Monday, August 13, 2012

WILDWOOD

I just read today that Laika Studios is going to make an animated movie of Colin Meloy's book called 'Wildwood'.  Meloy is the lead in one of my favorite famous local Portland bands, The Decemberists.  He published this children's story last year and it was tooted to become a major hit to rival Harry Potter.  Well -- that didn't quite happen.  The story was inspired by the woods in my own back yard (Forest Park)! So I had to read it.  It's a beautiful hard bound 541 page book with interesting illustrustrations.  The story just didn't grab me last time but now that Laika has chosen it - I think I may give it a second chance.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

put a bird on it

black and white photo by David Reamer

Portland is still overflowing with birds.  In today’s paper the 2012 restaurant of the year is Little Bird.  Their big brother restaurant is called ‘Le Pigeon’ and seen above and below is another Portland favorite, Cocotte.  If you haven’t seen any of the Portlandia clips - this is a funny one to watch on youtube, called "put a bird on it".  You can now see birds on a vast variety of objects - designers seem to be a bit obsessed with birds at the moment.

This made me wonder if any architects were 'putting birds on it'...and was this a spinoff from the Green movement?  In architecture - designs continue to strive towards a sustainable approach to building that will protect the environment.  This has created a renewed appreciation for nature. 

In Ted Bowen's article, Form Follows Feathers: Bird-Friendly Architecture, he writes about bird driven architectural designs... “Santiago Calatrava’s 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire is a lofty experiment in bird-safe design. The residential skyscraper is rising in the midst of a large year-round bird population and in the path of a major migratory flyway on the shores of Lake Michigan, but its glass is designed to be visible to birds, which should help prevent fatal collisions.” While I love most of Calatrava’s work - this building does nothing for me and I am not surprised that it has not been completed.  There is nothing natural looking about this structure.  A giant drill bit piercing the sky, I would stay clear of it too if I was a bird.
Perhaps a more successful design is another Chicago building on the right by Studio Gang Architects (one of the few firms that is led and owned by a woman, Jeanne Gang). Unfortunately, it has also not been completed because of city budget problems.  It included several bird-friendly elements in its design of the Ford Calumet Environmental Center, a 28,000-square-foot environmental education center.  To reduce the possibility of bird strikes on the building’s south elevation, a porch was enclosed with a basket-like mesh with four-inch openings.

Architectural critic, Blair Kamin, showered this design with greatness....he said this would become one of Chicago’s most important structures of the 21st century if built.  Studio Gang’s award-winning design was interesting. The design approach dubbed “Best Nest”, mimics the way that birds use local materials to construct their nests.

In the end -- my favorite building is the simplest one. It is the one that houses Cocotte above.  Only two stories, it is affordable with a human scale....it does not occupy the skys -- so it does not present a problem for the birds in flight...and as a result it was built!  This is another reason why I love Portland.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

School's Out for summer!

"It is through living that we discover ourselves, 

at the same time as we discover the world around us."

 Henri Cartier-Bresson 1952

 Enjoy the day!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When historic is what you like!


Do you choose your style of architecture or does it choose you?

