Friday, July 22, 2011

I've moved

I've moved my blog over to wordpress.  Please come visit me here:
Until I figure out how to automatically redirect you... 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Local beauty

I had to follow up my last post’s criticism of local architecture with something more positive from the design files.  When walking through a nearby neighborhood a few weeks ago, I spotted this fence.


Among the many hum-drum front fences of these townhouses, the horizontal wood planks are a welcome sight.  It all looks very well-crafted.


Do you love that rolling gate?


I bet that is fun to come home to.  My in-laws built and installed a similar door in their house.  Good times.  Noodle salad.  (Can you tell me what that’s from?)

I commend you, neighbor!   Job well done on that curb appeal!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Dr. Jay knows me so well.  He sent me this link to a story from a local news site about the liberties taken with architectural elements in Arlington, the town next door.  These pointless tiaras are the kinds of things that make most architects shudder.  Or giggle. And yet they are rampant in Arlington, and across the country really.  Take a look at these photos and tell me you haven’t noticed something like this on a building near you and wondered, “What the heck is that for?”  It doesn’t provide shade or protect anyone from the elements.  Is it protecting the building from predators, from other buildings?



This next one looks like it was slapped on at the last minute, when the designers realized they might have some extra metal laying around the construction site.  It’s as if they finished and said, “Shoot, we forgot to add the flair!”

tiara24_606 = jennifer_aniston_flair

Clearly there’s a form-following-function rule being broken, and poor Louis Sullivan is rolling in his grave.

For a laugh, take a look at the full gallery of photos here.  Like I said, Dr. Jay knows me so well.  He knew I needed a laugh and he delivered.

Speaking of laughs, architecture geeks like me would love one of these:



And that’s it for me. 

I’ll be here all week.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A first

This weekend is Mother’s Day- a first for me and a first for many of my friends.  This post marks my very first interview with an architect, a series I hope to continue monthly.  It happens to be with Jen, a fellow new Mom and friend I’ve had for several years now.

Meet Jen.


This is kind of exactly how I picture Jen when I think of her.  Smiling face and orchids.  She loves orchids.  I had the pleasure of meeting her back in January of 2005, when we were both traveling to Switzerland for an architecture studio.  We were seat mates.  Seat mates once we finally got on our way after being side-lined in the Newark airport for a full 24 hours due to a blizzard.  Seat mates during a very bumpy, turbulent flight highlighted by lightening and air sickness.  I won’t tell you which one of us got sick, but needless to say we became fast friends.  Jen is easy to like because she’s just so darn sweet.  And completely sincere.  Jen is the friend who I trusted to do my hair for my wedding, and she put up with all my nit-picky opinions of hair-doing even though I have no idea of what I am talking about or skill to back it up.  She also did hair for my attendants.  And sat up with me the night before the wedding folding napkins.  And the next day, in the June heat of Georgia, she arranged all the place cards on strings in our backyard.  All 285-odd of them.  A task I had no idea would be so tedious and difficult (apparently all the cards wanted to flip over on themselves and in general be big pains-in-the-neck). 


This is the kind of girl Jen is.  She’ll give 110% no matter what the task.

This is the kind of architect you want working on your building.  One who won’t rest until it’s just as it should be.

I could go on and on about the things Jen has done for me.  But I need to get on to her interview.  She graciously spent some time answering some questions for me so you could get a better idea of what it’s like to be an architect these days.

Here we go!

Tell us a little about yourself- where you're from, where you went to school, what you are doing now, etc.

I was born and raised in the northwest side of Chicago.  I stayed in the city for architecture school at the Illinois Institute of Technology, because what better city to study architecture and what better studio space than Mies's Crown Hall.  I worked at the Chicago firm VOA Associates from my second year all the way through the summer of my graduation.  The experience I gained there was truly invaluable.  I then moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a post-professional M.Arch degree with an urban design concentration.  I stayed in Austin for an additional three years, working at ERO International, a firm focusing primarily on educational and civic architecture.  I know live Denver, Colorado, where I've been for three years.  In 2009 I earned my architectural license and LEED accreditation.  Last spring I had my first child, and I now am a project manager at a small commercial firm, Kenney Architects.

How did you get interested in architecture?

