Friday, August 29, 2014

Playful architectural trimwork

On Cape Cod last month I noticed this charming cottage while on a bike ride and had to stop to take pictures like any self respecting architect. What I really appreciated was the playful trimwork and beautiful colors used; vintage yet fresh.
Oddly enough this house is only a block away from another I featured a few years ago, Carpenter's Gothic and has the same beachy charm.
I won't comment on the fake roofing material but the natural wood shingles and shades of green trim have my vote! What do you think?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A baroque masterpiece: Fulda Cathedral

Leaving the playful rococo style seen in the last post, Amalienburg, we now visit Fulda, Germany, to tour the baroque masterpiece of Fulda Cathedral. The baroque style was a direct response to the rococo and was based on more serious Romanesque architecture. The ornament is restrained with lots of 'blank space' for contrast to let the eye rest.
My Australian penpal on his most recent European adventure had little to say about the cathedral, I think in part because this restraint in comparison to the over-the-top'ness of the profuse German rococo can be somewhat underwhelming. This architectural purity of the baroque style appeals to me personally though.
The Cathedral was designed in 1700 by the German baroque architect Johann Dientzenhofer after a visit to Rome.  Dientzenhofer was clearly inspired by St Peter's Basilica, a masterpiece from the Renaissance which every great architect and artist had worked on: Bernini, Michelangelo, Maderno, and Bramante to name a few. Who wouldn't be inspired?
 As with most churches, light is everything.
I think it's interesting to note that unlike both earlier and later churches, stained glass wasn't a feature -here the light, space, and the architecture itself are left to speak.
One of the most noted features of this Cathedral is the world famous pipe organ which you can read about here if you're interested. Personally I always think of music when I imagine the baroque period so having a masterful pipe organ in this church makes sense!
It may be baroque but the rococo qualities are still seen in the sculptures.
What I love about a baroque church is that the ornament is purposeful -one knows where to look during a service and also knows what is important. Everything isn't ornamented equally, rather the pulpit and the alter are given pride of place.
I hope you enjoyed this little architectural history lesson and visit to Fulda Cathedral. I've added Fulda to my travel wish list!
As always click on the images to view larger

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Amalienburg - heaven at Nymphenburg palace

Long time readers may remember a brief post I wrote in 2009 on Falkenlust Schloss which was based on a hunting lodge built at the palace grounds of Nymphenburg, Germany. That hunting lodge is Amalienburg which I'll discuss here.
Described as heaven on earth by my Australian penpal who provided me with these pictures, the rococo palace is Nymphenburg's answer to the Petit Trianon at Versailles (although built 20 years prior in 1739). This small building was built for the king's wife, Maria Amalia, as a hunting lodge or escape from the main palace or schloss.
 The pink and white stucco exterior is perfectly symmetrical naturally.
The main salon is mirrored and silver-leafed to within an inch of its life while the rest of the paneling is painted a dreamy light blue.
The reflection of light from the french doors in the mirrors plus the light color helps blur the boundary of the space - imagine it on a sunny day!
 Even if you don't like rococo I think you'll appreciate the workmanship and fine details.
The carved woodwork features women relaxing in nature with all manner of plants, hunting dogs, and birds.
 The furniture is as magnificent as the wall detailing.
The bedroom is no simple place to rest ones' head. The portraits flanking the bed are of Maria Amalia and her husband Karl Albrecht who commissioned the structure.
 Would you ever think yellow silk, and silver and yellow painted wood could be so pretty?
The adjacent 'hunting room' functions as a picture salon with paintings by Peter Jakob Horemans showing the couple at court hunts and functions; sort of an 18th century version of a den covered with family photographs!
 Again the furniture perfectly matches the wall decorations.
The most charming rooms feature hand painted linen wall-coverings in chinoiserie style. Below the room is called the 'pheasant room' and you can see why with the animal so prominently featured.
A closeup of this wallcovering reveals how playful and modern the lines seem!
The 'dog and gun room' features a similar linen wallcovering in blue and white -even more blatantly chinoiserie in style.
 Dogs slept beneath built-in gun storage in this charming space; quite the fancy kennel!
Even the kitchen was not spared the over-the-top decoration lavished on the rest of the palace. Delft tiles were used in profusion covering every surface including the stove.
 These tiles feature birds and flowers, certainly an inspiration to Howard Slatkin in his own kitchen!
As I mentioned I realize rococo is not everyone's favorite but the attention to detail and workmanship are incredible and should be inspiring to all designers!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Manhattan Classic, New York's Finest Prewar Apartments