I never dreamed I would become a historic aficionado.  It happened slowly and yet it seemed overnight that I had developed a fine appreciation for older homes.  There is something comforting and welcoming about a traditional design that has a front door that is located on the front of the house, with a sloped roof line, trim around the windows and doors, columns at a front porch.  Socially - everyone understands it. They know how to approach it - which side is public and which side is private.  These seem like such simple things in such a complex world.
I think that’s it....the house is polite.  This home above on Sherman, I designed for a client in Hood River as a retirement home.  They were from Los Angeles where it seems that almost all the homes are every style but historic.  This client knew exactly what she wanted. Kathryn’s ‘style’ was Queen Anne.  She interviewed several architects before choosing.  Not all architects will design what you request.  This alone is worthy of a discussion all of it’s own - on another day. There is something very feminine about Queen Anne homes...hence the name. With it’s large sitting rooms - it is a house where you will invite people in.  They will want to stay awhile and that you will want to grow old in. 
The Sherman home was doubly practical in that we designed a garage 2-bedroom apartment for rental - so that after they retired - they would have another source of income.  The other special thing about this home is that it sits within an older neighborhood of homes.  Many of these are also full of character and of a similar scale.  This home fits right in.  You could believe it was here all along.  They liked this idea.  It did not need to make a ‘here I am’ kind of statement and they did not want it ‘to look unique’ hidden from view behind a sleek exterior.
There are some amazing views from the master bedroom. You can see Hood River from the upper floor.  She included a work space for herself in a room that would double as a guest room.  In the backyard, there is a gorgeous huge old tree that they wanted to preserve. So we designed the house in an ‘L’ shaped layout to work around it.  She told me when it was finished - she got everything she was looking for.  I think we all have our own style. Your house should be a reflection of who you are.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

order in the garden.

planting a classical garden.  Designers come in all types of packages.  Some are like wild artists who throw their paint on the canvas all at once, thrilled to see what mysteries the universe will unveil.  Others are more restrained.....you may not even know they have an artistic bent lurking under such a reserved exterior.  My husband falls under the latter category.  Just to assure you that every man has the power to get creative - I want to show you what he is doing in our garden.
This 2010 picture is of our driveway along the back side of our home when we moved in.  The rhododendron bushes along the right side of the photo have been replaced in the photo above with trees and round boxwoods.  He has been working on this for about 6 months and it is still a work in progress but you can see already how much cleaner and manicured the side yard is now.  But he is not finished.  This seems to be just the beginning of a new garden designer on the verge of exploding.

 I am not sure but I think if we combined my design sensitivity with his we might end up with this Italian inspired garden shown above.  It feels a little bit like ordered chaos if there was such a thing.  Julien De Cerval spent 30 years developing this one.  The Gardens of Marqueyssac are in France. Check out this webpage for a mini 3d view of the garden... Julien worked like a maniac on this garden...hopefully, ours will continue to grow in beauty too as the years pass by!





Thursday, May 17, 2012

creativity in and out of the box

Caine’s arcade -- an exceptional short film by Nirvan Mullick about a very creative little boy!

made in America


How hard would it be to create an all-american home? I am currently working on a small remodel in Lake Oswego.  The owner is also the builder.  Recently - we have been talking about how to alter the original design for the front cantilevered canopy. He has almost finished the interior work and wants to cut his costs on the entry.   
This sounds so familiar....I am thinking this is how the first settlers did it too...As their own builders, they planned it out, built a bit and then redesigned a bit along the way depending on the local materials available.  Having just finished my teaching session with 11 year olds - history is fresh on my mind. Combine that with our local elections yesterday for Mayor and I am thinking about how to create more American jobs...
Creating an all-American home has never been easy....the list of building supplies is daunting.  You can see just how long the list is below. You have to work pretty hard to find american products.  A builder in Montana, Anders Lewendal (who used to be an economist) did just that.  “Lewendal is hard at work building a home he hopes will be a blueprint for creating jobs in America. Everything from the nails, screws and bolts, to the steel, staples and bathtub is made in the United States.”
Unfortunately, you have to order products that are not local.  Some of the products will cost more, some will cost less, and some will work better.   However Lewendal says that in the end, the total cost of the American made house is only around 1 to 2 percent more than the typical home currently on the market. You can see a video from an interview that ABC news did with Lewendal last November here.


