Good Design Moment - Dakar Apartments

A gem of Seattle's Summit Avenue is the fantastic Dakar Apartment Building. Built in 1963, this mid century modern building has a great detail of diamond like forms layered on the facade. These forms break up the modern facade into an interesting mid century feel. One would assume the diamond material would be some form of concrete, typical of this style, but a closer inspection demonstrates the shapes are actually wood. darkarfacade

dakardetail

IMG_4925 One could loosely compare this facade to the theory that Alvar Aalto designed in a regional variation of modernism. As Aalto didn't follow the rigid rules of modernism for a more regional design, the Dakar Apartment Building doesn't use typical materials of mid century modern for a more regional material, wood.

Lexington Modern - Contemporary Stately Home

The most recent addition of Lexington's contemporary architecture is thoughtSPACE's "Indigenious Modern" house on the corner of Richmond Road and Richmond Avenue.  It's exciting to see something built that reflects today on a respectable street that reminds me of New Orleans in a lot of ways. IMG_4355

  The house's biggest exterior feature is a continuous cladding detail of vertical wood boards sandwiched between thin metal strips. The large formal gesture is reminiscent of the dutch modern style with large cantilevered lines articulating the massing. The front porch is a modern twist on the neighbors through its unsymmetrical appearance and random sized columns holding up the roof. The push and pull of massing creates an assorted understanding of the house, for example, the front facade looks different from the southeast than the northwest kind of blurring one's understanding of the facade.

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  The back yard features a really cool bridge that connects the master bedroom with a room above the garage.

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  The interior (from looking in the windows) features what appears to be reclaimed wood and with modern clean lines and finishes. The only item that has me questioning the textbook contemporary style is a large metal graphic of leaves/grass that serves as the guardrail for the stairs. Perhaps this was the indigenous part of the architect's term of "Indigenous Modern."

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  This house is a great addition of architecture in Lexington and deserves praise. Unfortunately, some people aren't warming to the building according to an interview in the Chevy Chase with the architect, John Steven Dehart. I would be surprised if modern architecture didn't face some level of opposition in any american community, but at some point we have to move from the architecture of the past and be true to the period of design that we live in today.

Check out more photos from my recent visit here.

Location: Richmond Road and Richmond Ave, Lexington, KY

Bad Design Moment - McCarran's Terminal 3 Parking Garage

I have written about this in a previous post, but I think Terminal 3's parking garage deserves an official Bad Design Moment post. This is largely due to my sadness regarding the design reoccurring on a recent, unexpected, trip there. McCarran Airport's new terminal 3 is efficient, but the overall design is mediocre, certainly compared to the original terminal 1 building. The worst part of the new terminal building is the location of the parking garage's spiral ramp that is unsymmetrical within itself as well as missing a perfect opportunity to align with Maryland Parkway. It would have been an easy gesture to simply move the spiral, or the whole structure, to make the spiral align with Maryland Parkway or at the very least center it between the two stair towers. The parking garage s is a real beast and sad considering Vegas has some really well designed parking garages (including the one very near at terminal 1).

McCarran's Terminal 3 Parking Garage

  Below is a simple diagram illustrating the parking garage's many centers.

Terminal 3 Centers

  Location: Russell Rd and Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV

Lexington Modern - The Miller House

Lexington's most famous piece of modern architecture is José Oubrerie's Miller House. It's impressive to see, even after 25 years, articles being published on the house. Some of these publications include an article by Dwell, a recent article by Evan Chakroff (also translated into Portuguese), and, as of last week, a whole book called In Suburbia Ego. This recent book will include the writings of many architects solely about the house. The Miller House I am relatively close to many of the people writing about the Miller House (including being José's student for a brief, but intense, quarter), but the thought that maybe my appreciation for the house is only a regional phenomenon is mute once we consider this house is an American Masterwork of the 20th and 21st century, according to Kenneth Frampton. He's clearly not from around Kentucky and seems to have a respectable take on these matters.

