Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are you ready for the holidays?


I am! Well, I’m getting there. I started tonight by putting up my new wreath. There are a few other door decorations up in our building, so I hope to wow the neighbors. Hopefully we’ll get our tree this weekend. Dr. Jay, are you reading this?

Sorry I have been MIA so far this month. An (almost) full month of blogging really took it out of me and I needed a break. But I’m brimming with ideas to post so hopefully I can keep some of that momentum from my November challenge.

I wanted to do an update on a few of my hanging chads out there… I know you are all curious about the newly painted apartment. I’ll do my best to represent the Before, During (when I freaked out about the color) and After (my happy place).

When we moved in, the apartment was an inoffensive tan. I think my landlady called it Safari Tan. I liked it alright, and even received a few compliments on it, but after a month or so I didn’t dig it so much any more. The floors in our place are light, and there just wasn’t any contrast between floor and wall surface. And then there’s the fact that there are some lighting issues in this apartment- not much natural light, very few overhead lights. It’s cause for shadows and distorted colors, and the tan was looking very peach-y to me at times. It got to a point where I just couldn’t stand it. Our land-lady agreed that I could paint if I would paint it back to Safari Tan when we move out if she doesn’t like the new color. Here’s a shot of our place in Safari Tan:


Again, I don’t think the true color comes through in any of these photos. I know, it looks totally fine in tan, but I just needed something different. I decided I wanted a "”sophisticated blue grey”. I went to my local hardware/crack Benjamin Moore dealer and got several samples which were promptly draft-dotted to the wall. For weeks. I looked at these blue-greys for literally a month before I was sure which one I wanted. It’s this large chip in the front, and all the others were the ones that didn’t make the cut.


Well, long story short, it’s not just greens and reds that are hard to get right in paint, it’s also blues. This particular paint boggles my mind. I still like the paint sample. I like it sitting on our table. But on five of our walls at once, in a small, poorly lit apartment? Oh, it suddenly became an aquarium. I don’t know what possessed me to keep painting after I saw how bright and blue it was. I guess I kept thinking it would dry differently or look better in different light. But by the next day I had my mind set to change it. Again. During my second week of work. Here are the next set of paints that I decided between on top of the crazy blue. This time I bought the mini-sample paints and painted squares on two walls which have completely different lighting. I will ALWAYS do this in the future.


Okay, it’s very difficult for you to tell from the photo above exactly how bright the blue is, but if you can see how much lighter the new colors are, and when you see the ultimate color that I went with, you’ll have some idea of how blue the original was. The color I ended up choosing was the first one, which is actually Ace paint (had to go cheaper the 2nd time around) in Dover Grey. But it also has blue in it, it’s just not as intense as the first color. I’ll spare you my whining from the week of painting hell (I think I already did that in a previous post) and I’ll finally show you the results:

Apt. Paint 001

Apt. Paint 007

One with the light on and one without. Oh, and we moved the furniture around.

Apt. Paint 008

Apt. Paint 004

I took these during my lunch break the other day when it was actually sunny here. We’ve had a series of dreary, rainy days and it’s pitch dark when I get home at night, so I knew I’d never get accurate paint color photos in those conditions.

So, there’s a little blue in it still, but I like the grey tones and frankly it’s a very soothing space to be in. And I’m so glad it’s done!

And one last update. The chair debate. Thank you to those that commented and offered your thoughts. Dr. Jay has actually relented that he doesn’t mind the chair so much (an afternoon of shopping and much time internet browsing may have convinced him) and he’s willing to consider it. And I decided that it’s crazy to order a chair online (it’s not available in a store) unless I at least first have a fabric sample, so I called last weekend and am having a fabric sample of the first chair and its sister chair sent to us. Then it will be decision time:

16148124_04_b OR 16148132_38_b ?

What do you think? Click on the photos for their source info.

