Friday, August 28, 2009

Modernism on the Cape

Here’s an inspiring link from the NY Times about one group’s mission to preserve Modernist houses on Cape Cod.  Enjoy your weekend, one of our last of the summer of 2009!


Thanks to Apartment Therapy for the tip!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A night at the ballpark

Last Thursday night we attended the Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies game with N and R at Nationals Park in D.C. As I mentioned previously, this is the first major ballpark to be certified LEED Silver, so it’s a fun place to both watch a baseball game and be an architecture critic.

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For the most part, it’s a very nice, well-constructed stadium. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. It was designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport) and Devrouax & Purnell Architects and Planners, seats 41,888 fans and cost $611 million of public money to build. Word on the street is that the Lerner family, who own the Nationals, spent tens of millions of dollars of additional construction money. N had the opportunity to take a construction tour before it officially opened last year, so she gave me the low-down on many of the LEED features and stories she remembered from construction. She and R also gave us the stadium tour which included pointing out all the vantage points for the monuments. The stadium itself wasn’t designed to have permanent views of the D.C. monuments (which is a shame) but mostly because the area where it’s situated is a growing one, and there are many high-rises slated to go up around it, so trying to preserve views would be futile. But some view corridors do currently exist, if you hunt them out. This was my second visit to Nationals Park- we went a few weeks ago when family was in town. We all complained that the stadium wasn’t well-situated for views, but I guess we didn’t know where to look.

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The stadium is on the west side of the Anacostia River, just about a mile south of the Capitol. Eventually there will be an entire river park development of green space to connect the water’s edge with the entrance to the park. They have just recently opened water taxi service to the park from Alexandria (woo-hoo!) and National Harbor, and eventually there should be service from other parts of the city. Dr. Jay and I took the Metro to Navy Yard station, which is about two blocks from the Park. It was super convenient getting to the Thursday night game, though we had a bear of a time getting home- it involved the subway, a bus, and a taxi and two hours of our life. But oh well, lesson learned.

Some of the LEED features I saw employed?

- Proximity to public transportation

- Bike parking and Bike valet

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- Availability of Recycling receptacles

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- Dual-flush toilets (which N pointed out no longer have their signs indicating that they are dual flush, therefore, the majority of the public will probably not know to move the lever to the UP position for most flushing needs)

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- Recycled materials (and in general, less packaging) at concessions like napkins, etc.

-Green roofs


- Use of local materials: concrete came from next door, along the Anacostia

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And a few other features that are less-discernible to the naked eye:

-It was developed on a former Brownfield site, so they got points for cleaning up the site

- There is an intricate ground and storm water filtration system that will protect the Anacostia River by separating water used for cleaning the ballpark from rainwater, and treating both sources of water before releasing it back to the sanitary and stormwater systems.

- There is high-efficiency lighting

- Construction materials contain 20% recycled content.

- They used drought-resistant landscape materials

- Roof materials have a high degree of reflectance, keeping the cooling costs down

What do I think of the park as an architectural piece? Well… I’ll defer to this assessment. I’ll say this: I’ve been to seven major league stadiums and Nationals Park isn’t my favorite. But we had fun with N and R, most definitely.

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They had to put on their Rally Caps because the Nationals needed rallying that night. They did not win that game, unfortunately.

Oh, and the first major league game at Nationals Park? March 30, 2008: Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals. The Nationals defeated the Braves 3–2 with a walk-off home run from Ryan Zimmerman (former UVA-man). Oh, the irony.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What’s your surface?

We watch a lot of HGTV at our house. Maybe I should rephrase. I watch a lot of HGTV, Dr. Jay tolerates it. I don’t consider it a complete waste of time since it is my business, so to speak, but it’s pretty much a waste of time. This morning I happened to catch part of a show I hadn’t seen before (when I got back from my run and needed to stretch, you know, multi-tasking!) called Red, Hot & Green. Corny title, but good concept. And one of the hosts is that dreamy Carter Oosterhouse, and who can resist him? I really liked how they helped clients make wise design choices while they remodel. The episode I saw today featured a solid surface counter product that is new to me: concrete and recycled paper.

recycled_concrete_countertop concrete-countertop-by-sonoma-4

It’s called Recycled Concrete, which is a bit deceptive since the concrete itself hasn’t been recycled, just created from recycled components. It looks like straight-up concrete, which I love, but is lighter because much of the aggregate is recycled paper. The light-weight is important since often when remodeling a home, using something heavy (like traditional concrete) isn’t an option because the floor can’t support the extra weight. Concrete and Paper countertops are made from fly ash, recycled glass, recycled paper, Portland cement and non-toxic mineral pigments for color. It has greater stain resistance than soapstone, which it also resembles. On the show they said that it costs between $60 and $80 a square foot, so a little more than granite, but that it's cheaper and easier to install than granite. There is no steel reinforcement, so it can be modified on-site.

