Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New uses for old things

I love the concept of new uses for old things. I’m totally inspired by this post from Apartment Therapy. I cannot believe that this bench:


Came from two chairs like this:


Now that is an amazing transformation. Looks like they did a little hammer-time. If you aren’t familiar with the hammer-time technique, it was developed by my mother-in-law when she wanted to change a lot of her brass candle holders and frames to brushed nickle or silver using this:


There are two chairs on our patio at this very moment that deserve my attention in the form of some rehab. I hope to back with some of my own Before and After photos some time before it gets too cold to sit out on that patio.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The eternal question: which shoes are right for the job?

It’s a crazy-busy week here in my world, but I thought you might enjoy this comic from a recent New Yorker (thanks for the tip, anonymous loyal reader). I’d probably have found it eventually (it was the Fashion issue, for goodness sakes) but I appreciate getting the heads up right away- gave me an excuse to dig right in to the rest of the magazine. This comic is appropriate for me on so many levels.


Image courtesy of The New Yorker.

And now back to the grind.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Palpitations and a really neat museum

I woke up this morning with heart palpitations. I’d had two strange dreams- first, that I had lost my bag and was looking in several dark corners but it was not to be found. Second, I checked the blog to see that one of my posts had about a hundred comments. One of these things (losing my bag) could very likely happen, and I am so glad it didn’t. The other, actually getting more than one comment on the blog, very likely won’t happen, and I’m not glad about that. After several months of writing this blog, I’m still not sure of my voice or my audience. But I’m going to keep plugging along until I find them, because I do see some benefits.

I initially began the blog back in February when it became startlingly apparent that I was under-employed (I was doing contract architecture work in Athens and logging very few hours per week) and needed something to keep my mind engaged with architecture. I am one of the least likely people to start a blog. When I first heard about blogs a few years ago, I thought “How can people be so self-absorbed that they think other people want to read their every thought on a subject?”. To me, the idea just seemed so antithetical to everything I deem good and pure. And then I started reading blogs. I realized they are so much more than the product of the self-absorbed… they are mechanisms for the flow of information. I started by reading food blogs, and I’m not even sure how that happened except that I must have been searching for meal ideas and stumbled upon a writer who took photos of everything she ate and occasionally posted recipes, and from reading the comments on her blog, I found other blogs. To this day I read about five blogs pertaining to food. It’s less about the food at this point, and more that I am also engaged in their lives. Most of these women post three times a day, mind you. I’m feeling good if I finish three posts a week, so what they do is so beyond me, but their content is also much different. Now I also read several design blogs and aspire to make mine a daily read for some loyal followers. This is all to address the issue that I am an unlikely blogger, I’m still searching for my voice, and I’m glad to have the few consistent readers that I have. Thanks for reading!

And now, finally, on to that neat museum. Back in July, on the very weekend that we moved to Virginia in fact, Dr. Jay and I attended a friend’s wedding in Chattanooga. The ceremony was the chapel on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga (as a Dawg, Dr. Jay was a little uncomfortable there, but we figured church is a safe place to be if you have to be in enemy territory).

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It’s a gorgeous old church, and a beautiful day for a wedding.

Here’s an interior shot. The exposed structure and windows were lovely. Sorry about that blond woman’s head. I would have cropped her out, but I wanted you to see the enormous pipe organ.


Then on to the reception. It was held at the Hunter Museum of Art, which is now part of Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront Plan, a public/private venture partnering the museum with the City of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum. The original Hunter Museum opened in 1952, transformed from the first structure which was built as a mansion in 1905. It’s since undergone a restoration and expansion in 1975 (by Chattanooga architects Derthick, Henley and Wilkerson) and another renovation and expansion in 2005, which is the area that we experienced for the wedding reception.

Here are some shots of the original building, its addition, and the bridge linking the museum plaza with the Tennessee Aquarium.





DH&W also designed this bridge. It looked pretty great a night, lit up over the Tennessee River, linking the two buildings.


A few interior photos of the museum, with its dramatic staircase and atrium.

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What I thought was most intriguing about this new addition is its juxtaposition with the old, and the construction gymnastics that must have been necessary to pull it off. Take a look at these photos of where the two structures meet.

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It’s difficult to photograph this intersection, so you can imagine it took quite a bit of skill in design and construction. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the construction trailer.

