Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Porch or No Porch

This is what makes America such a great country. If you like the purity of architectural solids, you can opt to keep the face of your house unencumbered. Or if you are more into not being feasted on by biting pests, AND you enjoy a bit of whimsy on your boxy abode, then you are free to add a porch and watch the world pass by in the charming town of Bristol, Rhode Island.

Both are good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dreaming of Purgatory

My daughter, being the sailor that she is, thought it would be nice to see the tall ships in Newport. However, the captains decided to leave early, so we began a chase to see their rapidly receding masts.
We found a nice perch at Purgatory Chasm, a crack in the earth, a cleft in the cliff along Sachuet Bay, 10 feet wide, 50 feet deep and 120 feet long.

Bye, bye boats!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hats, Bags & Babes

A little shed that aspires to greater retail grandeur, this Block Island store worked it's magic on a mother-daughter team that I happen to know.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Block Head

A split-roof dormer on Block Island could be seen as an eye in a shingled head. There is also a red-head in the window. Anthropomorphically speaking, this house seems either sleepy or surprised, but realistically speaking, it is just materials and colors.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Around the Block Island

Block Island Rhode Island (an island so nice they almost named it twice) has plenty 'o old fashioned charm. A bit like Martha's Vineyard used to be - low key, low stress, simple beauty (but still good food). Walking out to Dead Eye Dick's - a great seafood restaurant from the '50's, overlooking New Harbor - we glimpsed idyllic cottages nestled in moorish dunes through the interstitial spaces of village

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Been at Jerry's

Originally Hoffman's Cafeteria (not famous), this superfine Streamline Moderne was dashed off by the prolific pen of Henry Hohauser in 1940. Looking like a series of rollers that could press meat (or customers) it is hard to resist the inward attraction that this fresser palace imparts.

However this time I did resist, as I wished for pork belly, found at Pubbelly, in a ramen miso soup.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tropical Court House

At CNU 20, several of us decided to rent a cottage in a real neighborhood behind the convention, a nice change from the soulless corporate lodging containers. We we lucky to find the Tropical Courts ( that had two lovely bedrooms, living room, kitchen, overlooking this Barraganesque wall/fountain/pool.

I'm sorry I missed so many sessions at the CNU, but I'm not sorry.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where Did I Place That City Place?

Creating cities is not so easy these days. For most of our history, it has simply been one of the main ways we made our human nest. But zoning codes, highways, urban destruction and general stupidity makes it a miracle when anything resembling a city appears.

CityPlace in West Palm Beach is shown in this slice 'o tower, framed by an arch, was built in 2000, and is better than many attempts. There is life on the street, nice public places to inhabit, and interesting details. It is certainly not perfect. Just like 'real' cities.

Friday, September 28, 2012

All Four Art and Art for One

A dynamically curling handrail duels with its more mobile shadow in the Four Arts Garden in Palm Beach. Four Arts (art, drama, lit-tra-ture, and music) was begun in 1938 by the Garden Club of Palm Beach. Designed by seven society ladies and a dude, they include a Chinese Garden, Moonlight Garden, Aroid Garden (monocotyledonous flowering plant family defined by having an inflorescence comprised of a rod-like spadix, which is surrounded by a large petal-like bract, the spathe) and others. 

As usual, nature for me takes a back seat to the pleasing creations of humans (also nature?), but it is a most excellent back seat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Venetian Peruvian Palm Beachian

Located on Peruvian Avenue, behind Mizner Courts, this Venetian villa was built in 1967. The part of the house shown nestles up to the sidewalk as if it and the street were a canal of aqueous matter. No gondolas, though.

Oh, and it is on the market for just a shade less than $12,000,000.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Order in the Court

Via Mizner Court (yards), that is. A few more sketches on a lovely day in May, ogling the white planes, cool shadows, rustic trims and tiles, all feathered by tropical exuberance.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mizner No Miser

Played hooky one morning from the Congress for the New Urbanism in West Palm to relax in the courtyards of Addison Mizner in Palm Beach off of Worth Avenue. These outdoor rooms are endlessly inventive, both serene and exuberant.