Has anyone used this material in their home? Let me know what you think. I love the look of concrete, so I am wondering if this is easier to work with.

Here’s a link to a run-down of other counter-top surfaces made from sustainable materials: The Perfect Countertop Surface

Last night we went to the Nationals game with friends (N & R!) and I’ll soon be writing about the Nationals Stadium, which is the first major stadium in the country to be not only LEED-certified, but gain enough points to be LEED Silver. I intended to publish this post last night and one on the stadium today, but due to an unexpected Metro-related fiasco last night, I’m glad I am still awake to get this one out today. Many apologies!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Testing out Windows Live Writer

I’ve bitten the bullet and downloaded Windows Live Writer to see if I can improve my posting capabilities, which were limited using only Blogspot.  I don’t have a real topic for this post, so bear with me as I test this out on you.

Bilheimer Residence 005

Here’s a photo of a house I did some renovation drawings for in Athens before we left.  We have plans to make this a mid-century modern beauty, though the owners are still in decision-mode.  I’ll let you know if the renovations get underway, because I know you’ll want to see photos.

So far, so good.  I can actually insert a photo where I want it and adjust it’s size accordingly- before this was a real pain.  The real test will be if this post is published as I see it on the screen now. 

Thanks for your patience.  I’ll be back soon with a genuine topic.  And for all you that have made topic suggestions, I appreciate them and keep them coming!  I have a list of about 10 right now, so if you haven’t seen yours yet, it’s probably on the way.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday eye candy

Dr. Jay knows me so well. He sent me this article this morning from the Wall Street Journal Homes section about a recently completed artists' residence in the Hamptons. I do love a grey house, AND an L-shaped house! And you may remember my feelings on pools and grass. This house is incredible. It was designed for Louise Peabody and Edgar Lansbury, two artists who use the home as both a studio and a living space. Sounds like an assignment from architecture school. It of course has access to lots of natural light and views, and is situated in South Hampton where so many artists of the past have gone to be inspired (did you see Pollack?). I'm sure it's the landscape that draws them, and not the presence of those Real Housewives of NYC. The architect, Alex Stolz of Vaiday Stolz Architects of New York, happens to be the son of Ms. Peabody. Lucky her. Read the article and definitely check out the slideshow. You'll see all the ways they've emphasized transparency and light, but also used dark materials to ground the structure and make the house seem like it has emerged from the landscape. Speaking of the Hamptons, has anyone watched that show Royal Pains on USA? I caught the first episode back in June, and loved the Hamptons house where a lot of it was filmed... I think it may be by Narofsky Architects of NYC. I hope everyone has a great weekend. The technician from Verizon DSL just left, and looks like we have lift off, folks.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Our new digs in Alexandria

I wanted to update you all on our new life in Alexandria, though it's been brought to my attention that this post is bordering on "too personal, not enough architecture". I'm not sure how I feel about that, since my thoughts about architecture in a place are of course tempered by my experiences there, and in order for you to know where I'm coming from with my opinions, you have to know a little bit more about me and my life. Right? Plus, it's my blog and I can do what I want. If you think it needs more architecture, you'll have to speak up. For now, I bring you: 10 things I like about our new place 1- Our proximity to the Mount Vernon trail along the Potomac River. It's been essential to my running. And it takes you past Reagan National Airport, so you can run right underneath a plane landing. 2- The patio. Our interior space is small, but we feel lucky to have some outdoor space enclosed with a brick wall. It's a grilling area, some extra space for Rudy, and hopefully a hang-out when the temperature cools and we get some outdoor furniture. 3- The pot rack. As soon as we began bringing our boxes in, I knew we'd never be able to fit all our pots and pans in the few cabinets in the small kitchen. I was able to find an amazing deal on a pot rack from the Crate and Barrel Outlet, and Dr. Jay installed it. He reviles home improvement/repair projects, but I know he likes seeing our beautiful pots and pans given to us by my mother for our wedding. 4- We don't pay for water. Or trash. Dr. Jay would say that we implicitly pay for water and trash with the price of rent, but all I know is that it's fewer bills to worry about each month, and I like that. 5- There is a pool! We've only been there twice so far, so I need to make better use of it, but it's there! 6- Our proximity to Old Town Alexandria. It's only a mile walk, and there's always lots going on down there. There's a farmer's market on Saturdays that I'll write about in an up-coming post. 7- Our proximity (6 blocks) to Trader Joe's. 'Nuff said. 8- The Washington Post. My mom gave us a subscription, and it's been fun keeping my finger on the pulse of the city. I like the Home and Food sections, and of course the Style section. And lately, the Classifieds... 9- There's a great dog store (I guess most people call them pet stores?) also very close. And they carry Rudy's food, which is a huge plus since he is spoiled and has hard-to-find food. 10- All of Old Town Alexandria is VERY dog friendly. We've heard of a dog happy hour that goes on somewhere, and most stores allow dogs, including my current part-time job store. There are some things I don't like about our new place. We still, 2.5 weeks after ordering it, do not have Verizon DSL, the only DSL available in this area. Dr. Jay and I have both spent WAY too many hours on the phone with them, and I am completely at my wits' end. A technician is supposed to be arriving tomorrow morning to fix everything, and for that to happen I had to stomp my feet and yell, so let's hope it's all resolved tomorrow. My posts have been spotty lately because of this inconvenience, so I apologize. There's also some funny switching in this apartment. A lot of the switches are half-switched to outlets, but most don't make any sense or are a real pain because if you aren't careful, you might turn off your phone charging or you computer when you flip a switch. On the whole, we like our new digs and are transitioning to this new chapter in life. I'll leave you with photos of the patio. It needs a lot of work, so consider these the BEFORE photos: The first meal on the grill (on move-in day!) and Rudy, who had just been digging and probably burying a rawhide.Rudy's pool.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

