I went to an open house a number of months ago for a new project by KUBE architecture. From the street, this Georgetown home, designed by Janet Bloomberg, seems to be yet another Georgian town house. When you open the door you find yourself transported to a modern space more at home in Los Angeles or manhattan than the 18th century streets of DC’s 2nd ward, yet the starck transition works. It sets you up for a series of well lit rooms that play with the modern trope of compression and release but manage to avoid the pitfall of hyper-glossy surfaces that are too often found in contemporary spaces. Instead Janet has chosen a muted palet of textural elements which alternate between the sheen of brushed metal, the warmth of rich wood veneers and the pleasantly imperfect nature of unglazed ceramics. The house is anchored by a floating stair whose verticality is emphasized by a curtain of steel cables running from the ground floor to the second story. While an interesting architectural element, the steel cables at times present a bit of a challenge in visual and physical comfort. When I visited the house was very crowded, the steel cables [...]
In Fall of 2009 I went on a trip to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland with some friends. While I was out there I took the opportunity to visit both Falling Water and Kentuck Knob. They are about an hour away and part of the same tour system. While Falling Water may well be Frank Lloyd Wright’s most well known home, neither should be missed. Kentuck Knob is a great example of how a Usonian Home could be modified to suit the needs of a much wealthier client than the original target market. Furthermore, the house is built on a hexagon base unit which stands in full contrast to the rectangle used as the base for Falling Water. When I returend to Northern Virignia I had the pleasure of touring a third Wright home, the Pope-Leighey House, a more traditional Usonian Home. While less well known, this house holds its own in any architectural arena. Compared to Kentuck Knob and Falling Water, this middle class home feels more garden folly than full time residence, but it is a great example of an early compact Modern compact home which manages to fit in the creature comforts in the smallest of spaces. Which [...]
One of the things that has been the most disturbing to me since I graduated and joined the world of working architects is how little our craft seems to be understood in the United States, not to mention how little demand there is for architects to work on projects. There is a discussion raging over on archinect about the public conception that architects are wealthy, well paid, and always in high demand; while in reality compared to most of the other white collar professions (doctors, lawyers, et al.) it is the opposite. I for the past three weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain why I think this is the case without devolving this post into a history lecture, and I think I’ve finally figured out how to do that. The root behind all of this confusion is two fold. First, while architects work in the twenty-first century world, we still base our business on a nineteenth century business model. Unlike other doctors and lawyers who offer a mix of relatively small fee quick services (like sick visits and legal consultation) and large fee longterm services (complex procedures and trial and business law) architects perform mostly large [...]
So I’ve been on the job market since February; in that time, I’ve applied for over 175 different positions. Some of these have been outside of the world of architecture, while most have been with architecture practices. I can see the writing on the wall, the architecture industry is changing and until it finds its new face there are not going to be many new positions out there working for other people. This is one of the reasons I’ve started my own residential design firm, studioSML, with a good friend of mine. On one hand we have the dream of working for ourselves, but on the other we are trying to be realists and understand that it is very likely that we will not bring in enough money to be self sufficient for years. This means that we both need full time positions elsewhere, and not just temporary ones. We are looking for long term (a number of years) positions that will allow us the ability to work on our own projects while still paying the rent/mortgage. In my mind, the best way to accomplish this is to find jobs outside of architecture, and for me that means looking to [...]
Above is the keynote address from the Tulane School of Architecture sponsored symposium: Preservation Matters by Tulane Alum and Editor of Architectural Record magazine, Robert Ivy, FAIA. The speech is a long overdue acknowledgement of the work of the Preservation Studies / Historic Preservation Program headed by my past professor, Eugene Cizek, FAIA and a discussion of the historic preservation movement within the city of New Orleans and Tulane’s role through the twentieth century. I have to laud the efforts of the new Dean of the Architecture School, Kenneth Schwartz, who introduces the conference and Mr. Ivy. Regional Modernism has a more detailed synopsis of the presentation. Throughout my years at the school, I always felt that the historical importance of place and the efforts of the preservation program to bring this idea to the student body was too often bulldozed by a blind passion for high modernism and other international styles. Issues of climate and green design were handled in the structural technology classes, but too often they did not play a part in the critically explored design studio work. As an aside, I spent a number of minutes trying to figure out where they held this symposium. This [...]
Tulane School of Architecture is hosting a one day symposium at the end of January focusing on Preservation. The keynote speaker will be Robert Ivy, FAIA and one of my favorite professors, Eugene Cizek, FAIA, will be providing commentary. This symposium is free and open to the public. If I was able to be in New Orleans, I would love to attend.
In the past century we have seen the rise of polytechnic architecture, a method of building which divorces the architect from the world of art and creativity, and instead treats buildings as solutions to engineering problems and casts architects in the role of project managers, facade coordinators and space planners.Â Working and living within this modern paradigm it can be easy to forget that our profession is not just about ensuring the health, safety and welfare as our licenses require, but also about creating spaces that inspire and capture the imagination. The New York Times has an interesting article describing a new exhibit of sketches by Frank Gehry at the Princeton University Art Museum which help to remind us that architecture is more than creating big boxes for commercial and residential means. While I am not a huge fan of Gehry, and feel that he is more popular for the “cool” factor of his buildings than for the real reason he should be popular – that if you consider the sum total of his works as one examination in form, it is a very interesting exercise in mass and volume and the delamination of these masses and volumes, I am [...]
After watching the latest episode of Architecture School I was struck with just how accurate of a portrayal the reviews seemed. I remember reviewers baiting students just like that, and verbally backing them into corners such that they were forced to say their design was bad. What was missing from this was the critics literally tearing apart models to express their disgust with the scheme. I stand by my previous opinions about the student’s work, none of them responded to the scale of the neighborhood adequately. At least some of them were looking at filtering elements of New Orleans housing iconography through a modernist lens, specifically the front porch and the screening elements. Furthermore, most of the house strategies did not create any site strategies for creating a public/private separation outside of the house itself.
So I just got done watching the first episode of Sundance Channel’s Architecture School. I have to say, for the first reality TV depiction of the world of architecture education, and especially the Tulane variety, it is starting out as a decent representation. They managed to capture the ever condescending tone that most professors use towards their students as well as the tensions between rich and poor, black and white, and Tulane and the city; issues that have always inhabited New Orleans even before Katrina. I have to say, one of the things that is severely missing is the sense of height and lack of air conditioning in the architecture building – Richardson Memorial Hall, and the oppressive humidity that I am sure is plaguing these students in the field. With it being the first 2 weeks of the semester, it has to either be august or January and it doesn’t really look like they are dressed for January in New Orleans. C’mon Sundance Channel, where are my sweaty dehydrated daiquiri sipping architecture students? Let me also add, that it is totally surreal to watch not only people that you know but buildings that used to be central to your [...]
The Times Online has an interesting article on the new CCTV building in Beijing. I’m sure everyone has seen this new iconic building by now, it rises like a wracked square casting an imposing shadow over the city below.
It is no surprise to me that the co-architect of OMA’s CCTV building, Ole Scheeren, is an impossibly young (35 years old) German Architect who was lived through the unification of Communist and Capitalist Germany. In the shape of the building it is easy to see the fingerprints of earlier experiments in modernism, in both the stark oppressive communist variety and the lofty grasping skyscrapers of New York and Chicago. And yet it has been distorted and made more complex. It is almost as if someone took the Arche de La Defense and twisted it until not only did the building distort, but the skin was also skewed.