I was always captivated by downtown Chicago growing up, but had no real thoughts as to designing buildings myself.  I grew up interested in art - particularly drawing & painting, and it was later pointed out in high school that I also had a knack for physics, geometry, and writing.  So my parents prompted me to consider architecture.  I honestly studied it because it made logistical sense - not really out of an intense passion for it.  It wasn't until my semester abroad in Europe, where I traveled to 12 countries in four months, that I really found my love for architecture.  And, the more I worked in an office the more I loved it as a career.  

What projects are you currently working on?  

Well, we all know times are tough right now, so I'm currently doing more marketing work than anything.  But I do have a new bank under construction, as well as an attorney's office that's about to going into the construction document phase.   Other than that, I'm trying to get a design-build team up and running for some dental office work, I recently revamped our website, and I'm working on a variety of proposals.  You’re jealous...I know.  :)

What do you think is the biggest misconception about architects or architecture?

Probably the glamour of it all.  People outside the profession seem to assume more hours are spent on the creative ideas than is really accurate.  Few people realize a typical day is more likely to include redlines, RFI's, and product research.  Fortunately, I love the day to day tasks as much as the coveted design moments.

What's your most memorable project? 

At this point it is still probably the Weslaco Middle School in south Texas.  That project was my baby, having worked on it pretty much since day one all the way through its construction.  While I didn't do it alone, I certainly lived and breathed it pretty much ten hours a day for a year.   

What was the worst project you worked on and why?

Probably a toss up between an elementary school trash enclosure and a printing press addition in an existing room.  I'm guessing your savvy readers don't need me to elaborate.  :)

What architect or architects inspire you and why? 

At the moment, I'm particularly inspired by Cameron Sinclair & Architecture for Humanity.  They are a non-profit that does pro-bono architecture work around the world.  I've always wanted a way to utilize my skill-set in a way that gives back.  While I'm not at the liberty of picking up and taking off for a 9 month stint in another country, I have been fortunate enough to get involved with the local Denver chapter of AFH and was recently made one of the new co-directors.  The Denver chapter has already had a successful relationship with Feed Denver, working on developing local urban farms.  We are also exploring projects with the Denver Rescue Mission and Edge of 7.

What is your favorite city for architecture?

Berlin - such an amazing mix of old and new all jumbled together.

Do you read any architecture magazines or blogs, or design blogs?

Primarily just the magazines that come with the AIA memberships.

What work of architecture would you most like to visit?

Well, I'm very fortunate to have seen many amazing works.  I always welcome a chance to visit Renzo Piano's various museums. 

I think my next desire would be to see the architecture in Asia - Japan, China, India, etc. - but that won't be anytime soon.

What, if anything, would you change about architectural education?

I think it’s important to work on integration with real practice - through internships, collaboration with the engineering department, more study into building code and city codes, and a better education on working within a budget.  Don't get me wrong, architecture school is a place to dream up big ideas, but wouldn't it be nice if the student could learn how to make them become a reality?


Thanks, Jen!  And Happy Mother’s Day!

Evan b-day-004

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

to think about

My friend Robyn, an architect down in North Carolina, sent me an email recently with some words of wisdom from one of her favorite local architects, Randall Lanou who works in the Triangle area.



Some Things I’ve Learned:

Making Things Is Fundamentally Satisfying

You Never Know Who Is In The Room

Learn-Do-Teach Is A Powerful Cycle

There Is Only One Way To Make Good Home Design Available To More People

Service Matters

Listen First

Design Is A Business

Building Is A Business

Even Mission-Driven Businesses Must Be Profitable

The Design-Make-Design Loop Is A Powerful Learning Circle

Expensive And Difficult Mistakes Are Well-Learned And Incredibly Valuable

Wide-Ranging Travel Yields A Healthy Perspective

The Best Choices Are Ones That Allow Your Conscience To Rest Easy

Sustainability Is An Old Idea Rooted In Frugality

Utility Often Equals Beauty

Great Projects Only Happen With Great Clients

Green Building Is Simply Better Building

Mimicry Is Not The Best Design Process, Even In A Historical Neighborhood

Memories And Stories Are More Important Than Finishes And Area

The Actual Thing Is Far Better Than A Facsimile

Parameters And Constraints Can Inspire Good Design

Doing The Right Thing Is Harder The First Time Than The Second Time

There Is No Situation Where Your Actions Are Without Consequence

An Even Balance Between Work And Play Is Critical

Relationships Are More Important Than Contracts

Life Is Too Short To Eat Bad Food And Drink Light Beer

A Formal Education Is A Tiny Part Of A Good Education

Responsibility, Fairness, And Stewardship Are Fine Guides

You Don’t Get Where You Want To Be Unless You Make Plans To Go

Friday, April 29, 2011

Because I can

Because I live vicariously through other people’s DIY projects.

Because our trip to the beach has been canceled because our baby has the sickies (a cold).  I’m so bummed.

And because it’s almost the end of April and I have so few posts this month.  Let’s not talk about my allergies, umK?

I’m sharing Bryn’s tiling project


Be sure to read both Day 1 and Day 2.  She’s done a really nice job describing the process, the materials they needed (and didn’t need) and the little bumps along the way.  I so enjoy seeing a project through to completion.  Even if it’s someone else’s.  Heck, the closest we come to DIY around these rented parts is dropping our knives off at ACE to be sharpened.  Oh wait, that’s still on the To-Do list.  Sorry honey.  Maybe that will happen this weekend, you know, since we won’t be at THE OCEAN.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jeepers, Creepers

Where’d you get those PEEPS?

Chilean Miners


It’s that time of year again.  The Washington Post Peeps Diorama Contest is upon us- or the winners were announced in last weekend’s edition of the WP Magazine, just in time for Easter this weekend.  Has April whizzed by everyone else, or is it just me?  It’s finally warm here, and that’s a good thing since it’s almost MAY.  We’re not here to discuss the weather though.  We’re here to discuss matters of high design.  Ahem, PEEPS.

Who doesn’t love that marshmallowy goodness?  Especially when disguised as a Chilean Miner rescue mission, as portrayed by the winning diorama.  That one was pretty good, I’ll admit, but there were some other really impressive ones this year.

For example:



This one depicts the Metro escalator malfunctioning at the Foggy Bottom Station, oh and a fire on the tracks.  If you live around here, you know just exactly what that is all about.

Another travel-related entry:



Yes, those are Peeps getting full-body scans and pat-downs at the airport.  Even marshmallow bunnies can’t escape the TSA.

Another one of my favorites involves Tiger Blood:



Yes, that would be Charlie Sheen receiving a transfusion of Tiger Blood.  How on earth did they make those Peeps into little tigers I will never know.

See the rest of the 35 finalists (from over 900 entries) in a slideshow on the Post’s website.

Until next year!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looks like we made it



Well, good readers, Mark and I survived the trip down to Richmond last week to tour the Rice house by Richard Neutra.  I’d even go as far as saying we thrived rather than just survived!  I’ll spare you the details of the early morning drive south, other than to say that there was a necessary outfit change just prior to the tour and I am so thankful for a nearby Starbucks- not for its coffee but for the availability of a changing table in the bathroom.  [Side note:  fold-out changing tables in public bathrooms are great, but can we please start demanding that a hook be available nearby to hold the diaper bag?!  Moms- let’s get together on this one.  Just like there should be a hook on the back of every stall door for our purses, there NEEDS to be a hook near the diaper changing area.  I’ll do my part as an architect to lobby for these!]

So, we were able to start the tour rested and fed (and changed!) and that made for a much happier baby.  We also lucked out with two very nice gentlemen who carpooled to the site from the Virginia AIA office with us.  One was a Richmond native who told me lots about the Fan District and surrounding neighborhoods and the other entertained Mark in the back seat.  They didn’t seem to mind squeezing into my tiny vehicle made smaller by the car seat that takes over the back, and one even offered to carry Mark’s diaper bag (though, it is an Orla Kiely bag and what design-minded person wouldn’t want to carry that bag?  Dr. Jay doesn’t even mind carrying it)!

On to the Neutra house- okay, okay, it’s the Rice house by Neutra.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  First of all, it’s situated on an island.  An ISLAND!  On the James River.  How incredible is that?  We had to cross a bridge specifically built by the Rices for accessing the island.  