Monday, November 30, 2009

In the news

I hope everyone’s re-entry today went well.  I am struggling with exhaustion.  Sorry I wasn’t able to post yesterday.  We had a 12-hour day in the car and blogging just wasn’t in me when we finally returned last night.

I had a few ideas for tonight’s post, but I received a tip about this article featuring Dr. Jay’s uncle and it immediately rose to the top of the list.

Read all about how builders like Michael are using their talents and building knowledge to retrofit existing homes to become more energy efficient.  It’s all part of the Energy Independence Program in Sonoma County, California which aims to significantly reduce the county’s carbon footprint by 2015.  In a state where there is currently an excessive of new homes and unfinished construction projects, this type of work provides a completely different business model for the traditional home builder.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Battle of the (Furniture) Sexes

Is this chair too girly? It's the current debate in our house, and you probably know the side I'm on. We both know we really need a chair, but can't exactly agree on which chair. This one fits all my credentials (size, style, color palette, price!) but Dr. Jay isn't convinced. What do you think? Is it too feminine?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Fiction + Architecture

I finally finished the book I've been reading this fall, which I enjoyed, but only slowly made my way through it. I'm really excited to start The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. I've heard several people rave about this book and I know it weaves architecture with fiction so it should be right up my alley. Dr. Jay is currently reading The Fountainhead and can't put it down, so I think that'll be next on my list. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read it yet since it's among the best works of literature of the 20th Century, but it's a goal for 2010. Have you read any architecture related fiction? What are your favorites? p.s. I did read Devil in the White City over the summer (loved it), but that deserves its own post.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Not much to report from here. Back to the Texas game. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Because we’re in a rush to get out of town (actually, I don’t rush, but Dr. Jay does, and he’s ready to go!) I’m relying on another link from a reader to get me through today.

Check out the incredible transformation of this Cold War-era bunker in London into a beautiful, non-bomb shelter looking home.  It is the residence of architect Daniel Smith of SLLB Architects.  There’s a slideshow here.  Sorry no photos- it’s a Flash slideshow so I can’t grab the photos.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cocoon Remake?

I wish.  No, a friend sent me this link and I just love it:


It’s called the Cocoon Building and it’s in Zurich, Switzerland.  Camenzind Evolution (the firm that designed it) has turned your average office building on its ear and created one that’s more like the Guggenheim and less like Dunder Mifflin.  Read more about it here.

Thanks, k8e !

Monday, November 23, 2009

Whoopie! Alvar Alto!

I’m making this post quick tonight because I am making these babies for the Thanksgiving feast I’m having with my family on Thursday.  Thanks for the recipe, Amy!


YUM- Pumpkin Whoopie Pies!  Click on the photo for the recipe.

This was an incredible post on Apartment Therapy (I know, I say that all the time, but really this is good!) today:  one of their “house” tours of Alvar Alto’s Design Studio Workspace in Helsinki, Finland.  I think I’m going to save every image to my computer.  And hang up my T-squares and triangles.


Read the post from AT here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Yellow Front Door

I have a new love… the yellow front door.

As I’ve mentioned, we live in Alexandria, Virginia where many things are as historic as they get in America. There are brick and cobblestone sidewalks and streets, real shutters that work, and historic rowhouses dating back to before the father of our country was in long pants. I love seeing all these structures on my rides to work- the rhythm of the rowhouse is comforting. But every once in a while I have to do a double take. Behold, the yellow door:


This is one I absolutely adore- the canary yellow looks incredible with the more subtle green and grey.

Here’s another one, in a mustard tone. It looks more stately:


I started looking around online for yellow doors, and came across an article from Martha Stewart’s late publication Blueprint, which I sorely miss!


Click on the photo above to read the article.