Who could resist a tumble of inviting stairs like this?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Home Beat

Sitting on our front porch, looking to the side yard and our 1/2 garage beyond. Sky is now visible due to a 29" diameter Norway Maple that was growing out of our garage and dropping limbs on our neighbors house. As Norway Maple is an invasive, and prevented anything else from growing in our yard due to its shallow and poisonous roots, not too sorry to see it go.

The birch trees in the foreground may not last much longer - they are cable-stayed together. But they are a cheerful addition to the garden.

Friday, July 27, 2012

East Side Triple Threat

Three slices 'o east side of Providence. Top is Central Congregational Church with a dome after my own heart, by the vaudeville team of Carére & Hastings.
Next is a common but welcome sight of an Empire Style house with the non-MacDonald's type mansard roof lifted above a vibrating yellow body capped by crisp white moulding profiles of various sorts.
Finally at the bottom is a smidgeon of a rare and rather unique Providence roof shape. This bell curve  occurs in several buildings downtown as well as on the east side, this being the final if not penultimate example.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Scythian Myth-Busters

The griffin is a mythological creature with the body of a lion, head and wings of an eagle, and the heart and mind of a certified pubic accountant.  Its job was to guard the riches of the Scythians, no scythies themselves.

This sturdy version is in front of the Acacia Building in Washington DC, and with its twin stares in the direction of the US Capitol Building, keeping the lawyers within from being sacked by Congress (shouldn't it be the other way around?).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Creature from the Black Lampoon

It is unclear why Edmund Wheelwright thought the Flemish Renaissance style would be considered a humorous abode for the Harvard Lampoon, but certainly the tower in front, which looks like a person wearing a Prussian helmet, rates a few giggles.

The ibis is the 'Poons mascot - representing the Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth was the patron of knowledge, secrets, and writing, but it is unclear whether this extended to comedy writing as well.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Church Street Church

It was a dark and gloomy day - except for the shaft of sunlight illuminating Isaiah Rogers wooden Gothic First Parish Church of 1833. The modern street light tries to upstage the formidable steeple, but can in the end merely tip its hat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Octagon in 60 Seconds

Orson S Fowler, phrenologist and promoter of the octagonal lifestyle, was an alumnus of Amherst College. The President was quite taken by this idea, and insisted that the new Natural History Museum and Observatory conform to this radical new geometry. The architect, Henry Sykes, provided  Italianate  clothing on the two octagons, which resemble Laurel and Hardy in their respective proportions.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Olde Towne Albuquerque

Often seen as the sad sister of Santa Fe's old town, Albuquerque's Old Town (1706) has many charms and relatively few rich assholes ambling about. My office was located just off the square, and I had amble opportunity to quietly take in the character of this very New Mexican place.

Speaking of new, Old Town wasn't a part of 'new' Albuquerque until the 1940's.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Poblanos

Los Poblanos, a historic estate and inn located in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque New Mexico, has a new crop of buildings, courtesy of the excellent design of Moule & Polyzoides. This small chapelesque building is part of the owners new residence, and blends the architectural stylings of the existing farm buildings and northern New Mexican forms.

Sacrilegious words have been known to have been uttered in and around this building, sometimes very appropriately.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hit the Brickyard, Jack

Last September, we spent a lovely weekend out near the Great Wall. Not as great as the wall, but still very,very good was this eco-resort called the Brickyard ( Started 18 years ago by two American/Chinese couples, this is a model for low tech green. They have built new, sometimes modernist, houses on existing footprints with local materials and local builders, they have encouraged a slow food movement in the five surrounding villages, and they have created a business model that allows villagers to stay in their village instead of moving to the megalopolis.

They also had an excellent patty melt burger, possibly the finest in all of China.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Confucius Confusion

Built in 1302, the Confucian Temple has many elegant spaces and remarkable details. One notable carving is called 'Two flying dragons playing a pearl among clouds'. The sketch above is not of a pearl, but of the intrusion of modernity amongst cultural tradition.

Sort of like China itself, today.

Friday, March 30, 2012

He Who Is Without Hotel La Sin Ventura......