Here’s a view of the James from the drive leading up to the house.




It was a gorgeous spring day.  Our tour guide was Bodil Hanneman, Director of the Foundation Board put together to preserve this amazing work of architecture.  She is also a personal friend of the Rice family (Walter Rice has passed away but his wife Inger is still living).  Here is Bodil Hanneman, who is also an architect.


She explained that the Science Museum of Virginia acquired the house back in 1996 when the Rice family donated it.  It is the only house in Richmond built in the International Style.  It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1999.  She has been working hard with a team not only to determine how best to proceed with renovations and repairs but also to help raise money for the cause.  She mentioned that one of the contractors told her that if they hadn’t intervened when they did, the house would have surely fallen within five years because it was in such a state of disrepair.  There was extensive water damage due to the poor drainage of the flat roofs. 

There were workers on the roof laying new waterproofing on the day of our tour.039

See the River out there?  I must mention that all these shots were taken by me while I had Mark on my other arm, so they are not my best work but I certainly tried to capture some details.  I don’t think there were any artificial light sources on at the time of our tour, so you can see how well this house receives daylight.


All of the fireplaces were double-sided, this one to both the interior and exterior.


This fireplace in the living area doubled with a fireplace in the master bedroom.  That’s a cork floor, by the way.



Most of the furniture was built-in, a total work of design by Neutra.  He was known for getting to know his clients really well, and was said to want to “be in love” with them before he worked for them.  Apparently he spent a week with the Rices before he took on the design of their home.  He was reportedly not thrilled to be working in Richmond but was quite taken with the site available to him and that was one thing that swayed him.

Here are a few more interior shots.


One side of the master closet which lead to the bathroom.  There were matching bathroom/closet sequences from the master bedroom, and the bathrooms each had sunken tubs.



Here’s a shot in the dining area with the marble wall which extends from the interior to the exterior.


See the glass?


Mark absolutely loved that wall.


He couldn’t stop touching it and got upset when I finally pulled him away.  It was Georgia marble.  What can I say, the boy has really good taste.

Some shots of the pool:



Here are some of the stairs leading to it:



You are not mistaken- that is a very treacherous pathway leading to the pool.  And though there will eventually be a railing along that rooftop balcony, there wasn’t one originally!


I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this tour.  Having learned about houses like this all through school, I didn’t think I’d be able to see a Neutra house unless I took a trip to California.  Having one so close in Virginia is incredible and it makes me so happy that there is such an effort to preserve it.  I came away from this experience certain that Neutra was a true master of the plan.  Each space was so carefully thought out and developed.  It was by no means an enormous house, but Neutra made the most of every square foot and it of course felt more spacious because of all the glass and the fact that there was so much indoor/outdoor living.  That part may have made more sense in California, where Neutra was used to working.  Nonetheless, I have a wonderful memory of the day, as a mother and as an architect.

One last photo for you.  I won’t do this often, but I have to share this with you.

Mark charming our tour guide:


Actually, I think he was charmed by all the zippers on her jacket, and maybe you had to be there, but it was a hilarious way to end the tour.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Random, random Oh how Random

Some search terms I’ve been plugging into Google lately:

- Infant Heimlich YouTube

- How to disable a Maytag dryer buzzer

- Ricotta cheese and cocoa recipes

- Rice house by Richard Neutra

- Glen Echo park Maryland

- National Zoo

- National Cathedral

That’s a little glimpse into my life lately.  How about you?


Image courtesy of the Science Museum of Virginia

I’m taking Mark with me to a tour of the Rice house by architect Richard Neutra on Friday.  It’s being put on by the Virginia AIA all the way down in Richmond.  When I received the email invitation last week I got crazy excited. Crazy excited.  I decided I needed to sign up immediately and think about the logistics later.  The logistics being what to do with Mark.  I’m hoping he’ll put on his big boy pants and behave while I bring him with me on the hour and a half tour.  And become a very cultured 7 month old.  Pray for us [or think positive thoughts, whatever it is you do] that we make it through and I’m not super embarrassed about the way he acts in front of a lot of architects I don’t know.  All in the name of Neutra.