As stated above, architects in Kentucky and Ohio know a lot about this building, but I think it's fair to say people of Lexington know little outside the local arts scene. So here's a brief summary to get everyone on the same page. The building was a dream residence for a lawyer in Lexington by the name of Robert Miller. In 1988, Miller selected José Oubrerie to design it, who was the Dean of the University of Kentucky's College of Architecture. Outside academia, José Oubrerie was already an established world class architect who worked with Le Corbusier early in his career and had high profile works around the world. Two buildings that come to mind are Le Corbusier's church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy, which he completed at the request of Firminy's government, and his very own French Cultural Center in Damascus.

The Miller House has so much going on architecturally and theoretically. I've seen and read hours of it, but I'll save you from this, outside saying the red grid on the Wile Wolf Building that I compared to the Casa del Fascio should be in play again.

Image Showing the Original Site

The designed intent of the Miller House included its landscape, sitting on top of a hill, the natural features surrounding were intentional and complimented the structure. The highlight of the original site included a pond and a modest take on an English garden landscape with trees dotting the banks.  The site also included a tree lined pathway around the property line. This provided a great running track for the owner, in addition to blocking out the tract developments surrounding the site.

Image Showing the Pond from the 3rd Floor Balcony

I'm not completely sure about the whole history of the house, but apparently Robert Miller moved out. The house was vandalized and soon after a non-profit bought and improved the building for a brief time. During this time the Architecture School used it, local concerts took place there, and the house was even featured in a music video by, Neon Indian.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lv8IsdbYR9g

After 2006, the non-profit sold the house leaving the future in limbo. Today Ball Homes owns the land surrounding the site and the owner of Ball Homes purchased the house this summer after the house sat on the market for some time. While I can't confirm this, word on the street is Mr. Ball bought the home for around 200-300 thousand, which seems laughable even in the housing market of central Kentucky.

The biggest shame of the house is the slow destruction taking place.  The Miller House's current state reminds me of a suffering hospital patient on life support. The current property has been voided of the pond and subdivided into 48 lots for tract homes.

Subdivided Lots of the former Miller House Property

When visiting the site recently, I took a copy of the lot map from the model home. It's clear there is no intention to keep any of the landscaping outside of the house and frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see this house mysteriously drop of the map some night. There is an effort by Katie Halsey to get the building listed on a historical register, but the chances of that seem bleak, plus the aforementioned lots surrounding the house have been sold. The historical protection would limit development of the site, but what can one do once the surrounding houses are built?

To look at the future of this home, I can't help but think past comparing it to the fate of Villa Vaucresson (aka Besnus). The building may stay, but recognition of the original design won't exist through the slow distortion by people who don't know any better. It's just too late.

IMG_4335 More images from my recent visit of the Miller house can be found here.

Location: 832 Lochmere Pl, Lexington, KY 40509

 

Modern Lexington - Wolf Wile Building

As promised there are some really great architectural moments happening around Lexington. I was lucky to have my friend, Jonathan, drive me around and show me some buildings he's taken notice of, as well unexpected stops following my own verbal "ooo, what's that?" These moment's will be part of a mini series called Lexington Modern, which will focus on modern architectural places of the city. I will start with a building that is both, old and new.

Wolf Wile Building Front In 1948, Lexington's Wolf Wile Department Store moved from a location near Union Station, at the time, to a brand new building on the corner of Quality and Main Streets. The building would be architecturally up-to-date and represent the newest in retail trends. The Architects behind the structure were Lexington's Frankel and Curtis (check out some of their other buildings!) and what appears to be a retail consultant, Amos Parrish and Co. The architectural design is a rare type in the region, but all the rage in the late 40s. The owners kept the building in good shape until 1992 when the store closed due to the competition of the ever-so-familiar suburban stores. Luckily, in 1996 the James N. Gray Construction company bought the former store and made it their corporate headquarters. Not too long following the purchase, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wolf Wile Entry The building is a great example of mid century modern. I find it very fortunate that both the original and current owners made an effort to preserve the building. Preservation of buildings this old, certainly ones of a modern style are hard to come by. The current owners, Gray, a design-build construction firm, not only took the time to preserve the existing building, Franklin Gray (an Architect) designed a new interior and a contemporary addition to the rear of the building (now used as the entry). This addition is excellent from the exterior and something that I appreciate in the context of Lexington's downtown. It shows how contemporary architecture can fit well within an old urban context.

