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:

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

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What happened to the rest of the church?

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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.