Product--Manufacturer/Supplier
State
Windows--Amsco Windows
UT
J bolts/foundation--S.C. Prototypes
MT
J bolts/foundation/stock--Pacific Steel
UT
Gorilla Duct tape--The Gorilla Glue Co
OH
4″ perforated pipe, radon
Northern Pipe Co.
ND
4″ pvc fittings
GPK
ND
pvc glue--Oatey
OH
8d ring shank nails--True Spec
CA
16d sinkers--Griptite
WI
1/2″ foundation nuts--CAT
IL
gun nails--Maze
IL
damp proofing--Mulseal/Tremco
OH
Rebar--Nucor
UT
Concrete--CMI
MT
Concrete Portland--Ash Grove
MT
Concrete aggregate--CMC. Beglade
MT
Concrete sand--CMC. Beglade
MT
Hangers, straps, H clips--Simpson Strong-Tie
CA
TJI’s--I-Level Truss Joist
OR
2×4′s and 2×6′s--RY Lumber
MT
Plywood--Potlatch
ID
2×4′s and 2×6′s--F.H. Stoltze
MT
2×4′s and 2×6′s--Idaho Forest
ID
PL 400 sub floor adhesive--Loctite
CT
MiraTEC fascia--CMI Corp
PA
treated plate--McFarland Cascade
WA
T braces/framing--Appleton Supply
WI
sill seal--Reflectix
IN
powder actuated pins--TW Ramset/Redhead
IL
foam board--Dow
IL
Spray paint--Rustoleum
IL
Spray insulation--JM Corbond
MT, TX
Screws-Por Pac
CO, CT
Wire joint--Thomas & Betts
TN
Spray paint--ACE
IL
paint--Sherwin Williams
OH
Window foam--Touch n Seal
MO
Caulking--White Lightning
OH
Plastic elect. Straps--Handy Straps
WI
meter base--Eaton/Cutler Hammer
PA
electric panel--Eaton/Cutler Hammer
PA
Breakers--Eaton/Cutler Hammer
PA
PVC pipe/fittings--Ridgeline Pipe
OR
2″ Romex connectors--Bridgeport
CT
Boxes--Allied
OH
Wire-service, romex--Southwire
GA
staples--Sturgeon Bay
WI
4/0 SER straps--Sturgeon Bay
WI
Telephone wire--3M
MN
wire connectors/crimp sleeves--Ideal
IL
wire staples--Sturgeon Bay
WI
Furnace disconnect--Eaton/Cutler Hammer
PA
recessed cans--Juno/Schneider Electric
IL
recycled glass--Livingston Landfill
MT
Furnace--Trane
TX
Cooling Coil--Trane
TX
HRV--Trane
TX
Air Cleaner--Trane
TX
Zoning/Thermostats--Trane
TX
Ductwork--Norwesco
WA
Screws--Brynolf Manufacturing
IL
PVC--Cresline-Northwest
WA
Condensate Trap--Airtec
MA
Registers/Grilles--Hart & Cooley
MI
Allthread Rod--Chicago Hardware
IL
Pipe Brackets--C&S Manufacturing
WI
Conensate Pump--Franklin Electric
IN
Unistrut--Cooper B-Line
IL
Flexible Duct--Atco
TX
Duct Sealant--Hardcast
TX
Flex Duct Straps--Source 1
OK
PVC Glue/Primer--Oatey
OH
Thermostat Wire--Honeywell
MS
Exhaust Fans--Broan
WI
Concentric Vent--Source 1
OK
Exhaust Hoods--Broan
WI
Nuts/ Washers--Perine Danforth
WA
Dryer Box--In O Vate Tech
FL
Duct Liner--Johns Manville
CO
Duct Liner Pins--Hardcast
TX
Allthread Anchors--ITW Buildex
IL
Ductstrap--Colombia Man
WA
Manual Dampers--Norwesco
WA
Sill Sealer--Reflectix, Inc.
IN
PVC Primer and Cement--Oatey
OH
PVC Pipe--Cresline-Northwest
WA
Pex Pipe--Viega
KS
Kitchen Sink--Moen
PA
Kitchen Faucet--Moen
NC
Kitchen Basket strainer--Dearborn Brass
TX
Kitchen disposer--In-Sink-Erator
WI
Bathroom Pedestal Lav--Mansfield
OH
Bathroom Lav faucet--Moen
NC
Bathroom Lav sink--Mansfield
IL
Bathroom toilets--Mansfield
IL
Bathroom toilet seats--Kohler
AR
Master Shower--Aquaglass
OR
Master shower valve--Moen
NC
Master shower trim--Moen
NC
Master soaker tub--Aquaglass
OR
Master soaker tub trim--Moen
NC
Master soaker tub valve--Moen
NC
Bathtub waste and overflow--Watco
MO
Full Bath tub/shower--Aquaglass
OR
Full Bath tub/shower trim--Moen
NC
Full Bath tub/shower valve--Moen
NC
Water Heater--Bradford White
PA
Pex Fittings--Zurn
TX
PVC Fittings--Sioux Chief
MO
Hangers/pipe insulators--Sioux Chief
MO
Roof Jack--Oatey
OH
Plumber Putty--Hercules
NJ
Wax rings--Hercules
NJ
Thread Dope--Hercules
NJ
Plumber tape--Smith/Cooper
CA
Black pipe--RJB Wholesale, Inc
WA
Black pipe fittings--Anvil International
NV
Gastite pipe and fittings--Gastite
MA
Soulder Flux--Rectorseal, 
TX
Soulder--Exeon Inc., 
IL
Copper Pipe--Cerro Flow Products Inc.,  
MO
Copper fittings--Elkhart Products Corp., 
IL
Backflow preventor/PRV--Watts, 
ME
Expansion Tank--Amtrol, 
RI
Hose bibs--Woodford, 
CO
Chattahoochee Pencil Company--Atlanta, 
GA

