Thursday, December 22, 2011


I made several trips to Philadelphia this summer, lots of driving around not too much time for sightseeing. I think Philly has a beautiful skyline. I really like these neo-deco skyscrapers-sort of like "Chrysler & Empire State" like massed buildings rendered in blue sky reflecting glass.

Made a trip to Independence Hall, which was a treat. Growing up in Southern California I made many trips to the replica at Knotts Berry Farm which as it turns out is remarkably accurate. Of course the Knotts version has sunny skies and no skyscrapers honing in on it, and the courtroom is a gift shop in Buena Park. The real one is undergoing a restoration, so they have draped giant Architectural Renderings to simulate the experience of seeing the real Independence Hall. SO I suppose in a way I still have not seen the real one.

I found the "Ghost Executive Mansion" interesting at the site of George Washington's Presidential Residence, sort of an effective semi-archaeological ruin/semi-restoration. After living on the East Coast for nearly 3 years I have found myself succumbing somewhat to the charms of early American architecture. I find the brick, and white trim refreshingly elegant, with a quiet dignity. I remain primarily a modernist so I appreciate the simple clean forms of early federalist architecture. There is an attractive rhythm to the fenestration pattens and there is the use of simple sometimes abstract geometry. The interiors are very lively with what I think is an unexpectedly bold use of color. I'll share more observations on that in future posts.

Got to taste the dueling "Steaks" of Pat's and Geno's in South Philly. I wasn't prepared to try it "Wit Whiz", so I don't think I got the authentic experience. They both were great, I loved the flash and neon of Geno's and then there is the grit and vintage charm of Pat's. After seeing the JFK, & Lincoln stood here plaques at Independence Hall it was funny to see the "Rocky stood here" marker at Pat's. They both served Birch Beer, which I love so that was a plus. When I return I will probably eat at both of them, half a sandwich at each, I enjoyed them both. Pat's was a bit more moist, and I think the meat was chopped a bit more, which I liked. I will have to try them both again but next time "Wit Whiz".

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Mid Mod Md

A big part of my job has me on day long driving trips inspecting facilities and designing modifications for them. So spending so much time in the car I get to see a lot of territory and the various types of roadside buildings that dot the way. The capital region experienced tremendous growth in the 1950's and 1960's. Post war prosperity resulted in lots of rural land being overtaken by suburbs filled with all of those New Dealers, Eisenhower Republicans, New Frontiersman, and Great Society types. Maryland in particular has a facinating crop of Mid Century Modern buildings that I have collected snapshots of. In Southern California somber modernism was fairly common but there was also alot of buildings with a whimsical playfull quality. Not as much in DC, afterall this is Washington! , filled with important people! Doing important work! So the modernism I guess reflects that. This stuff is a grab bag, a Church, a Department Store, a Bowling alley, I took alot of these shots in Prince George's County, Maryland. It isnt an overwhelming amount of material but then I was expecting everything here to be monumental neo-classical, instead it's mostly brick and white plaster. Which I shouldnt have been so surprised afterall back home the predominant style is Spanish/Mission revival. At any rate here is some of what caught my eye.

The first is a Church, it is in a pretty spectacular space ship style. From the abstract steeple to the flying saucer chapel, this is a beautiful church. I especially like the floating statue on a plane of mosaic tile, and the folding plate zig zag element evokes Gothic arches.

The second was originally a Hecht's Department Store a local DC chain. Hecht's was absorbed into Robinsons-May before being absorbed yet again into Macy's. The floating planes that act as a background for the signage, and the fieldstone ruble walls are elegant ways to dress up the box, imagine pulling up in something with tailfins! This was originally an outdoor mall, a ridiculous concept in this climate-hot and sticky in the summer, and cold and snowbound in the winter. Eventually they put a roof over it, but "lifestyle" centers are en vogue again so you never know when they might tear of the roof and make it a pseudo-Main Street USA development. In fact across the street from this is a very example of this with a faux downtown planted at the base of three towers done by Edward Durell Stone(Architect of the Kennedy Center)- something for another post.

Here is a very Wrightian/Organic looking structure complete with porte cochere. It is now an "International Supermarket", but could equally pull duty as an evil villains lair, perhaps if it were perched on top of a National Monument just out of view with it's own private airstrip.