And one last Yellow Door image that I dig:


Do you agree? Anyone else out there have or want a yellow front door?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Living in the “right now”

I really enjoyed this post from Apartment Therapy the other day, the theme of which is “Live the house you want right now.”  Sometimes it gets me down knowing that we are still renters and will be for a while until we decide where to settle down (and have enough cash for a down payment!), but this article reaffirmed what I’ve thought for a while about renting, and that is to make the most of the situation and really maximize enjoyment in the space.  We aren’t exactly in our dream house, and there’s always some question as to how much to invest in a rental home, but I think it’s a quality of life issue.  So I don’t mind the time it takes to paint (even if it takes me two attempts at color) in order to improve how I feel in the small amount of square footage that we have.    That being said, after I read this article I started thinking about some things in our apartment right now that are not contributing to the betterment of my life.  Namely, a whole lot of extra stuff that we are not using.  I’ve made the decision to get rid of the boxes (yes, plural) of design magazines that have moved twice with me now and have yet to serve any useful purpose.  I honestly can’t tell you why I thought I’d need them, but I’m making it my mission to get rid of those items which are not part of my life right now (and haven’t been in years!) and also not to keep those items which will serve no future purpose.  Long story short, if it doesn’t bring me happiness, peace, or money, I am not going to hoard it.  It’s not going to be easy to get rid of those beautiful magazines (I think I’m going to have to do it quickly and without thinking, like removing a band-aid or jumping in to a cold pool) but I bet I will sleep a whole lot better without them weighing me down or crowding me out.

Good night!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Economic Value of Green Buildings

Looks like it's finally a good investment to go GREEN, according to economists. A paper forthcoming in a leading economics journal, The American Economic Review, finds that buildings with LEED or Energy Star ratings yield an 16% higher return than similar buildings without those ratings. Thanks to Dr. Jay for the tip.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Visual Acoustics


As promised, I want to give my review of the film Visual Acoustics:  The Modernism of Julius Shulman.  First of all, if I had to give it a grade: solid B+.  I’m a tough critic though, and I definitely recommend seeing the film. 

I absolutely left the theater feeling awestruck and inspired and in love with architecture.  And photography, of course.  Shulman, for all intents and purposes, was essentially the father of architectural photography.  He was the the first to recognize the importance of an environmental context for buildings, which so many modernist architects in California were striving to achieve, and he was the first to recognize the importance of real people in architectural images.  In fact, one of the elements I liked most in this film was that Shulman, at 97 or 98, returns to talk with people who either still live in one of the houses he photographed (as in the case of the iconic Pierre Koenig house) or with the current owners who are trying to restore a house he originally photographed (as with the Kaufmann house).  It was amazing to hear him relive what he was thinking about when he first saw these houses, however many years ago, and what those folks think about the houses now.  Shulman worked with some of the most influential architects of the 20th century (Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Rudolph Schindler, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry), but he also loved to “discover” new talent and helped to put Modernism into mainstream America.


So what didn’t I love about the film?  Well, there were some interjections of animation that really detracted from the message of the film.  I guess they were attempting to make the documentary less serious, but it was really inconsistent with the way the rest of the film was made.  I think the interviews with Shulman were a great way to make the film less serious.  He was very light-hearted and honest and quite the entertainer- you could tell he loved being a part of the documentary.  It was like his victory lap, and I loved watching him guide us through it.  I didn’t need a cartoon explanation of the history of Modernism, though I can appreciate what they were trying to do.  In general, I don’t think the cinematography did justice to Shulman’s incredible still photographs, so that was kind of a let down as well.  So there you have it- B+.

Has anyone else seen this film?  What did you think? Am I being too harsh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Our favorite Texas architects

Lake|Flato Architects are some of our (Dr. Jay and my) favorite architects, not to mention Texas architects.


Check out more of this house and their website here.

Good night!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is this for real?

I received a “Forward” at work today.  It was in that typical “Forward” font that makes me want to discredit it before I’ve even finished reading it.  I know, I’m jaded. 

But, I had to keep reading once I saw the photo which I was sure was Photo-shopped.  Doesn’t this look fake?