Friday, May 11, 2012

surfer record


unbelievable surfer today... just had to share with you -- check out the video of  Garrett McNamara, a 44 year old surfer from Hawaii riding a record 78 foot wave! Go to 


http://www.vancouversun.com/videos/sports/video.html?embedCode=Y1NzhvNDo4uw0I6ziySnMH4iRA7o7CSO

Thursday, May 10, 2012

architects in schools


Last week I left off describing the class project for my 5th graders Architect’s in Schools program at Faubion Elementary.  The program runs from March through the beginning of May every year.  This is the fourth school that I have taught at over the last six years.  My goal is to try and introduce them to what architecture is all about - no easy task in such a short time.  
I have slowly been molding the curriculum each year to simplify and focus on several aspects of architecture...in particular - residential architecture.  We look at history and culture, structure and technology.  We conclude with a client workshop where each student is assigned their own project for a special client.  To make it more fun - their clients are animals.   Each animal requires different types of shelter to accommodate their typical type of habitat as well as some extraordinary human characteristics each animal possesses.
Each year the students are always surprised at how difficult this is ....how time consuming building is and how much thought is involved in creating something from nothing.   However, they always want more time and are never ready to stop.
Next year I think I may try something different for the final project.  - maybe a chicken coup or a treehouse? What do you think?


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

dog day afternoon





Etching 2011

It feels like a 'dog day afternoon' because all of my blogging plans have gone awry recently and I have become completely sidetracked by other design projects which have eaten up all of my art time.  This dog etching was done by a local elementary student at Forest Park where I taught the Architect’s in Schools program last spring.

This year I am teaching at Faubion Elementary in North Portland.  I am in love with my class of 5th graders.   They are at that magical age where anything is possible.   We are just finishing up some client designs for a personal residence.   These clients are very special though and quite unusual.  They are.......

-- to be continued  in next post....


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

sunshine in my kitchen


sunshine on a cloudy day

Back in February I posted a story called ‘Hygge’ about design that just ‘feels’ good...and was in the beginning process of adding some much needed loving to my kitchen.   I had fallen in love with a new pendant fixture featured in a magazine that was made from old fashioned mason jars.  These had to be ordered on-line and the wait was long.  Two months later, here is the lovely thing installed and glowing like the sun. 



