Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mid-Century in the Movies

Over the weekend Dr. Jay and I tried to go on a date to see Crazy Heart, but arrived a little late and the only seats available probably weren’t together (not date-worthy) so we ended up seeing Tom Ford’s A Single Man. 

A Single Man poster

We had seen the previews for this movie back in the fall and were intrigued.  Well, it’s not that romantic of a movie (if you are heterosexual) but the architecture is amazing.  Colin Firth’s character lives in a 1949 John Lautner designed home supposedly in Santa Monica (though it’s actually in Glendale, thank you Apartment Therapy) and the images from the movie are still with me.  I enjoyed the movie for the architecture.  That sounds like a completely ridiculous thing to say.


Look how the house is formed around the tree.  Incredible.



The house is for sale right now- it’s two bedrooms, one and a half baths, two car detached garage:  listed for $1,495,000.  Actually, that’s a steal compared to home prices around here.

If you’re wondering why I am posting in the middle of the day during a work week, well, I am waiting for the plumber.  He is LATE.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Do you need an architect?

One question I’m frequently asked by friends or family is, “When do you have to use an architect?  If I want to build a custom home, do I (by law) have to use an architect, and if not, why would I want one?”

It’s always a tricky answer because typically, someone building a single family residence is not required to use an architect, BUT there may be exceptions to this based on the square footage or area of the country (things may be more strict in an earthquake zone like California).  These laws are determined by states, and some are more strict with their rules than others.  I was recently looking in to my registration in Texas (I know, I live in Virginia, but I took my exams in Texas and am therefore registered there, which doesn’t really have much consequence for my job now since I am not a principal in the firm and will therefore not be signing and sealing drawings) and I found this great chart on the Texas Board of Achitectural Examiners (the folks that gave me a license) website which explains when to engage an architect in the state of Texas:


(Click on the image to see source).

I think this chart is really valuable for explaining which types of projects require an architect, though I doubt an architect created it because it is so hum-drum.  I’ve been looking and looking online and haven’t found one similar for other states, though I will keep you posted if I find one for Virginia.  The rules in this chart more than likely are applicable for most places, but this was of course created specifically for Texas so keep that in mind.

While searching for similar charts for other states, I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal about the value of hiring an architect, even if it is not required.  I heartily agree.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I think I can, I think I can

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? I guess this is just about the time when most folks either bend or break around the new habits they resolved to form. I know I made several personal and professional goals for the year, and I am trying my best to keep the momentum by reminding myself daily what I resolved to do.

Recently I read a great article on RealSimple.com called The 9 Secrets of Motivated People. As someone who has attempted to run a small business (that being just me), trained for and run three marathons,and been on the seeking end of employment more times than I’d like to recount, I know a little something about striving to maintain motivation. It takes effort every day.

In this article, all the tips are helpful, though the two I indentify most with as helping me in my struggles with motivation are #7 Challenge yourself and change things up, and #8 Keep on learning. While working for myself, these were both very necessary habits but not something I realized I could channel in order to maintain motivation. As a runner, I use both many of these 9 techniques to stay focused on a goal, but hadn’t always thought to apply them to my career goals.

You may be able to see where I am going with this. 2010 will definitely be a career-changing year for me. And I plan to use many of these techniques to power through it. I’ll try to keep you posted, though hopefully you’ll be witness to positive changes on the blog. My one year blogoversary is coming right up next month!

What are you trying to stay motivated to do?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back by popular demand

Well, I don’t know about popular, but Dr. Jay has been bugging me to post and I finally decided that this was the weekend to come out of shadows I’ve been lurking in for over a month. Was the last time I posted really a month ago? I guess it was. I do apologize, dear readers, but life became very busy in December (there was a blizzard, the holidays, two separate trips to Georgia, a new starter for our vehicle, among other things) and I know that shouldn’t really have kept me from blogging, but they sapped me of time and energy and posting sank lower and lower on the priority list.

It’s a new year and I have new resound for the Babble though. I hope to be making changes to my site soon, which is one thing that has kept me from being overly-enthusiastic about posting. I want my blog-environment to be reflective of me and my design aesthetic. I’ve been super basic here from the start, so it’s time for me to finally figure out how to code something and make some changes. I’ll keep you posted.

On the architecture end, one piece of news I read in December and meant to write about is an interesting little thing that occurred in Switzerland back in November: the Swiss voted to ban the building of minarets. Though not supported by the government, a referendum vote on the issue passed with 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons. Because the ban was backed by a majority of voters and cantons, it will be added to the Swiss Constitution, which could take up to a year. The Swiss Constitution, like that of the United States, guarantees freedom of religion.


(image of a minaret in Zurich courtesy of the NYTimes)

Do you think that’s ever happened before in a Westernized country: that an entire type of architectural form could be banned? As the article states, of the 150 mosques or prayer rooms in the entire country of Switzerland, only four have minarets, and only two more are planned. I’m not sure if those planned will be affected by this new law or not. The minaret form, tall and striking in the landscape, can be quite dominant, especially in a country where low-lying traditional buildings dot the landscape.

It’s striking to me that the Swiss people have such direct influence on the built form in their communities. When I visited Zurich for a school trip in 2005, the city was in the process of voting on the design of it’s first real skyscraper, which was an exception to its restriction on high-rise buildings. There was an exhibit with models and drawings of the various ideas created by about ten different architects from around the world, and citizens were invited to visit and observe the possibilities and then cast votes to determine the fate of the cityscape. It was amazing to me that something that in the U.S. which would have been decided by private, commercial parties or with the local government, was to be decided by citizens of the community. The Swiss have a completely different way of determining how their cities will be shaped.

Do you agree? Do you think Americans would ever show up for a vote banning a certain type of architecture, or to vote on a new building in their town or city?

Off to watch Herb and Dorothy, finally!