July wrap-up

I've had some photos ready to publish for a while, so I am going to use this post to mash-up (yes, evidently that term is part of the mainstream now) some of the events in our life from July, pre-move. The week before we left Georgia we had the great fortune to stay at his parents house and see more family before we moved, and one of the day-trips we took with Dr. Jay's grandmother, mother and one of the brothers was to Brasstown Bald, Georgia's highest mountain. A lifelong Georgian, I had never been there! From the lookout point at the top you can see Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. We hiked the trail from the parking area (a mile-ish?) and managed to see a rattlesnake along the way! I am not a nature photographer, but here's the evidence:After trekking to high places, we made a stop near Young Harris, Georgia to see some giant birdhouses, or at least that's how they were described to me. I am not sure how my mother-in-law originally found this place, but she was insistent that we stop, and once there I could see the appeal. It was a mind-altering experience: These are fanciful playhouses for kids, or giant birds, and someone has spent a lot of time creating them. This next photo might get me in trouble, or it will end up on a t-shirt, which sometimes happens in our family. Moving on from that day, I wanted to highlight another great spot we were able to spend time in while we awaited move-in day. Friends (I'll call them N and R) in Maryland offered us a room for a week in their palatial house, and we couldn't refuse. When we initially pulled in the driveway, we thought maybe the GPS had messed up the address, but no, this is definitely their house. And they really baby the landscaping. We got a tour of the plants- I am pretty sure they are better taken care of than our dog. We had a wonderful week with our friends, and were incredibly spoiled with the space. This next photo cracks me up. They hosted a family get-together for R's little sister, and everyone removed their shoes and lined them up by the door. R is a builder and comes from a family of builders, and either they are incredibly polite or have been trained really well to take care of houses. This house is for sale, by the way, and if you have any interest in residential real estate in Maryland, I'll put you in touch with these folks. Here's R in their master bath, which they customized with frosted glass and a re-arrangement of the original plan. How many sinks do you have in your home? There are 16 in this house. 16 sinks gives you some idea of how luxurious this house is. N and R were great friends to put us up during Dr. Jay's first week of work, and we are forever grateful. I'll be back tomorrow with more on our current situation in Virginia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hello from Virginia

I must make this post quick because I have my car on a meter and a part-time job to get to (my first day!) but I wanted to say hello to my blog-stalkers and let you know I haven't forgotten you! My internet access has been intermittent at best for the last two weeks, and I have a long list of topics to cover eventually. But for now I'll just focus on updating you that yes, we have completed the move and unpacking is underway... internet should be available tomorrow night, but I am not holding my breath. I did want to tell you that one of the cool things I've done since moving to Alexandria is visit the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library, designed by Michael Graves. It's a gorgeous, and very busy, library. I've been three times and am amazed at how many people are using it each time. I know the slow econonomy contributes to this, but it's nice to see people making use of this public asset. The use of brick speaks to the vernacular of Virginia, and the steep roofs allow natural light into the core of the building, making the interior a very pleasant spot to look for books or read. There is also a beautiful reading garden. I'll be writing more on this library soon, but I need to get back to that metered parking spot soon!