Wolf Wile Building Rear The modern addition has familiar theoretical elements after my own quick analysis. The dominant element being the yellow platform that extends past the red steel grid. The platform reminds me of Le Corbusier's ship like element above the front door of Villa Vaucresson (aka Besnus), with the end angled piece similar to the protuding cooridors of La Tourette. The red steel grid could be compared to the facade of Terragni's Casa del Fascio making the argument of capitalism versus fascism. Capitalism, the platform, (with an american flag!) is superior and stable compared to fascism, the red steel grid, looking unorganized, slipping around the rear massing. This could then be compared to the former store itself, a capitalistic enterprise (oddly with Italian details inside) being protected by government regulations but, I digress...

This building is good and one that is luckily protected both by the owner and the government.

Check out Lexington Modern Photo Album for more recent photos and former images of the space used to list the building on the National Register of Historical Places.

Thanks to Peter Brackney for writing a informative piece about this building in 2011 that I used to find out so much about this building.

Location: Quality and Main Streets, Lexington, KY 40507

Lexington Modern - Wolf Wile Building

As promised there are some really great architectural moments happening around Lexington. I was lucky to have my friend, Jonathan, drive me around and show me some buildings he's taken notice of, as well unexpected stops following my own verbal "ooo, what's that?" These moment's will be part of a mini series called Lexington Modern, which will focus on modern architectural places of the city. I will start with a building that is both, old and new.

Wolf Wile Building Front In 1948, Lexington's Wolf Wile Department Store moved from a location near Union Station, at the time, to a brand new building on the corner of Quality and Main Streets. The building would be architecturally up-to-date and represent the newest in retail trends. The Architects behind the structure were Lexington's Frankel and Curtis (check out some of their other buildings!) and what appears to be a retail consultant, Amos Parrish and Co. The architectural design is a rare type in the region, but all the rage in the late 40s. The owners kept the building in good shape until 1992 when the store closed due to the competition of the ever-so-familiar suburban stores. Luckily, in 1996 the James N. Gray Construction company bought the former store and made it their corporate headquarters. Not too long following the purchase, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wolf Wile Entry The building is a great example of mid century modern. I find it very fortunate that both the original and current owners made an effort to preserve the building. Preservation of buildings this old, certainly ones of a modern style are hard to come by. The current owners, Gray, a design-build construction firm, not only took the time to preserve the existing building, Franklin Gray (an Architect) designed a new interior and a contemporary addition to the rear of the building (now used as the entry). This addition is excellent from the exterior and something that I appreciate in the context of Lexington's downtown. It shows how contemporary architecture can fit well within an old urban context.

Wolf Wile Building Rear The modern addition has familiar theoretical elements after my own quick analysis. The dominant element being the yellow platform that extends past the red steel grid. The platform reminds me of Le Corbusier's ship like element above the front door of Villa Vaucresson (aka Besnus), with the end angled piece similar to the protuding cooridors of La Tourette. The red steel grid could be compared to the facade of Terragni's Casa del Fascio making the argument of capitalism versus fascism. Capitalism, the platform, (with an american flag!) is superior and stable compared to fascism, the red steel grid, looking unorganized, slipping around the rear massing. This could then be compared to the former store itself, a capitalistic enterprise (oddly with Italian details inside) being protected by government regulations but, I digress...

This building is good and one that is luckily protected both by the owner and the government.

Check out Lexington Modern Photo Album for more recent photos and former images of the space used to list the building on the National Register of Historical Places.

Thanks to Peter Brackney for writing a informative piece about this building in 2011 that I used to find out so much about this building.

