September 5, 2019
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) is a nationwide engineering firm specializing in the design, investigation and rehabilitation of structures, building enclosures and materials. SGH generously supports Landmarks Illinois at the Innovator Corporate Sponsor level. We recently interviewed Landmarks Illinois Board Member Peter Babaian, an SGH Principal, about his passion for historic preservation and why his firm supports our work.
LANDMARKS ILLINOIS: WHY DOES SGH SUPPORT LI’S MISSION OF SUPPORTING PEOPLE SAVING PLACES IN ILLINOIS?
PETER BABAIAN: Landmarks Illinois and SGH align on many levels, including our commitment to historic preservation and our desire to protect and enhance the community here in Illinois. We both appreciate that the built environment can create a sense of place for people. We understand that there are certain special places that anchor us to our past and show us who we are. We want to keep and preserve these local treasures and not lose them as we continue to grow and develop as a modern society.
LI: SGH HAS PROVIDED PRO BONO EASEMENT MONITORING SERVICES FOR SEVERAL YEARS TO LANDMARKS ILLINOIS’ PRESERVATION EASEMENT PROGRAM. WHAT DOES THIS INVOLVE, AND WHY IS SGH COMMITTED TO HELPING IN THIS WAY?
PB: One of the most important things we can do for historic structures is to take care of them and maintain their value and worth, for both their owners and the greater community. Through Landmarks Illinois’ easement monitoring program, SGH staff members partner with Landmarks Illinois to see these buildings up close. Our staff love the work and appreciate the opportunity to learn about different building construction practices they might not see every day. We review and evaluate historic facades to see if there is any deterioration and determine what needs to be repaired to keep building facades in an appropriate condition to meet the easement requirements.
LI: YOU HAVE JOINED IN OUR EFFORTS TO HELP SAVE THE HARLEY CLARKE MANSION IN EVANSTON. WHY IS THIS PLACE IMPORTANT TO YOU?
PB: The Harley Clarke Mansion is a special building for me. I went to grad school at Northwestern in Evanston and the mansion is just north of campus. You can’t miss the beautiful English Tudor Revival building sitting there, welcoming you to the lakefront park. It’s a significant work of architecture from the 1920s. Losing it would be detrimental to the area and the Evanston community—not only from an aesthetic and nostalgic perspective but also from a sustainability perspective. It would be such a waste of time and material to remove the structure.
LI: WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO IN YOUR NEW LEADERSHIP POSITION AS A LANDMARKS ILLINOIS BOARD MEMBER?
PB: I’m honored to be on the Landmarks Illinois board and excited to contribute in a new way to the organization. I’m really looking forward to providing new ideas and finding new ways for Landmarks Illinois to impact the preservation community throughout the state. There are so many professionals in Illinois who care deeply about preservation, and joining the board is a great way to meet these like-minded people and help them take part in the organization and make a difference in their community. I want to be a strong voice for Landmarks Illinois within the architecture, engineering and construction industry. As a board member, I look forward to pushing Landmarks Illinois’ mission forward to preserve our most important places throughout Illinois.
(Photo: SGH performs a condition assessment on the dome of a historic courthouse building in the Midwestern United States. Courtesy of SGH)