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 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.