Somehow, some way years ago, I heard or read about how the architect of the Memphis International Airport was inspired by a pyramid of champagne glasses at a New Year’s Eve party. (I’m still unclear if it was the champagne glasses or the spaces between the glasses). While researching, a.k.a. Googling, the source of that story, I learned that rather than a champagne glass, it was a twisted hyperbolic parabaloid that gave the structure its martini-glass shape, and there was no mention of a party. (So I have a great imagination or a terrible memory – or both)?
But then the research got really interesting.
More than a reference to a cocktail, I learned that the design of the airport was not only award-winning, but also cutting edge for its time, utilizing two separate levels for arrivals and departures, along with jetways, for example. This was in 1963.
And the architect was Roy Harrover.
The airport may have been his most famous creation, but he was also responsible for the design of Mud Island, a Memphis city park sitting on a sand bar in the middle of the Mississippi River. Having grown up in Memphis, what is most memorable to me about Mud Island is the full-scale model of the river flowing through the park from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, which is represented by a splash pool at the end. Major cities are laid out along the river’s route, their main roads inlaid with steel and little steel bridges connecting the riverbanks. And these are just two of the many architecturally significant landmarks Roy Harrover created in Memphis.
Lastly, I learned during my research for the champagne pyramid story that this distinguished local architect had passed away just the week before Christmas at the age of 88.
I hope, in some serendipitous way, some of his creative talent will find its way to me and I can follow in his footsteps, leaving designs that inspire and bring joy for decades to come.
So this New Year’s Eve, I filled my martini glass with champagne and made a toast to you, Mr. Harrover.