Born in 1942, James Lambeth was an internationally renowned solar architect known best for innovations that helped normalize environmentally conscious architecture. A long-time professor at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ar., Lambeth designed contemporary residences, housing units, educational facilities, and churches until his passing in 2003 at the age of 60.
All Photos Courtesy “Sundancing: The Art and Architecture of James Lambeth”
Finding a Greater Purpose for the Sun’s Rays
Lambeth’s breakthroughs in solar architecture often took the form of lenses. He designed a unique reflecting lens for Blevins High School in Blevins, Ar. that created prisms that not only stored heat but acted as a sun dial by reflecting rainbows in the dial’s facade. He also designed a snow-reflecting lens for a lodge in Aspen, Co. that melted snow in winter months by reflecting sunlight. His thoughtful experimentation with solar energy helped him understand all the ways heat from the sun could be stored, diverted, and reflected to lower costs, increase insulation, and solve a myriad of other common architectural challenges.
James Lambeth’s solar innovations can even be seen simply by driving around Springfield. Located at the corner of Seminole and Fremont, the Strawberry Fields apartment building still has a Lambeth-designed curved solar panel above its pool that warms the water—and patrons.
From Berlin to the Moon: Lambeth’s Colorful Career
During his career, Lambeth’s talent and forward-thinking creativity often earned him prestigious appointments and accolades. He was a 1979 Prix de Rome winner in architecture, an energy consultant for NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, and a visiting professor at the University of Houston, the University of Berlin, and the University of Rome. Lambeth won numerous awards in both design and engineering for his architectural works.
While Lambeth spent much of his life in nearby Fayetteville, Ar., he grew up in Springfield and purportedly had a hand in helping design his parents’ dream home, which was profiled by MCM SGF in the spring of 2019.
Experience More of Lambeth’s Work
Depending on how often you amble around the Springfield countryside, you may have passed a sprawling contemporary residence designed by Lambeth out on East Division. (Murney posted a video tour of this house back in 2015 when it was last on the market.) And if you want to get to know Lambeth’s work personally, you can stay in a guest house he designed in Fayetteville.
There’s one more work of Lambeth’s nearby that you may want to schedule a weekend getaway around. Before his passing, Lambeth purchased an 1835 grist mill in Springdale, Ar., and converted it into an inn with eight suites, each of which is themed after an architect or artist Lambeth admired, like Claud Monet and Frank Lloyd Wright. Renamed Inn at the Mill upon its reopening in 1992, the inn features one of Lambeth’s signature solar-glass facades that provides a stunning view of the original spring-fed water wheel.