Location: Quality and Main Streets, Lexington, KY 40507

Good Design Moment - Awning of UK's Chemistry-Physics Building

Awning of UK's Chemistry-Physics Building Post war modern architecture is more common in the western United States, but even the University of Kentucky managed to have a building or two with this style (impressive given the campus' largely conservative design). An interesting part of this architectural style is how little pieces of "decoration" started to erode the previous Modern Style. The awning of the Chemistry-Physics Building shows us a simple design can add an interesting moment to an otherwise plain or Modern facade.

Location Address: 505 Rose St, Lexington, KY 40506

Culturally Cool Lexington

Many people likely associate Kentucky with Bourbon Whisky and the South. While these things are relatively true, there are great things happening outside the Bourbon and light southern accents. An example I am most familar with is in Lexington. I  have become relatively familiar with the city due to multiple visits, and a brief residence,  there due to a great friend of mine, Jonathan Clark, residing there in his mansion. Over the years, with the help of Jonathan, I have discovered a culture of artistic people who don't discount their city because it's relatively small or surrounded by an assuming conservative culture. Below are some great things going on in Lexington that are worth noting. WRFL Studio A Great Radio Station: WRFL is Lexington's local college station, and while I don't like much about the University of Kentucky, this radio station should be the envy of most cities (Even Seattle- Sorry KEXP).  I started listening to the station online after Jonathan started DJing a show there and found myself listening more and more. The station operation has a real grungy radio station feel that one would expect for a college station, where their focus is music (mostly outside the mainstream) and not a polished Clear Channel operation.

A Great Art/Music Scene: There are great record shops (CD Central and Pops Resale), music venues (Al's Bar and Cosmic Charlies), and a generally artsy scene one would not expect. Most of this culture ties back to the radio station in some way (the stores are sponsors for WRFL and the artist and shows are featured on the station). One event that took place during my last visit, although I was not present to see it, was the Thriller Parade. The parade features a Micheal Jackson impersonator who dances out the entire Thriller sequence with a mob of zombies who also reenact the music video dance moves through downtown. It's worth noting the whole song is broadcast live from WRFL. Check out this years parade on YouTube.

Great Bars: My favorite bar in town is Charlie Brown's. This place features pitchers of mixed drinks with an old wood bar, tables with random chairs, and couches (in case one wants the living room feel). The best part of the decor is the bookshelf lined walls full of old book available for anyone to browse. Another bar, that seems to be the rage in a lot of places, is an arcade bar called Arcadium. What could be better you ask? Lexington also feature three breweries! Blue Stallion and Country Boy are my favorites, with West Sixth completing the three.

A Coffee Scene: In addition to the above featured businesses, Lexington has a local coffee scene popping up including local coffee bean roasters. My recent visit included a coffee shop, North Lime Coffee & Donuts, that would fit perfectly into Seattle's fabric with the added bonus of no weird looks when one asks for a "coffee". There is one other supposedly good coffee place, A Cup of Common Wealth, that I didn't have the opportunity to visit. While I can't vouch 100% for this place, I am looking forward to stopping by my next visit.

And finally, you guessed it- Lexington features some great architecture, but I'll save that for another post.

So if you ever find yourself in Lexington, don't worry about being bored- just turn on the radio, enjoy some fine beverages, and soak in the culture.

Picturesque Seattle

I have been putting together a series of general Seattle photos going back to my visit in April of this year. Seattle offers great views due to it's numerous hills. One can't really resist grabbing a shot when a good view is presented (as you can tell from the "view from Capitol Hill" shots of pretty much the same thing near my apartment). I organized the collection starting from Seattle Center (with many photos of the space needle) spiraling out to different parts of town. Take a look, there are some great shots. General Seattle [2013]

Browse the Seattle Album

I've also added some new photos to the University of Washington photo album, including the reading room of the Suzzallo Library and the Odegaard Undergraduate Library with the recent interior renovation.

Song for the Day - Devil Makes Three "Gracefully Facedown"

The Devil Makes Three is a great band I've been following since a friend of mine, Andrew in DC, brought me to a show. I have since bought all their albums and their newest one is being released October 29th, (although the vinyl version I pre-ordered won't be released until November 19th! Double Standards!) So enjoy a live recording of an old favorite from Seattle's very own KEXP.