After relocating one of the mirrors, adding some art and wall shelves, and a large face clock, along with the pendant light...is the finished result.  I am very excited to have this little bit of sunshine in what used to be a very boring corner of the room.  All of the windows and french doors are on the other two walls of the kitchen (not shown). The photos below are the before shots as the changes progressed.






Hopefully, you can see the difference just a few added changes can make in a space. The only complicated addition was hiring an electrician to add a new light fixture between the two existing down lights.   Luckily, the ceiling joists were running parallel with the down lights so this was a quick and inexpensive installation.

There was one thing that caught me by surprise. I would change the length of the pendant light.  The on-line image was deceptive and the light appeared to hang down lower that it does here.  I should have measured it from the ceiling to double check this before hand....however, no other lengths were available and I still love the light.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bird Cloud


I just finished reading Annie Proulx’s new memoir, “Bird Cloud”.  The story is about building your dream home and the land it sits on. So where does a 70 year old famous wealthy writer decide to build her final home? Wyoming... on 640 acres of desolate land with a fantastic view of a bluff that sits along the Missouri river. 
Bird Cloud had mixed reviews....This is not one of her best books and the New York Times review by Dwight Garner, nails her with sharp words. However, It is still an interesting read, especially for those of us interested in design and architecture. 



Considering that there were hardly any expenses spared to build this home - you would expect it to be gorgeous and  I was anxious to see it!  The home was designed by Harry Teague Architects based in Colorado.

Like the cowboy land it sits on; it is large, rustic and raw.  The interior views are directed out towards the big beautiful bluff.  The front door is unusual and was constructed from a nearby abandoned metal barn.  Proulx is conscientious and requests sustainable, planet smart, materials.




While these ideas were successful, she describes all the familiar foibles to building that all homeowners struggle with.. I imagine that Proulx was a difficult client. Opinionated and obstinate, she goes into detail about how some of her choices were mistakes. She thought she wanted an office without windows to distract her but now finds herself wandering to the living room with the view to do all of her work and... the high ceilings seemed like a good idea - but there are no cozy spaces to curl up with a good book.  The small ceiling custom pendant light fixtures that are everywhere were a bad choice and are too distracting.  The poured red, concrete floor was a disaster and had to be covered with tiles.

Although Proulx wishes she had picked an easier site to access in the harsh winters, I think she is happy with the house in the end and it suits her well.  Unfortunately for the readers, Proulx’s descriptions were tedious and at the end of the book she is consumed by bird watching and wanders off the house design altogether. Maybe that is what a good design should be all about -- the wandering off from the concreteness of the form and instead heading off into the land which it occupies?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

moonwalking with frank lloyd wright


Frank lloyd Wright’s studio

I have been thinking about my memory lately.....yesterday I typed up this post and then forgot to save it! The entire thing was lost when my computer had to be rebooted because of something else!  This occurred just after my son did something similar with his English paper and I had chided him for not backing it up regularly.
The mind is a tricky thing.  If we don’t constantly use it, we will lose it.   For inspiration I have been reading Joshua’s Foer’s new book called Moonwalking with Einstein. I brought this book to read by the pool during our spring break in Phoenix.  We stayed at the Arizona Biltmore which was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégés, Howard MacArthur.



The Biltmore is a beautiful 1940’s hotel with a long history of famous celebrities that have stayed there.  Our favorite pool is dubbed the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ pool because it was said to be her favorite too.  The Wrigley family owned it and had numerous large fancy events there often.  It is fun to walk the halls and look at the photos from the events of those times.   It is just this sort of walking and looking that the ancients used as a memory technique, according to Foer in his book on ‘moonwalking’.  He claims all of us can improve our memory if we try this.  So I used the gorgeous halls of the Biltmore as an experiment.