Someone please tell me if this is real or not.  Apparently, according to the forward-fairies, it’s a:

Water Bridge in Germany . What a feat!
Six years, 500 million Euros, 918 meters this is engineering!
This is a channel-bridge over the River Elbe and joins the former East and West Germany , as part of the unification project. It is located in the city of Magdeburg , near Berlin ..
The photo was taken on the day of inauguration.

I’ve tried researching this online but all I’ve found are this same text and more photos with no real context.  Snopes and Urban Legends were of no help, either.  Does anyone know?

Monday, November 16, 2009


How much do you know about significant buildings around the world?  I just took this fun quiz (okay, confession time:  I needed a quick topic and Googled “fun architecture facts” and this is what I found!) about structural skeletons and was surprised by some of these answers.  I answered 7 of 10 questions correctly.  How did you do?  Try it here:     QUIZ


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The art of architectural photography

I can’t wait to see this film this week.

wg051503_3, 5/17/03, 11:29 AM, 16C, 2664x2094 (78+1015), 50%, Repro 2.2 v2,  1/25 s, R64.8, G56.5, B92.0



I’ll give you my review after I see it.

On a side note, the re-painting of our apartment is going much better.  Much.  Photos to follow when I finish.

I am now halfway through my challenge of posting every day in November.  I’m actually kind of hooked!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just leave a message

Dr. Jay and I are off on our Philadelphia adventure today, but I wanted to make sure I did my part to fulfill the challenge, so I set up this post to publish while I am away.  Goodness, computers are amazing.

Rankings of architecture schools recently came out and were published in Architectural Record.  Here are the standings:


Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.  

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 

Virginia Polytechnic institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.  

University of Texas, Austin, Tex.

Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kans.

University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore.

Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.

Rice University, Houston, Tex.

10  University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.


Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Yale University, New Haven, Conn.  

3 Columbia University, New York City 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

University of Texas, Austin, Tex.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg, Va.  

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

10  University of California, Berkeley, Calif.


These rankings are determined by a think tank in D.C. called the Design Futures Council.  I’m proud of my schools (The University of Texas at Austin and University of Virginia).  All I can say is Hook ‘Em and Go Hoos!

Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy One Hundred and Three, Eva!

Today is Eva Zeisel’s 103rd birthday!  Who is Eva Zeisel?  Well, basically, she is an extremely influential industrial designer and became one when few women were doing such a thing.  I know of her because of this:


One of her iconic designs.  We have this tea kettle- thanks very much, mom-in-law!  It’s something she designed just a few years ago and was available at Crate and Barrel the year we got married.  I love this tea kettle because it has a traditional shape but it also has a little finesse.  I think it looks great in both a kitchen with more modern appliances, or one with severely out-dated appliances like ours:


Read more about this woman and her incredible life story here.

Happy Birthday, Eva!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Philly- I’m headed your way

Yup, Dr. Jay and I are packing up for the day and heading to Philadelphia on Saturday. I haven’t been there since I was a kid and I really only remember the Liberty Bell, so this should be cool.

I’m looking forward to seeing this:


It’s the PSFS building! I remember learning about it in History of Modern Architecture, which I took in under-grad and TAed for in grad school. Here’s my condensed version:

Built as the headquarters for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society, it was the first International Style skyscraper built in the United States. The International Style as a term was coined with a book by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, written in 1932 to record the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. But clearly, the PSFS was among the esprit de corps that lead to such an exhibition. It was designed by George Howe and William Lescaze between 1925 and 1932. This was a revolutionary undertaking for its time, and I am sure the stock market crash of 1929 didn’t help matters. The company’s initials at the top stand 27 feet tall in red neon. Interestingly, the PSFS was founded in the 1816 and was the first savings bank in the U.S. Prior to that, savings banks were merely a European notion.