"Design Means Veneer"

I have been reading Steve Jobs (the biography) to get an idea of how he operated and how Apple was so successful. The chapter about the first iMac had a paragraph that hit home for me. Jobs was quoted in Fortune saying "In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer." This hits close to home and describes a fundamental problem in the design field. It's simply the look and cost of something that most people care about. For an architectural example, the outside of the building could look nice, but are the studs straight? Insulation tightly packed? electrical conduit well placed? Did the architect take the time to outline the best set of documents including every detail?  As Job's described, most clients don't want to spend the time and money to make something really great. I would suggest those are the wrong clients. Every poorly designed building will reflect poorly on the design of the architect. Making something great should include the time to focus on the design, finely detail the project, and provide satisfactory materials and craftsmanship to make a great building. The subpar building may be good for some time, but a great design will be a timeless fixture of the fabric. If architects want to build a great structures and be good designer they must do everything they possibly can to ensure the best design in the way Jobs thought of it. If clients aren't interested, designer's shouldn't be interested either (in the project).

Excerpt from Steve Jobs

Bad Design Moment - Ballard Hotel

Hotel Ballard Ballard Avenue's row of old brick and stone buildings have been one upped by the beautifully designed facade of the Ballard Hotel. The designers pulled out all the stops to shows Seattlites the finest detailed faux Tuscan stucco that easily rivals the finest tract developments of Las Vegas, (maybe even surpasses the Lake Las Vegas Hotel- a fine stealing of Florence's own Ponte Vecchio). This building will live on as a testament to true architecture.

Location: 5216 Ballard Avenue Northwest, Seattle, WA 98107

"Falina" and the Brilliance of Breaking Bad

This will clearly contain spoilers if one hasn't seen the end of Breaking Bad. For all the people who watched Breaking Bad two nights ago, there was the song "El Paso" by Marty Robbins that played as theme to the final episode of Breaking Bad. The episode's entire plot was laid out symbolically in the song, listen for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIHRgisdbeY&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkIHRgisdbeY& (In case you didn't listen to the song, the character that fell in love with girl named Falina passed away after getting shot in his side and the story leading to his death matches a lot of Walt's story leading to his death)

The creators of Breaking Bad were giving it all away- Falina is the title of the episode, the Marty Robbins tape fell out in the car of the opening scene, and Walt sang El Paso as he assembled the gun machine. This is what made Breaking Bad so brilliant and a major reason I became a big fan show. The show was written with symbolism and clues to make a viewer really think about the next episode. It was always fun talking with others about the possible outcomes and hidden messages. The final episode added a concise conclusion with only a little unanswered story, one being Gray Matter as outlined in the recent New York Times review (I will note she missed Falina reference), or what Jesse does (Is he a wanted man? Does he save Brock?).

At any rate, there are almost no shows that hooked me like Breaking Bad, so it receives the Hagen stamp of approval. Good Job Vince Gilligan.

Oh, and when is the next season of House of Cards coming out?

Bad Design Moment - The Holiday on John Street

I am surprised at what is passed off for exterior siding these days. There is what looks like an apartment (perhaps the micro living kind) on John Street in Seattle that has a bad facade of blue painted metal panels. The uncoordinated mix of metal panel textures and narrow windows only makes the facade more insulting than painted it all blue. A decent window detail, a few continuous lines, or leaving the metal gray could improve this facade ten fold. IMG_2610

Shipping containers or trailers stacked on top of each other would be more interesting and true to what this building is.

For the record, the clock on the side is ok.

Located at 1001 East John Street, Seattle, WA

Song for the Day - Daft Punk "Lose Yourself to Dance"

I have never been a HUGE Daft Punk fan, but the recent plays of their music on the radio convinced me to buy the album. It's a good compilation featuring "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance." This is the first music video for the album.

The album and video has some serious disco influences and I can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of a disco return... Ya, I'm not sure what I think about that, perhaps future PBR commercials will look like this.