Words: Ashley Johnson
Photos: Mike Turner
Savannah, Georgia, is full of history and beauty. Towering live oak trees draped in airy Spanish moss flourish throughout the city, and antebellum architecture defines the buildings and regulates future construction projects.
During the civil war, Union General Sherman decided to spare the town rather than burn it to the ground as he did with Atlanta. Taken with the lush greenery, Sherman gifted the city to then-president Abraham Lincoln at Christmas.
Nestled in the heart of Savannah’s historic district is 130-year-old law firm Bouhan Falligant. Named for the forerunners who founded it, Bouhan Falligant has counseled well-known local corporations while also gaining notoriety for the infamous Jim Williams murder trial.
This case was brought to attention in the novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which Clint Eastwood later adapted for the big screen starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.
Today, Bouhan Falligant remains more steadfast than ever in its mission to provide value and sound judgment in its legal services to clients. It does so from a contemporary yet stately building designed to blend in with its historical setting.
Before calling its new location home at One West Park, Bouhan Falligant operated out of the historic Armstrong House located on the northern end of Forsyth Park. Built by wealthy local businessman George Ferguson Armstrong, the residence features reinforced concrete, a sizable columned entrance, and intricate iron fences.
This four-story Italian Renaissance palazzo constructed of granite and glazed brick served as the offices to Bouhan Falligant starting in 1971. When Bouhan Falligant moved in, repurposing the structure to serve as a law firm required minimal investment. Central air conditioning was installed, the heating system was upgraded, and some of the rooms were reconfigured.
A new home
In 2015, the Armstrong House went under contract. Bouhan Falligant was pressed to decide to remain as tenants, secure another office elsewhere, or become owners of their building.
The urgent need for a more modern space that could very quickly accommodate the firm’s attorneys and staff motivated the decision to build their location from which to serve clients.
A vacant lot became available directly opposite the previous Bouhan Falligant office location on the south end of Forsyth Park. Construction quickly began in August 2016 and was completed nine months later, two weeks ahead of schedule and 1 percent under budget.
Construction considerations and challenges
The new three-story Bouhan Falligant building was designed by Felder & Associates with construction managed by West Construction Company.
In preparation for designing a contemporary new space, Felder & Associates analyzed local Chicago School-style architecture around Forsyth Park in Savannah.
Specifically, the design team referenced large-scale commercial buildings from the early 20th century, including the Telfair Hospital, Sears Building, the Armory, and an apartment building at W. Gwinnett and Whitaker.
Design influences of surrounding architecture come from Savannah buildings like the Germania Bank, Dunbar Theater, Adler’s, and the New Press Building.
By working closely with Bouhan Falligant, Felder & Associates, and the city of Savannah during the design phase, it was possible to complete construction within narrow time constraints.
Not only was the building finished early, but the type of materials used lines up with the requests of Bouhan Falligant to design a modern space reminiscent of 1920s style architecture.
The 18,000-square-foot Federal-style building incorporates traditional materials like brick and cast stone arranged in subtle classical proportions. The use of angles emphasizes increasing yet distinct shadow lines.
Detailed exterior features include brick veneer pilasters, cast stone ornamentation, and large window bays. A heavy stone cornice above pilasters wraps the entirety of the building.
For its use of brick, Felder & Associates was recognized by the Brick Industry Association (BIA) as a Silver Winner in the 2018 Brick in Architecture awards.
Building Bouhan Falligant’s location presented unique and compelling challenges. While the steel structural framing of the building was being erected, Savannah was hit by Hurricane Matthew.
Another challenge was achieving a building design that fulfilled Bouhan Falligant owners’ requests to fit into Savannah’s historic district. Because of the large number of ongoing construction projects in the area, certain products were cost-prohibitive or just plain non-existent, including reclaimed materials.
Obtaining the necessary building materials to accommodate requested design elements required diligent work and communication with suppliers and manufacturers. Because the building was situated between two Victorian houses, the office building’s architectural details needed to blend seamlessly with the neighborhood and green spaces.
Timing also presented a significant challenge because the client requested the project to be completed so quickly.
Inside Bouhan Falligant
While the exterior of One West Park blends seamlessly into the historic neighborhoods of Savannah, the inside embraces the latest technology and energy-efficient upgrades.
Designing the inside of the new building focused on generating a modern yet efficient layout. Bouhan Falligant maximizes interior space as much as possible while achieving lofty vertical space, an impressive feat given the area’s height restrictions.
Inside the three-story building, a traditional layout pushes equally sized offices to the perimeter with views to a central hub and the outdoors. Dimmable LED lighting along with natural light-infused spaces reduces the need for artificial lighting. A first-floor conference room offers stunning views of Forsyth Park.
The integration of energy-efficient upgrades reduces the energy usage per person by 30 to 50 percent. Mechanical engineers on the project designed ducted variable refrigerant flow with individual controls to minimize plenum space and mechanical room size and quantity. By reducing plenum space, it was possible to increase ceiling heights that allowed for taller windows.
Individually controlled internal climate systems allow for greater control, better efficiency, and maximum comfort. For example, if parts of the building are warmer on one side, it’s possible to cool just those areas and not the entire floor.
Dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) provide outside air while the building is occupied, including an energy recovery wheel that pretreats outside air. This saves energy while improving indoor air quality.
Although the new location is updated and upgraded, there was a desire to echo their original residence’s ambiance. Various items have been brought from the Armstrong House and integrated into the design of the new location.
A historic conference table was brought over and now serves as an indispensable piece of furniture for attorneys and staff.
Enhancing Bouhan Falligant’s new home’s scenic views, three massive live oak trees are seamlessly configured into the design and construction yet sit just outside the property line. One of these Live Oak trees is unavoidably close to the building.
By working with city officials and arborists, engineers on the project allowed construction and design to avoid any building elements from encroaching on the tree’s critical root zone. Part of the foundation of the building was even constructed and designed to preserve these trees.
With a new state-of-the-art building, Bouhan Falligant expects to continue operating for the next 130 years.