The building was extremely cutting edge for the early 30s. It was the first building of its size to be fully air-conditioned, and most of the furniture and design elements had to be custom-designed because nothing like them existed in the U.S.

It sits at 1200 Market Street in Philadelphia. See you there, PSFS!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Australian Inspiration

I am officially sick of painting.  What has it been, 8 days now?  Oh wait, only three.  And I have three more to go.  Tonight I got primer in my eye.  It was not pretty.  Sorry for the “tude”.  I am just a tired gal.  And I am missing a fun social outing involving karaoke in order to paint tonight.  I think I have some sort of sick love of torture.  Only I would choose to paint a rental apartment for the second time after I have challenged myself to a month of blog posts AND during my second week at a new job.  Ay yi yi.

Because I’m in to the whole brevity thing tonight, I just want to show you a pretty picture of a cute little house in Australia:


This house won a 2009 award for Residential Architecture from the Australian Institute of Architects.  It was designed by Neeson Murcutt Architects (not sure if there is any relation to Glen Murcutt) and I really enjoyed their website.  The Whale Beach House is another beauty.

Good.  Night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kitchen love

This post is dedicated to kitchens. Oh how I can’t wait to design one for our house. This is the mythical house that exists in my head. Recently, Dr. Jay and I made up an extensive wish list for the house we’ll someday own. It included everything from the necessities (large mud/laundry room) to the extravagant (gym, pool). But, hey, it’s a wish list.

One thing I left off the list because I didn’t know it existed was this amazing shelving system for the kitchen:

DC kitchen

Now that is a beautiful kitchen. I love the light floors, the multiple ovens, the fireplace, and of course those incredible metal and glass shelves. Swoon.

This is from Darryl Carter’s D.C. townhouse, recently featured in Elle Decor. Who’s Darryl Carter? I guess he’s a designer in the area, but I’ll know his name now!

Check out the full slide show of his home here.

Another kitchen I am loving right now? This one, with it’s sweet ladder!


Look how it tucks right in to a nook by the window.




Yup, I am in LURVE with this kitchen!

Monday, November 9, 2009

I need this


You can find it at a wonderful site called Reform School.

I need this because Saturday’s painting didn’t turn out so well. I guess you win some and you lose some. This was definitely a loss. It’s a good thing I like hanging out at hardware stores, because I’ve been there a lot lately. Oh well, my color catastrophe should be fixed by the end of the week.

In the meantime, look what the mail brought today:


Perhaps I should frame it? And weren’t we just talking about this?

All’s well that ends well.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The house that I am scared of

First, let me say I’ve just had the most amazing dinner with friends. A.mazing. It’s been a full Sunday and I only have 5 more minutes to get in a post for 11/08/09.

I’m passing on a link sent to me by a loyal reader about a house in the Charlottesville, Virginia area on the market for $100 million. 100 million dollars? After looking through the slideshow of photos, though, I have to say I’m (not lying) scared by this house. It’s so over-the-top ostentatious I can’t believe it’s not part of Las Vegas. It’s in beautiful horse country Virginia, yet it boasts Versailles-like statuary. And a home theater. As if those two go hand in hand.

Take a look for yourselves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend fun



Just wanted to fill you in on what I’ve been up to today.

By the way, a very Happy Birthday to my mom!

See ya tomorrow!

Friday’s post, a little later

Just pretend this showed up on your Google Reader 12 hours ago.

I realized this morning as we were taking a leisurely walk before the start of a busy Saturday that “Aghhh! I forgot to post last night!” So, I already screwed up my challenge, but Dr. Jay reassured me that having an average of one post daily for a month is what I should be trying for, so that’s now the new goal for the end of the month. Don’t you love it when people change the rules in the middle of the game?

