This past weekend, the Cascades Park Smokey Hollow commemoration took first place in a people’s-choice architecture competition—and a Florida State University Athletics building wasn’t far behind.

Three “spirit houses” stand on a small trapezoid of land jutting north of Apalachee Parkway surrounded by government buildings.  They’re more like three frames of houses, just metal. The only identifying feature that shows they are supposed to be houses is each has a brick fireplace in the middle.

“And that symbolizes the hearth of the home. A lot of the life inside the home happened around the chimney, happened around the fireplace,” says M. Hays Layerd. He’s creative director at Lewis + Whitlock Architects, the firm that designed the spirit houses.

The project was a collaboration with the city of Tallahassee to commemorate the predominantly African-American Smokey Hollow community that disappeared when the state moved office buildings here.

Now the spirit houses are getting worldwide attention as the winner of a people’s choice competition held by the Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  More than 800,000 votes were cast online from 46 U.S. states and countries as far away as India.

Lewis + Whitlock principal Rodney Lewis says he attributes the win to strong community support for the Smokey Hollow project.

“This had such a wide range of individuals and companies that were involved, that helped build the momentum for it—had a lot of different sources for votes, put it that way,” he says.

American Institute of Architects Florida spokeswoman Candy Munz says social media played a huge part in the rankings—both for Smokey Hollow and for the third place honoree, the FSU softball batting facility.  

“The city of Tallahassee got really involved in promoting the contest online, and likewise, actually with the softball facility,” she says. “They were tweeting out the voting website as they were hosting softball camps.”

Munz says the field was narrowed from 58 entries statewide. To be eligible for the contest, structures had to be open to the public and have been built within the past five years.

Oh, and the second-place winner? It’s a Walgreen’s drugstore in Miami Beach.