Friday, May 28, 2010

The Other Side of the Street: 500 BLOCK East Jones

I've drawn the north side of Jones Street! It took about two years. Now, it's on to the south side - in four weeks!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

VAF: Twelve 20-minute Lectures

The best part of lectures is the invitation to the mind to tune in, learn - and to wander. They're the opportunity and the context for simultaneous learning and personal thought. I've a lot to think about and a lot to learn. My mind was swimming today, while I attended twelve PAPERS on topics such as these, favorites:
Building Stories: Narrative Prospects for Vernacular Architecture Studies; Ryan K. Smith; VCU; Richmond
Southern Homes & Plan Books: the Architectural Legacy of Leila Ross Wilburn; Sarah J. Boykin, UT; Chattanooga
Building the "New Old House": The Restoration Architectures of Joseph Everett Chandler; Timothy T. Orwig, Boston University
"Well-Mannered" Renovations in Georgetown: Hugh Newell Jacobsen's Historic Preservation; Katherine Miller, University of Virginia
Houses Without Names: Architectural Nomenclature and Classification of America's Common Houses; Thomas C. Hubka, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
I'm going to turn these, my flurried thoughts on ARCHITECTURElandscape STUDYculture DOCUMENTATIONdrawing NARRATIVEphotography HISTORYart RELEVANCEbeauty MAPPINGexperiential PLACEvernacular etc., into a cohesive and comprehensive framework with which to take on the next phase.

Friday, May 21, 2010

VAF Walking Tour: U Street/LeDroit Park

I would like to take you to an artist's house in Capitol Hill

For a taste of the VAF walking tour of Washington DC neighborhoods, welcome to this c. 1860 cottage where an artist and her husband reside. She's lived here over 30 years and made adjustments as her art space grew and she added a husband to the household.The orange sign indicates the house in on the tour and the owners as well as a VAF volunteer welcomed us inside, answered questions about the house, and exhibited features on the house that were printed or published over the years. The front yard feature of DC houses, thanks to L'Enfant's wide boulevards, is evident here.The garden is an oasis in the city and separation between home and work. The old shed was crumbling when the owner first lived here as a renter. Eventually she fixed it up and transformed it into her working studio. View down stairs from the upper floor which holds two rooms and a bath.

It was interesting to talk with owners about the lives of their houses and how they were engaged as owners, as opposed to docents in a house museum. It was also nice to meet VAFers in the homes or enroute within the neighborhoods and talk to them about what they'd seen, etc. I am impressed with the well-organized tour!

VAF Walking Tour: Housing Capitol Hill

VAF Walking Tour: Capitol Hill

But First, I stumbled upon the Old Naval Hospital...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vernacular Architecture Forum

You know how there are certain words or combinations of words that just make your heart skip? Maybe it's your lover or your favorite vacation spot or food. Vernacular Architecture does it for me.
I first learned of the Vernacular Architecture Forum in 2007 when their annual conference was held in Savannah and our office was on the tour. "The tour" is an invaluable opportunity for VA junkies to visit a place, gain access to lots and lots of buildings, and learn the local architectural language, or, Vernacular. I was a little heartbroken that this opportunity was happening around me and I was not able to participate. I would have LOVED to have been on those tours and learned the vernacular of Savannah and the Lowcountry, got into all those buildings in town I greet daily just from the exterior as well as the tours further afield. Ah - water under the bridge... At least i can peruse the 586-page compendium of vernacular buildings compiled by the SCAD Architectural History department.

I was excited to attend my first VAF conference this year in my other city that feels something like home - and our nation's capital - Washington DC.From the keynote address by GWU Historic Preservation chair, Richard Longstreth, and touring the neighborhoods and buildings, I learned, among other things, that the rowhouses of Washington DC characteristically have wide bays that project into the right-of-way. In the 1880s, the original street rights-of-way established by L'Enfant were deemed too wide and builders were allowed to encroach. Many DC rowhouses have sizeable front yards, unlike most rowhouses in east coast cities. The photo on right shows an anomaly, developed Philadelphia-style, without the projections.