[Don’t know who Neutra is?  Well, he’s one of Modernism’s most prominent architects.  Born in 1892 in Vienna, Neutra studied architecture under Adolf Loos and worked in Germany before coming to the United States in 1923.  He worked briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright before joining friend and fellow Modernist Rudolf Schindler in California.  He lived and worked there for the majority of his career, and was known for his residential work and the importance he placed on clients’ needs and lifestyles.]

Hopefully I’ll be able to snap a few photos if my hands aren’t too full of a wiggly Mark.  Either way I’ll be posting about the trip- may have to use internet photos.  Please come back next week to see if we survived!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Balloon Construction and other news

Did you guys hear about this?


That’s right.  The good people of National Geographic actually got a house to float with balloons, just like from the movie UP.  Well, a small (16’x16’) house carried by 300 (three houndred!) LARGE eight foot tall balloons.  So incredible.



[all images courtesy of National Geographic]

Apparently the house flew to an altitude of 10,000 feet and stayed in the air for about an hour.  And, as one commenter on the National Geo blog asked, How’d that thing land?  I guess we’ll have to watch the episode of “How Hard Can it Be” which will air on the National Geographic Channel later this year.  Or you guys can watch it and let me know, since we’ve had a little snafu with our tv-watching recently.  Let’s just say you’ll see me writing about HGTV a  lot less.

In other current events around here,  I’ve been reading this


with great interest.  You may remember it from my holiday gift guide post.  Dr. Jay took the hint and gifted me the two books for my birthday.  A review to come!

And a few weeks ago, this sweet thing arrived from the grandmother fairy:


We love it in Mark’s room, though it’s only temporarily in a frame I had on hand.  I’m thinking it needs a thin black frame with a little sliver of blue mat.

What do you think?


Monday, March 14, 2011

It’s all a front

Mark and I had an errand to run last Friday so we left my comfort zone of Old Town and headed into the zoo that is Arlington.  Okay, actually it wasn’t that bad.  We returned unscathed and even managed to spot this oddity:

iphone 003

A construction zone… but look a little closer around the back:

iphone 004

What happened to the rest of the church?

iphone 005

Luckily the construction workers didn’t mind me snapping some photos with my phone.  I’m not sure why this intrigued me so much, but I’m curious as to what they’ll be building as an appendage to this church front.  I couldn’t really get close enough to read the sign as to what the project might be and the architects/engineers/construction companies working on it (I had Mark in his carrier on my front, so I couldn’t exactly sneak past the bulldozers for a closer look).  I guess I’ll have to brave Arlington again in a few months to check on the progress!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

File this under “That SUCKS”

Evidently if you live in D.C. and installed solar panels last year in hopes of getting a rebate from the city, you are sorely mistaken.  The D.C. Department of Energy has recently announced that it will not reimburse homeowners for their investment in solar because the allocated funds have been re-allocated to close a gap in the city’s budget.  This means 51 residents are out about $700,000 in total, or, let’s do some quick math here… over $13,000 on average.


I think I’d be a little ticked.  Or, maybe I’d realize that it’s not a good idea to rely on city government for reasons to invest in environmental responsibility.  At this point (okay, especially at this point, with the economy and real estate as shaky as it is) taking on such a long-term investment is only smart if you can already afford it or you can afford to wait until those solar panels create enough energy to negate your power bills for the next, oh, 20 years and beyond?

No pretty pictures for this post.  Hopefully I’ll be back with something inspiring soon.

Until then, keep the faith.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time

Sometimes I marvel at how completely behind I am on what’s going on in D.C.  Here’s the latest (to me) on the architecture scene:


the Bubble addition to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who also have the coolest website I have seen in a long time.  It’s seriously B.A.)

Here’s how the bubble works.


Got that?

Basically, the inflatable membrane will be erected for one month each spring and fall (beginning possibly in October 2012) filling the void of the museum’s courtyard and acting as an auditorium, cafe and meeting place.  Read more about it here, which is where I read about it.  In the magazine I’ll probably stop receiving soon since I am letting my AIA membership lapse. 

Is anyone else worried about this bubble and the high-strength winds we tend to get around these parts?  Surely they must have considered this possibility.  Looks like they are employing both Wind Engineering consultants and Climatic Analysis consultants.