In Antigua, sometimes you have to look up and over to find rambunctious details. With dark threatening clouds overhead (as opposed to the light threatening kind) this hotel certainly beckoned as a safe port in a storm.

Hotel La Sin Ventura translates as 'Hotel without fortune' - which either means it doesn't cost much, or they don't have Chinese dessert cookies, or there is no future.

Must learn Spanish.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Antigua Ecole

Antiqua Guatemala is an exemplar of urbanism made from two simple components - mostly one story buildings and a straightforward  grid (Law of the Indies variety). However, what makes it great urbanism is the implementation of many elements. The termination of the grid views by mountains gives it the comfort of an urban beanbag chair. The narrowness of the street and the relentless definition of the street wall allow no room for spacial missteps and the quality, color and detail of the architecture make it worth the expenditure of close inspection.
The école above speaks the universal language of fun.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pulitzer Prize, Bitter End

Joseph Pulitzer gave $50,000 for a fountain located in Grand Army Plaza next to the Plaza Hotel. The image of a winged ram (bearer of the Golden Fleece) squishing the hell out of a poor turtle is only a sideshow of the magnificent fountain starring Pomona, goddess of fruits and fertility.

The architect was the redoubtable Thomas Hastings. The unfortunate sculptor was Karl Bitter, whom after finishing the clay model, was run over by a car.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rockin' Fella

This carving by Lee Lawrie in 1933 is above the entrance to the British Empire Building at Rockefeller Center. Mercury was used to symbolize Britain's global power in the 1930's. He is carrying a caduceus, the staff of ancient heralds.

The sun motif illustrates the motto 'The sun never sets on the British Empire'. Oops.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gitane, Little Doggie

Or little alligator. Not sure why he is nailed to the wall go Cafe Gitane, a French-Morocan cafe in the base of the Jane Hotel in NYC. There was no alligator offered on the menu.

The Jane is an affordable choice in Chelsea on the Hudson, with rooms for two going at $125. But you get bunk beds in a room that measures 5'6" wide by 7' long and shared bathrooms. A little like a train, without all the stops and starts.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wei Wei All the Way Home

Unexpectedly came upon an exhibition of Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese artist, in the Grand Army Plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel in NYC.  Surrounding the Pulitzer Fountain, this circle of Chinese Zodiac Heads is based on the 12 animal heads that functioned as a water clock-fountain in the European-style gardens of  Emperor Qianlong at the summer palace of Yuanming Yuan outside of Beijing.

In 1860, French and British troops ransacked the summer palace and the heads were pillaged.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chinggis Khan

This a view of a new stainless steel sculpture of Chinggis Khan and his horse that is 120 feet tall in the middle of a valley. The small black bits above the horses mane are people!

Chinggis is the proper way to say Genghis, which can mean 'ocean' - in this case an ocean of grass that stretched from China to the Danube River and into Persia. He united the warring Mongol tribes and created the largest empire ever. Ruthless, yes, but also responsible for advances in civilization such as trade, diplomacy, meritocracy, and a tolerance for different religions. For a good overview, read 'Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World'.

BTW, John Wayne played Genghis Khan is a movie called 'The Conqueror' with Susan Hayward as his wife.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ulanbaatar Wood

Not the same as Norwegian Wood, but very colorful. This is some sort of platform/guard station/religious contraption on the grounds of the Ganantegchenling Monastery. The greens and ochres snap in the endless blue sky supported by the golden brown dust of the hills.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Monastery, of course, located in Ulaanbatar, Mongolia. Created in 1838 as a center of Mongolian Buddhism, it was damaged and closed in 1938 by Stalinists.

In 1990, with the Mongolians in charge of their own future, they set about restoring this important site, including rebuilding the 88 foot tall copper with gold plating Buddha. Many of the buildings are Tibetan style. Well loved part of Ulaanbatar.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Strada Nova for New Year

The Strada Nova (New Street) in Venice was completed in 1871 and created a generous 10 x 400 meter new pedestrian thoroughfare.  We were on our way to nowhere in particular in the light cold rain on a weeknight of Carnevale, when out of the mist came the apparition of local Venetians on their way to the opera.

They do exist (I think).