Archive for May, 2012


A Micromanagers Angst

May 28, 2012

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Our world is populated with lots and lots of signs.  The messages are necessary or deemed necessary:  exit signs, handicapped signs, street signs, billboards, brand names, house numbers…the list goes on and on.  Likewise lines direct, contain, and divide.    All are control devices and this property owner’s design judgement has given way to the micromanagers angst.  Architects are great moderators.  Had one been consulted here, the property lines would have ended at the cornice, allowing the less than  perfect roof to inconspicuously rest in single color neutrality.


Not “Belmont Mansion” but definitely somone’s castle.

May 25, 2012

After the last post – and considering that this blog is about real people – I thought that it might be a good time for a dose of reality.  This project is now under way in my office;  not exactly the Belmont Mansion, but definitely someone’s castle.  The problem started when painters, hired to do the entire house, neglected the front porch saying the structure was unsafe and not worth painting.  The home owner, being far away, not wanting to spend a fortune, and not knowing whether to repair, or replace came to me for help.

Many thanks to Gilberto Moldanado, a master at fixing old houses on a budget. There will be updates as the project goes forward, in the meantime, if you are really that interested you can take at the look at the construction drawings here:  Porch


Which came first, McDonald’s or “McMansions?”

May 20, 2012

Belmont Mansion, Order of the Eastern Star Headquarters, Washington DC

Long before anyone ever heard of McDonald’s there were “McMansions,” and it might be a good idea to tour one such place before tending too much  towards criticism.  It soon becomes apparent that today’s McMansion could be tomorrow’s historic place.  The Palatial Belmont Mansion and current home of the Order of the Eastern Star, in Washington, DC is such a place.  Built by a Washington dignitary to host lavish parties used to wheedle his way back in to society after a scandalous marriage, the Beaux-Arts style mansion was completed in 1909 and is now considered a high example of Washington’s turn of the century domestic architecture.


Moderation lost?

May 10, 2012

MLS/Web ID: 2870780

Not so long ago, home builders of every elk understood that employing a few fool proof tricks of the design trade could actually create enduring architecture,  serving both resident and neighbor for many, many years to come.  Symmetrical elevations and plans work, even if the individual elements are anything but classical.  Vestibules work, especially when a graceful visual presence is provided by a single story gable, glass panel walls, and matching double doors.  Arts & Crafts shed type dormers work when reinforcing a symmetrical elevation.  Multiple windows in a row work when mirrored side to side and up and down.

These elements can be read like a book.  They say this house has a living room on one side and a formal dining room with kitchen behind on the other.  Upstairs there are likely 3 bedrooms, two of them being the same in width.  The main rooms in the house are light, all having at least one wall of windows.  The house is modest, its perception grand.   I am left wondering how we have come to prefer suburban mansions, or rows and rows of urban density?  Has moderation been forever lost?


Drama at the expense of taste?

May 8, 2012

MLS/Web ID: 2912625

Here the  stone covered fireplace enclosure is so massive that it reduces the actual fireplace to a piece of hardware.   It overwhelms not only the soaring interior space but also common sense.   On some level, most of us understand that stone is heavy, much heavier than what would logically end up where it has.  The fake stone veneer looks more fake by dint of how much of it is used.  An architect, because he or she has studied scale and proportion (not to mention the peril of a single step) might have created drama without sacrificing good taste.


“Points” of architecture.

May 4, 2012

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A skillion roof, also known as a half gable or free standing shed, presents an extremely strong visual form.  It points, including everything that implies.  Actually, there are some real technical reasons for its use, i.e., snow removal, cost savings, which almost never outweigh the visual consequences.  When they show up in working class sections of historic towns, as in the first few examples in the slide show, practicality has clearly prevailed.  By some stylistic accident of modernism, the form reappears just as some of these old towns are expanding.  Design neophytes quickly relate the profile of the old and the new without also demonstrating the sophistication required for its use.  Any architect can tell you that the successful use of skillion roofs can be most often found in highly designed modern or modern style building and/or utilitarian applications.