First I chose a group of totally random facts that I wanted to memorize: a stranger’s name, another persons outfit, the name of a construction company, the name of a new song.  Then I associated each of these with a concrete image - 
name of stranger on the forehead of the lobby clerk
the blue striped outfit became a blue zebra
the JCP construction company became a red cube
the ‘funk soul brothers’ song became a rubber ball because it sounds like ‘funk so rubber’
I then placed these along the hallways in the hotel....the zebra sat on a chair at the pool, the red cube was at the end of the bar, the rubber ball was hanging from the ceiling in the dining room....etc.



Then I did the moonwalk through the spaces of the hotel lobby to see if I could recall all the information.  It was super easy even after several days and now after one week it is still super easy except for the strangers name.  I did not pick an image associated with the name that was similar enough and now I can only remember half of the name.


This process seems a little tedious but Foer says that the more you use it - the easier and quicker it will be.   I will need to keep checking back to see if this is indeed in my long term memory storage.  This will be fun since walking through the Frank Lloyd Wright space is a pure joy. 
you can also visit my website at www.lrarchitectllc.com






Thursday, March 22, 2012

moments that change a life


The sweet man in my life who asked me to marry him twenty years ago was the catalyst for one of those life changing moments.   That single event set off waves of change that would effect every aspect of who I was and who I would become.  I now live in Portland with a family of my own and am surrounded by a whole new set of friends and colleagues.  And while my interest in design has never wavered, it has been altered by these changes.
In my twenties I was working on the East Coast and was obsessed with commercial design, large scale projects, understanding how things went together, the details of making it work, and convincing others my ideas were great.  In my thirties, my husband and I moved to the West Coast to begin a new adventure. (Intimate and nostalgic, Portland has a unique culture which translates into every facet of living and working here.) My architectural projects were mid-sized commercial and included some smaller scale interiors and residential.  I started a family and it grew and grew.  I guess there is something in the water here....there is a lot of water here.  Finally, I outgrew my full time career and grew into raising a family along side design.  My projects shifted towards residential work exclusively now that I am in my forties.  Lately I am thinking about design again more and more.  It is such a pleasure to dream of beautiful spaces...to create something or to turn something old into something new - that is so rewarding. 
I am currently working on a remodel for a home that was built in the 40’s.   It is a ranch with a low-hipped Japanese style roof line.   It has a very typical northwestern flavor that was developed here by Pietro Belluschi (son of an Italian immigrant) who lived and worked in Portland.  Belluschi later became the Dean of MIT, Boston.   When I first moved here all of the the other young designers were very taken with Belluschi’s designs.  I did not quite understand the love affair when I arrived but now I am smitten. The homes are simple, with low roof lines and overhanging eaves.  There are large windows that run floor to ceiling.  Walls and ceilings are sometimes covered with clear cedar siding to add warmth to a room that looks out to the cold but beautiful pacific ocean with it’s rocky coastline.  The exterior may have a vertical board and batten siding that is left unpainted so it’s color fades with time like the shingle homes that you see along Cape Cod.  Sometimes there are porches and or walkways that reach out to the landscape and nestle into the old growth forests that are everywhere here.


This home above is the Kerr House that is located in Gearhart, Oregon by the sea.  It was commissioned in the 40’s by a retired wealthy business man in his 80’s.  The side of the home that faced the ocean had a long band of vertical windows. The vertical windows are in contrast to the long horizontal flow of the roof line and the deep overhanging eaves. Belluschi’s work will be exhibited this May at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.
I ran across this image below, the other day, of an exhibit that is currently in Portland featuring the work of William Wurster. 


Wurster was a famous West Coast architect and teacher at the University of California, Berkeley and at MIT, that practiced in and around San Francisco. His work has this unassuming quality that just feels right in its environment. There are huge window walls of glass that open out to the garden, pulling your attention to the outdoors in a thoughtful and serene manner.  You can see more of his work exhibited by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon 2012 event ‘Frames for Living’ March 22 through April 28th at the White Stag Building on Couch Street.