We were all blown away by this museum. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the majority of the folks attending this wedding are very traditional, so to see them enjoying this very contemporary space made my heart all aflutter. And we were celebrating a wedding, so there was that, too. Of course the museum’s website doesn’t credit an architect with the most recent addition, but I found this article from Architectural Record that states that the architect was Randall Stout Architects of L.A.

They certainly cleaned up a hot mess. Take a look at the museum from across the river before:


And now:


A definite improvement. Here are some of my photos of the evening. Is it weird that I took more photos of the building than I did the bride and groom?

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I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend- fall’s awaiting! Be back soon with more self-reflection and notable architecture to babble about.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Architects eat their young

I can’t remember where I initially heard this phrase, but time and time again I have seen it in action and know that it is very true. Recently I got this posting on the Archinect Jobs Board delivered to my Google Reader. I just had to copy the whole thing here because I am afraid you won’t click on the link and then miss the point of this post:

Robert Siegel Architects, a nationally acclaimed architecture firm, seeks two full time interns for a three month, uncompensated internship. We are looking for talented and passionate people who are excited about making buildings and working outside their comfort zone towards innovation in architecture. Hard work and dedication, combined with inspiration and drawing ability, is one thing that all staff members share. You must have truly excellent written and oral communication skills. Cover Letter: Send us a brief, signed cover letter specific to Robert Siegel Architects that states why it makes sense to hire you. Graphic presentation is key. This is your first impression and demonstrates your ability as a designer. Use care in selecting the paper, the font, and the organization of text on the page. One-Page Resume: We are looking for great experience and commitment. Limit your resume to one page only. Your Work Samples: Show us only your best stuff and the work you are most passionate about. You should showcase your abilities - whether it is a sketch, a floor plan, a construction detail, wall section, spec section, watercolor, etc. So long as it is your work, we are interested in seeing it. Please do not show renderings made by others. Submitting renderings other than your own will lead to automatic rejection. Test: After making it through the first resume review process, we give selected promising candidates a graphic test in our office. The goals of this 20 minute test are:

  1. Drawing ability using a pencil. This is a tool that architects use to communicate. In our office we are always drawing and sketching freehand.
  2. Passion for architecture and analytical ability. There is a portion of the test in which you have to draw a plan and a section or elevation of any piece of architecture. Amazingly, either history is no longer taught or the relevance of our architectural past is not integrated into design curricula since most people fail this portion catastrophically.
  3. Basic design ability. This is a classic "Architecture 101" test to measure spatial design ability.
Personal Interview: You will be asked to present highlights of your work and a detail or two. Move quickly and ask questions. Let the person conducting the interview hold the portfolio and turn at their own pace. You must demonstrate your ability to edit and to be concise. Do not be late: Make sure that you are on time and are dressed as if you were meeting with a valued client. Professional References: You should have outstanding professional references that are able to talk about your specific strengths and abilities. Please have these ready to give at the conclusion of a personal interview. ABOUT THE JOB: Would you like to work on projects ranging in size from $500,000 to $200 million in construction value? Are you energized by the idea of working with outstanding public clients including the United States General Services Administration and the New York State University Construction Fund? Do you enjoy working with private companies and high-end private residential clients? Robert Siegel Architects focuses on architectural innovation, every day, for every client. Our staff is an energetic and talented group drawn from all over the world with a passion for architecture and expertise in design, technology, urban and graphic design. Applicants should be strong designers with outstanding drawing and/or model-making skills, and have strong organizational and communication skills. Applicants must be proficient in AutoCAD and Rhino. Applicants must be authorized to work in the U.S. and have excellent verbal and written communication skills. If you would like to be part of our growth and are interested in contributing to the creative process at a design, detail and management level, we would like to see your work. For consideration please mail (no emails, please) the following:
  1. Cover Letter
  2. Resume
  3. Work Samples that demonstrate your design and technical ability
Please send to: Robert Siegel Architects Attn: Nadine Friedman 37 West 37th Street, 12th Floor New York, NY 10018 NO PHONE CALLS OR EMAILS PLEASE

Okay, clearly they have high standards at Robert Siegel Architects. If you take a second to look at their website, you can see that they produce amazing work, so I don’t doubt that there are some very talented people working there. But did you catch the part about “three month uncompensated internship” ? Who, in this economy, has the means to live in New York (one of the most expensive cities in the world) unpaid and work their hiney off for three months? I guess that drastically reduces the candidate pool right there. I’ve been sitting on this post for over a week trying to figure out what I wanted to say about it, just because this job-posting left me a little on edge. It is far more involved than any job application process I have seen in a while, though I sure it is effective. It reads a little like an undergraduate studio project assignment, frankly.