Here is a Giant Grocery Store.(well it isnt very big but that was the name, it is being turned into an Aldi- which should look really good in this space) This has a very Miesian neo-classical seriousness. I love stripped down colonades like this, not only is it sleek and modern but everyone of them is a homage intentional or not to George Washington's Piazza at Mount Vernon, which I think is very appropriate.

This last fellow could be anything really, the plywood arches were a motiff tacked on to enliven otherwise very regular facades. In fact my hometown city hall the rather overnamed "RIALTO Civic Center" has a similiar device. But in this case it is no mere outpost of government, this is in fact a bowling alley! In California it might have a rock wall or a soaring roof, something themed to the Nth degree, but here it is the still delightful yet restrained fellow you see here. Which frankly is really overdressed by local standards, now I must give them credit, there seem to be many operable bowling alleys here in greater DC but most are a plain box with a glass door, they have painted graphics to "enliven" them but are otherwise as unadorned as a utility shed. This example has loads of architecture- a colonade, the plywood arches, plantings, plus it is still being used as a bowling alley, most of the So Cal greats were demo'd long ago.

2 years in DC

It has now been over 2 years since I moved to our nations capitol. Fate has seen that my life seems to move in 2 year increments who knows what the future holds. When I started this blog I was living in the Inland Suburbs of Los Angeles(Highland/San Bernardino) and working in the Palm Springs area designing houses. I ended up starting a job in Greater Los Angeles designing Wal-Marts and moving to Whittier. And then like President Nixon I moved from Whittier to Washington, DC. Here I get to do a lot of traveling throughout the mid-Atlantic, so I am going to start chronicling some of those adventures.

This picture was taken on the South Lawn of the White House. There are spring and winter tours which allow you to get upclose to the residence, which is a real treat. I was able to arrange a tour of the interior for my Mother's birthday in 2009 but they don't allow cameras on the interior tour. But for the garden tour you are free to take pictures, so here I am with a friend(and several others) enjoying this suburb example of public housing. Being from southern California I am very much familiar with Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and the nearby if not so equally famous Hobby City. Which includes a replica of the White House that houses a toy museum. This slightly larger example is equally impressive but unfortunately it is not filled with toys.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Presidential Travels

I have always loved history, and especially the Presidency. A good Presidential book will give you a snapshot of America 4-8(or in one case 12) years at a time. As a kid I read a lot, I have neve been much of a fiction reader, but would devour biographies. I read lots of juvenile bios in elementary school on JFK, Reagan, and Walt Disney(okay not a President but there is "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln", and the "Hall of Presidents", and don't forget Reagan co-hosted the dedication of Disneyland in 1955) they became my childhood heroes and I retain great affection for them to the present day. I still read a lot of Presidential bios , DC has scores of well stocked second hand stores with great politics & history book departments. I have in the last 2 1/2 years read bios of Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, the Revolutionary War, Lincoln & the Civil War, Mc Kinley, FDR, Eisenhower & the Cold War, JFK, Nixon, Ford & Reagan. It has been a wonderful bonus of living and working here to see so many Presidential sites. Each probably deserves it's own post so maybe I'll get around to it.

Visits to Mt. Vernon & Monticello have been the most Architectural, and both were stunning. Mt. Vernon has a rugged formal quality, It very much suits Washington, and I loved the Piazza, probably my favorite thing about the estate- it is such a grand outdoor room. The boxed in columns are almost modern in execution and seen in a certain light have an almost Miesian quality, certainly that colonade has influenced countless buildings, the silouette is neo-classic but with a light weight quality. I must write more about the architectural lessons I pulled from Mount Vernon. Monticello is wildly imaginative, really unlike any other residence in America. Far more literal in its neo-classicism but with the red brick that Americanizes it so much. It has such a horizontal quality- a 3 story house that looks like a 1 story house, no easy design feat. Definitely more on Monticello in a future post.

While in Ohio I saw lots of Mc Kinley sites and the Presidential Airlift(Air Force One)Hangar at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Occasionaliy I pass by a Presidential gravesite, so I stop and pay my respects, probably enough times for a seperate post. I've been to Washington's, Jefferson's, Buchannan's, Mc Kinley's, Taft's, JFK's, Nixon's, and Reagan's gravesites. I also attended the public gravesite viewing the week of Nixon's funeral in Yorba Linda, CA back in 1994, attended Reagan's casket viewing at his Simi Valley, CA library, and attended Ford's casket viewing at his Palm Desert, CA Church.

Then of course there are the visits to the Monuments & Memorials here in DC, another future post- I really need to get to work!