This morning, while rifling through a week’s worth of newspapers to find some usable drop-cloths (more on that later), I ran across this article in The Washington Post Real Estate section about Larry Sabato’s home on the UVA Lawn. Sabato, a well-known political analyst and UVA politics professor, has the honor of living in Pavilion IV on the Lawn. It was a nice chance to read about what goes on in the Pavilions, and that he likes to sit and read (generally unnoticed) on his balcony overlooking the Lawn. He also lived on the Lawn in Room 16 East as a student at UVA. I wonder how many professors at UVA can say that?


It would have been nice to see more photos in the article, since they describe it as having two distinct styles, one more modern and one more Jeffersonian (I love how that’s a word. Like Academical, both of which you hear all the time in Charlottesville.) Check out the article though- the Post provides a pretty nice slide show with a few more photos than in the newspaper. I’ve never been inside one of the Pavs, but I’ve attended a reception in the garden of Pavilion IX where the dean of the School of Architecture resides. The gardens are some of the most pleasant places to pass the time, and most are open to anyone at anytime.

I’ll be back later today with more babbling, you know, keeping up my average.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the architecture profession: A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright !Good night!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

When do you get to be an architect?

The blog-topic gods were kind to me today. I had no trouble coming up with a topic, in fact I now have several in my head so I hopefully the trend continues during the November Challenge. It started innocently enough. I was taking a quick break from work to check out Apartment Therapy (I swear I look at other blogs! I just needed to do a little research for my sister-in-law and I ended up there) and lo and behold there was this great post about a new documentary called God's Architects. It's a film by Zack Godshell and, as AT describes it, "The film is an in-depth look into five structures built without blueprints or end goals. We got the chance to preview the film, and we think if you're interested in architecture, folk art or religion you'll find these structures and these architects quite intriguing." Seemed interesting enough, and when I saw that there is an upcoming screening in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse, I knew this must be a good one. Then I scrolled down and read some of the comments to the post, and that's when things got really interesting. The first commenter derided AT for referring to the builders in the documentary as architects, saying that it is a title that must be earned. A second commenter commended her and went as far as to say that becoming a lawyer or doctor in the U.S. is easier than becoming an architect. What followed was a litany of arguments about the proper use of the term and who deserves it and who doesn't and which profession is more difficult to obtain. Wow. I could probably spend a good long while on this topic, and it's actually something I've been meaning to write about since I know it can be a bit confusing to the general public. What is an architect? When can you call yourself an architect? Well, it's a big subject, and one I have had lengthy discussions about among friends, both architects and non-architects (and by that I mean people I work with or have gone to school with and those that are in other professions). I don't really know where to begin, other than saying that technically (by the letter of the law) one shouldn't refer to herself as an architect unless she is licensed as such. Obviously, this is mostly in the case of printed materials (you cannot advertise yourself as an architect if you are not licensed) and in terms of trying to obtain work in which you are paid. Architects are licensed by state, and some states are more strict with this law than others. Texas, where I am registered, is quite strict with the use of the term. Georgia, where I was living this past year, not so much. I haven't figured out Virginia yet, but it doesn't matter because I'm registered and a card-carrying member. I'll admit, I was pretty hesitant to use the term to describe myself even though I'd been through 6 years of school specifically for architecture, I was working in architecture, and I was taking the exams. But after a while it gets tiresome explaining the finer points of the law (read: it was a downer at parties) so I would just say "architect" when someone asked me what I did for a living. It's tricky though, because we architects are silly and we call anyone working in an architecture office with the intention of becoming registered an "intern architect" which is just dumb, because no one beyond college really wants to be referred to as an "intern". Thanks, Ms. Lewinsky. And the thing I've always wondered is why is it no big deal to call someone an engineer, even if they haven't earned their Professional Engineer status, but the architect is somehow set apart from this logic. Honestly, it's just semantics that delve into legal-speak and I hated being in that gray-area. I am so glad to be in the free and clear now. There are some famous "untrained architects" by the way: Tadao Ando and Thomas Jefferson are two I can think of offhand. No one really questions their abilities or knowledge or asks about their stamp. Would I call Michael Pollan an architect? I don't think so, and I would guess he wouldn't either since most of his profession has been about writing. But what a great coincidence to be considering all this after yesterday's post. One final thought. During my second semester of grad school I had an amazing studio professor, David Heymann, and we got in to a similar discussion one afternoon during studio. I remember him telling us to quit thinking of ourselves as students and start thinking of ourselves as architects. It was so empowering. It really changed the way I looked at work and school because I suddenly had this ownership over it. It didn't matter that I technically still had a few years ahead of me before I could legally call myself an architect. The only way to make any progress was to think like an architect- be an architect. Those were important years, not to be wasted waiting to be an architect. Just be an architect.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Architecture of Michael Pollan