As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I am in the midst of a job search, so seeing this is yet another reminder of how tough it is out there. I’m drowning a little bit, questioning my choice of professions (for about the 5th time in my life) and then I see something like this, making me feel even more beat-down. But at the same time it makes me wish I could go back in time a few years when I could have jumped at this opportunity, figured out the debt-part later, and been chewed up and spit out taken a much different path in my career.

Here’s an example of a project by Robert Siegel Architects somewhere in D.C. (doesn’t say where on their website) that I particularly like… it’s called Sunwall:

sunwall_horizonta_web sunwall_vertical_web

What did you think of this job-posting when you read it? Am I over-reacting?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Check her out!

I’m happy to announce that my very sweet and very talented friend, Nicole Blair, has been published in this month’s issue of Dwell magazine! I haven’t had a chance to buy the mag yet (but I will! I just need to get to a store that doesn’t only sell milk and eggs and one kind of trash bag) though I have had the pleasure of touring this house a few years ago when it was finished and it sure is well- designed. Nicole has her own firm in Austin (sniff, sniff- I miss you, Texas!) called Studio 512, and if you poke around a bit on her site you’ll see what an incredible architect she is!

Her work is known for being not only very stylish but also very affordable. Nicole really works hard to be innovative with materials and get the most bang for a client’s buck. Cheers to you, Nicole!


Edited to add: The article is about her work on this Chicon Street duplex in Austin. Sorry I failed to mention that earlier!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where do old solar homes go?

I have the most dangerous thing in the oven right now: the Barefoot Contessa’s Banana Crunch Muffins. I first made these after a frustrating day when we first moved here in July and they’ve become my go-to baking project. These things will put you in a sugar coma, so take it easy if you make them. I only have a few minutes before I need to check on them again, and I thought I’d get a post out post-haste.

There are about 10 tabs open on my Firefox right now… and three of them are Apartment Therapy articles. I have a problem with AT because I want to read each and every post but they come out way too fast. I am about 747 posts behind, and that’s just from last week I think. One from today that I did manage to read is about a Solar Decathlon house from the 2005 competition designed by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) architecture students. It’s now being used by Portsmouth Abbey School, a Catholic high school in Rhode Island founded by Benedictine Monks. In 2006 they added a 164-ft. wind turbine to the campus, and in October of 2008 RISD donated the solar house to their campus to be used for faculty housing.


I love this photo with the wind-turbine- it just seems so right. It’s not clear from the article whether the turbine and house work together, or if the turbine’s energy is used for something else on campus. The house does use photovoltaics, an energy recovery ventilation system, and energy efficient appliances.

For the most part, I like the design of this house, but I do wonder about the longevity of the Solar Decathlon competition. I was part of the very first Solar Decathlon in 2002 as a member of UVa’s team (we placed 2nd overall and 1st in the design competition, not that I’m bragging) and I have to say to say that this house hasn’t deviated much from designs of previous competitions. Maybe this is because the rules and performance requirements are so tight? I’m glad this house is serving a purpose right now. And I can’t wait to visit the houses on the Mall in D.C. for this year’s Solar Decathlon in October- definitely be on the lookout for my write-up on that.

Now for those muffins!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

“A computer is like a bicycle for your mind” (Steve Jobs)

A loyal reader recently sent me this link to an article published in AIArchitect This Week (an online journal) from August 28, 2009. If you have a moment, read about this amazing Bike Transit center (the first of its kind on the East Coast), nearing completion in D.C. It was designed by KGP Design Studio of Washington and is situated between the Union Station Metro and the National Postal Museum.

Check out one of the design studies: - Adobe Reader

It’s semi-enclosed, made of glass, steel and concrete, and its transparency speaks to its purpose of being a carbon-neutral transit hub. The design of the structure is to mimic the ideas of speed and efficiency (like a bicycle) and safety (like a helmet). I can see that. I can’t wait to check this out when it’s complete, which should be soon. I’ll have to get the word from N- apparently she sees it every day on the walk between her train and office. Have I mentioned that she is an Architect? Capitol A, thank you.

By the way, how do you like the changes to my blog site? I’ve been puttering around with it, thanks to some IT help from Dr. Jay. Still more to do, but I’m learning! And I don’t speak code well, if you couldn’t already tell.

More soon!