I was very excited to recently receive a copy of Princeton Architectural Press's new book "Manhattan Classic" by Geoffrey Lynch, pictured below, (from the firm H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture) which features the best 'Prewar' apartment buildings in NYC.
This well organized book starts with a map of NYC which shows the location of the buildings covered. Each chapter then features an exemplary floorplan of the prime unit in each building as well as photos of additional apartments.  In many ways it reminds me a lot of Washingon, DC's version of this (our real estate bible!) Best Addresses by James Goode (another book I can't recommend more highly!)
For architectural floorplan lovers like me you won't be able to put this book down - pure floorplan porn with over 84 apartments featured!
Some of the images you may recognize such as this apartment from 998 Fifth Avenue but it's interesting to see them placed within their buildings and area of the city -putting a name to the face so to speak. I love this dining room above and the staircase located within the same duplex apartment, seen below, is even more stunning!
Some people may sneer at apartment living as 'small' but this book proves that the dwellers of these apartments aren't missing out on anything from a single family home!  Pick up your own copy of the book today and settle down with a glass of wine to study the floorplans; I promise you won't regret it!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can you rebuild the past? The Berlin Schloss

A debate has raged in Berlin for the past 2 decades over whether to rebuild the historic Berlin Schloss or City Palace on historic Museum Island. Badly damaged during WWII, the communists tore down the palace in 1950 to make way for their Palace of the Republic, a hideous steel, glass, & asbestos multi-use structure which was recently, in-turn, torn down.
The Schloss had served as a public art museum since 1918 but was started in 1443 as a royal palace. Constantly renovated over hundreds of years, the exterior stayed fixed to the baroque period while the interiors reflected the styles of the day. The dome was rebuilt in the mid 19th century by none other than the architect Karl Shinkel in collaboration with Stuler.
Many people have debated rebuilding the historic structure because they claim it has overtones of the previous monarchy, but what monument in Europe isn't tainted by history? In these photos you see photographs of a model of what is currently under construction taken by my Australian Penpal at the neighboring Bode Museum in Berlin.
What these people seem to want is a building of our own age -much as the communists wanted in their construction of the Palace of the Republic. Would they want someone like Frank Gehry (heaven forbid) to build something that doesn't match the historic area in the center of the city and would be reviled in 10 years time (as well as now)?
The compromise has come about that the exterior will be built to closely match the former palace with modern interiors which will house a modern, non-western art museum. The costly exterior recreation will be done mainly through private donations which have nearly been fulfilled and plans to be finished in 2019.
The undertaking is gargantuan as can be expected for such a massive building site. The exterior carved stonework has been meticulously copied from historic photos and paintings. Each piece must be modeled full-size in clay (which takes about a month) and approved by a panel before being carved in sandstone by masons (each small piece can take up to 2 months by one artisan).
 Here you can see 1 of 43 required eagles which will adorn the facade.
The workmanship is amazing; encouraging to know it exists in this day and age! The sandstone cartouche above took a mason 2 months to complete. Talk about job security!
Above you can see construction from last month. What do you think -would you have decided to rebuild the historic palace to fit within this historic district or hired a modern day architect to build something new?
See more images of the building's past and future HERE.
This article in the WSJ details the controversy in more detail.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lecture opportunity with Stephen Salny: The interiors of William Hodgins

Washingtonians are in for a treat!  Author Stephen Salny will be speaking on his latest book, William Hodgins Interiors, in Georgetown at Blake Hall for the ICAA on Thursday, Sept 18th at 7:15. Join members of the ICAA for drinks beforehand at 6:30. Mr. Salny will be signing copies of the book, which will be available for purchase, after the lecture.
Boston based decorator William Hodgins is considered one of America's greatest interior decorators. William Hodgins Inc was launched in 1969 and his work encompasses residential commissions from New England to Florida, as far west as California, and overseas.  Author Stephen M. Salny will present an in-depth look at Hodgins most important work to date during his illustrious, ongoing forty-year career.

Stephen M. Salny, who grew up in the Boston area and has had a long-standing interest in interior decoration, first became familiar with Hodgins' work at the age of 13. Salny knew many families who hired Hodgins to decorate their homes. Salny and the designer met in the early 1980s at Hodgins client's home in Palm Beach and they became good friends. In writing about Hodgins, Salny has had the pleasurable privilege of spending quality time with Hodgins, his associates, former employees, and many of his clients.

Information on attending the lecture is available at the ICAA website HERE about 1/2 way down the page. I hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Upholstery: before and after

As many of you know I've become somewhat of an estate sale junkie.  At a sale earlier this year I picked up two rather ragged chairs for next to nothing.
 Above you can see the before. The chairs were upholstered in a tired, faded fabric but the frames were sturdy, the cushions in great shape, and the design unique and oddly comfortable. The Venetian shape just nestles your back perfectly.
I paid a visit to Roxene at Haute Fabrics in Arlington, Virginia, and found this amazing hand-done crewel fabric. Here she is measuring out my yardage. Hi Roxene!
After a quick turn around from my upholsterer they're happily ensconced at my friend's house; at a fraction of the cost for comparable new chairs. Can you even recognize them?  Leaving the skirts off modernizes them and the pattern is really cheerful.
 Here is a closeup of the amazing crewel work.
I love the way the fabric complements the rug but isn't matchy-matchy. This last shot isn't very good but gives you an idea of the line of the chair. These definitely need to be manufactured again by someone as they're so comfortable!
I can't recommend more highly a visit to Roxene at Haute or my upholsterers, Urban Castle Interiors.
PS. since I've received emails about it this is obviously not staged nor the final resting place for the chairs as work is ongoing in the house. Just quick snapshots!