First, I almost forgot to post! Now, I am having internet difficulties. Typical. See I told you this would be a challenge. Did you know that Michael Pollan, of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food fame, also wrote a book about architecture? Geez, this guy is all over it. Back in the 90s, Pollan took on the task of designing and constructing a writing cabin for himself, his own "primitive hut". He then wrote and published a book about the intellectual struggles he faced attempting to play the roles of both designer and builder, and I might add, client. A new edition of A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams was recently published and I read a review of it in the October issue of Architectural Record. Has anyone read this book? I haven't read any of Pollan's work, and I know I am a little behind the curve on that one, but I think this one might be worth checking out of the library. Then I could write my own review.

Monday, November 2, 2009

And so it begins

First day of work?  Check.

Some highlights from my day:

I have a window at my desk!

I have either a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bike ride for a commute, so I was able to come home at lunch and walk mr. Rudy.  I count myself very among the very fortunate, especially in this traffic-plagued area.

I have forgotten how to use Microstation!  I hope it will come back to me, but thankfully I’ll only have to use it part of the time.  I think.

That’s about all I can say for the new job right now- you know how it takes a while to get a feel for everything.  But so far, everyone is incredibly nice and I am very happy to be employed.

Now, please feast your eyes:


I love the bistro chairs on the wall.  We totally need that at our place.  Please read the rest of the article from New York magazine about the renovation of this 1869 brownstone with it’s garage door walls.  And definitely View the Slideshow.  I almost wrote about an Airstream again people- there is also an article pertaining to one on the New York magazine site- but I chose this one, so go figure.

Sunday, November 1, 2009



Isn’t this great?  I read about these prints from artist Mark Bennett the other day on Apartment Therapy.  I love thinking back at Bewitched through the eyes of an architect.  There are several other famous house plans available, too, like the Jetsons and Bruce Wayne.

It’s November now, can you believe it?  I start my new job tomorrow, so I better turn in, but I wanted to announce a challenge I am attempting this month.  I am going to post something  I know, I don’t believe it either, but it’s something I think I really need to try, and there’s no better time than the present.

See you tomorrow!  I mean it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Solar Decathlon, part Two

On Sunday, October 18 I was finally able to visit the Solar Decathlon on the Mall in Washington. Unfortunately it was the last day to tour the houses and I only had a brief period of time before I needed to get to work, so touring the Decathlon turned in to a mini-decathlon for Dr. Jay and I as we ran and puddle- jumped through the Mall trying to take it all in and photograph in about an hour and a half. Thank goodness the rain had finally subsided.

074 Note the grey, grey day!

That was one of the reasons I hadn’t yet been out to see the competition- the week of October 12-17 was packed with rain and cold. My heart goes out to those college students and professors that had worked so hard for two years on their houses and had to construct them on the Mall during high-force winds and then compete in cold rain. The Sunday morning we attended, it actually stopped raining just as we arrived, which is probably why there was such a crowd. There were long lines to get in to some of the houses (Team Germany, for one) so I’ll have to give you my thoughts on the houses that I actually did get to tour: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (U-La-La as my Louisiana friends would say), The University of Arizona, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, Team California, Virginia Tech and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I could have stayed ALL DAY LONG and probably still not seen as much as I wanted to, so I was definitely disappointed that I hadn’t made a point to go earlier in the week (thanks, weather!). Dr. Jay and I agreed it was truly inspiring to see all these well-designed little houses, and I surely will not do justice to all the finer-nuances of the designs, but here’s my take on the Solar Decathlon 2009.