While in the city, I also made a visit to George Washington University and found this remnant of the historc housing stock (below) which belonged to a woman who refused to sell out to the university developing around her. When she passed away, her heirs sold to GW on the condition that the building remain unaltered and it was named for its stalwart owner, housing the Womens Studies department.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Art for Art's Sake

Is it poor manners to correct your name on the bid sheet, misspelled, at an art auction fundraiser? I stopped by before the bidding to drop off some business cards and I could not stop myself from reaching for my pen. I had been called K R I sten not less than ten times already that week. I absolutely understand the mistake - No hard feelings, really. It's tough sometimes, being a K I R sten.

The DeSoto Row Art for Art's Sake auction is an excellent fundraiser and I was really happy to participate! After the auction, I stopped back to look at the other work and met some of the nice folks who "won" my prints.

mid-nineties BALANCE mountain bike -

- Have you seen it? It's a very rare bike, though it doesn't look anything special.

In Savannah, it's only a matter of time before your bike is stolen. My BALANCE was saved once by the maintenance man at the inn near my office when some youngsters rolled up with boltcutters to attack my Kryptonite lock in broad daylight while I was working away inside and my bike was lashed to the parking meter just outside. Thank goodness for Julio. Another time someone ripped my seat off, again, outside my office, while I was inside working, about 9am.

I was hoping my bike would make it, but it was stolen Friday night from Arnold Hall while I was at a lecture. After the lecture, I made my way to meet a friend at DeSoto Row's art auction.When we went to get my bike, all that was left was my basket. It must not have been desireable to the stealer, but that basket carried many a roll of drawings, packages to be shipped, groceries. Now it sits alone where the bike parked for so many years. Incidentally, the predecessor to this bike, purchased at EastCoasters in Blacksburg Virginia just before I moved to Savannah, was stolen about five years ago from this very spot. Someone unlatched our back gate and came up onto the back porch to make off with my Trek!

Ah - it was good five years, BALANCE. But if I see you round town, you better believe I am taking you back.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Preservation Week 2010

I attended Savannah College of Art & Design's Preservation Week lectures seven years ago, considering graduate study in Historic Preservation. This year, I made it a priority, again considering further study and also to fortify my ongoing interest in the field of Preservation and Architecture.

Frank Sanchis. From 1986 to 1999, he served as vice president, Stewardship of Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He gave a tour of Philip Johnson's Glass House, the details of its acquisition and maintanance and personality you probably won't hear at the actual site tour - although I would really like to see it now, with the outline of its back story in mind. Mr. Sanchis told the story, then, of Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in NYC, highlighting the complexity of Adaptive Re-use holding hands (or not) with Preservation. Last, the Marine Teminal in Miami came to light (which I hope to explore in a few weeks.) A soaring concrete (poured!) structure by Cuban Architect Hilario Candela built on a pier whose stage is the water, showcasing water races, shows, sometimes a band or performance on a floating stage. It is abandoned but SAVED by local activism, waiting for Revitalization. I am anxious to see it in a few weeks! Images of Marine Stadium HERE.
Buildings of the Modern era are coming up for renewal, and some are lost already. With a plethora of technologies and materials that were new (and experiemental) in the mid-century, some failed. How do we preserve the icons and make the buildings live on to serve viable uses?

Carl Elefante. “the greenest building is…one that is already built” caught my attention. It's what we espouse at our office. Elefante is an architect with a comprehensive understanding of how preservation is essential to new building. This is great to see, because many architects seem to believe preservation is only a hindrance to building new. Mr. Elefante began with the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, his own formative years at Pratt in NYC that melded Architecture and Preservation and Sustainability into his ethics. He clarified what "green" building really is - not replacing your 1920s hand-built windows with high-tech energy-efficient windows with a 20-year seal, but selectively replacing pieces for greater efficiency while retaining the whole window as a hand-built element that can continue to be updated, rebuilt as needed - not just thrown out when the seal breaks and the high-tech is not longer intact [paraphrased.] "sophisticated thought, not systems."
He stressed the need for preservationists to understand sustainability and dialogue with builders and architects (or be builders and architects) to show how prolonging the life of a building by replacing elements of like character that will last is the most "green." Our task, then, is to work with the mid-century buildings in the manner because these structures of modernism which represent 16% of the US building stock are at the tipping point now of demolition or preservation.
"In the 1920s we Americans built the best cities. In the 1950s, we became the best at destroying cities."
I hope we are building back the cities in 2010.
Elefante's ending: "Find hope out of the despair you're being handed."
Check out The Greenest Building in his own words.