First, no more suspense. The results:


Team Germany, which actually also won the last competition in 2007, had a pretty cool and very European-looking house. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get a chance to tour it because the line was so long, but it is designed to produce twice as much energy as it would need to consume. It’s two stories (which I couldn’t tell from the exterior!) and is covered with single-crystal silicon solar panels on the roof and 250 thin-film solar panels on all four sides.


I was sorry to not be able to see it for myself, but frankly I was so blown away by some of the other houses I don’t know if I would have properly appreciated it. My favorite house by far (of the ones I saw, of course, and I’ll quit qualifying myself now) was Team California’s Refract House. Most of the teams choose a name for their houses. When I participated in the Decathlon in 2002, our house (UVA) was called the Trojan Goat because of the concept that it could unfold and change and become something unexpected like the Trojan Horse but it was meant to be able to adapt to any situation like a goat. Moving on, I’m not entirely sure why Team California (which is made up of students and faculty from Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts) decided to name their house the Refract House other than that’s kind of a cool name, but I thought the house itself was both very California and very livable. I just loved it.


111 That light-fixture is made from plastic straws!



Aren’t these modern-ified versions of Adirondack chairs great?

They really made the most of both the interior and the exterior space, and while they have it set up so that there is an outdoor living room complete with couches, I was amazed by how large they made the 800 square-foot interior seem. They had by far the largest bathroom that I saw. I thought the two little covered porches were a very clever way to maximize space and light. To me, this was the most wholistic design and the house I would most want to live in.


114 115

I just checked the Solar Decathlon website and Team California actually placed First in the Architecture competition- woo hoo! They placed 3rd overall, but there are 9 other categories and I bet Team Germany racked up a lot of points in the energy-based categories. Okay, I’ll quit gushing. I also really liked the U-La-La’s house, which won the People’s Choice Award (you could vote via text message this year… so many changes since 2002) and won the Market Viability category of the Decathlon.077

I could see why this house appealed to a lot of different types of people. Can you tell in this photo below that it has these cool fold-up glass doors:


It also had a beautiful interior, but getting good photographs of them was difficult since the houses are fairly small and there are usually other people touring them. Here’s a nice shot of their bathroom tile though:


I thought this detail was nice also. I’d love one of these planter walls, wouldn’t you?


Another house I liked quite a bit was The University of Arizona’s. Dr. Jay said it looked like something from Mad Max but I was mesmerized by it:

087 085 088 They had a very cool pivot door. It was also a chalkboard!

091Doesn’t it look futuristic? This is their water wall, which acts a thermal mass to prevent those high Arizona temps from heating up the house during the day. At night, when the outside temperature cools down, the water wall slowly releases the heat that has built up all day.


Dr. Jay thought the bathroom was a little too minimalistic and exposed for his taste, but there was a screen wall they just didn’t have in place to make the tours easier.


And check out this Jetsons-esque stovetop:


We toured Virginia Tech’s house, and although it did have a very cool (and very expensive) fabricated metal screen wall:

103 it just didn’t speak to me like some of the other houses did. 102

Here are a few more photos of the various houses I didn’t get a chance to enter:

104 105



We had a blast during the short visit to the Solar Decathlon. I was incredibly impressed by how the competition has progressed and the ingenuity of these teams. Most of all, I loved seeing all the other people touring the houses in awe of the designs as well. I really think this competition has helped to make an impact on the public’s perception of green design. The new American house doesn’t have to look like the traditional house to provide all the comforts of home.

Next time, I’ll definitely give the Solar Decathlon an entire day.