Archive for January, 2009

Down Under in B-more

Sunday, January 4th, 2009


The National Aquarium in Baltimore is housed in a high-tech custom-designed building comprised of a connected series of glass-enclosed pods. A replicate of a particular Australian ecosystem has been constructed within one of the newly added pods, replete with chicken-sized bats hanging from branches above.



Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


Can you guess the Metro Stop?

Woven Skin

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

These images are from a recent National Gallery hosted installation of the work of sculptor Martin Puyear. Designed by I.M. Pei, the East Building of the National Gallery deserves attention of its own.



Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

This hospital in Brooklyn, New York is an excellent example of soviet era modernism. The layout of the bronze-tinted windows is made to mimic the recognizable proportions of iconic factory windows found across Europe. The shell of the building is clad in panels of Cor-10 steel, the surface of which is intentionally allowed to rust. This layer of oxidation protects the rest of the steel behind from further corrosion at the same time that it contributes to the utilitarian aesthetic of the building.

The building is distinctly arranged on the principles of Louis Kahn’s “servant” and “served” spaces. The cores are clearly separated from the main volume of the building. They extend upwards to connect to the large mechanical penthouses that sit on a web of structural steel, looming over top of the roof.



A Walk Among Stones

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


The Arlington Cemetery area offers several architectural specimens worth note and is well worth an afternoon walk. One can park at the Iwo Jima memorial and then walk south through the cemetery, thereby coming upon a bell tower that was given “to the People of the United States from the People of The Netherlands” in 1952.


Leading Dutch architect Joost W. C. Boks designed this rather imposing bastion of the “International Style.” With it’s smooth black monumentality and utter lack of applied ornament, the tower tests the public’s acceptance of a high modern style that has since been accused of being unresponsive to human emotion. But in memorializing such a universal catastrophe as WW2, this seems appropriate. The tower evokes a piece of industrial machinery, starkly posed against the multitudes of headstones.


Across the cemetery to the south sits an absolute gem of local architecture that I think goes largely unnoticed. The Women in Armed Services memorial was designed in 1997 as a renovation to an existing classical colonnade.


Subterranean space was made for the museum by excavating behind the colonnade, exposing the back surface of the retaining wall to the new interior corridor. There is a very pleasing upper level that looks across the Potomac to the mall and beyond. Spider-joints hold panels of an inclined glass ceiling, which protrude upward through the semicircular roof patio.

hpim2038 wasm-plan


Roofs of Columbia Heights

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


A Piece of Functional Sculpture

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


Designed in 1966 by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-1990), a Pritzker Prize-winning architect and longtime partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the Hirschorn museum and sculpture garden is one of the more eclectic examples of brutalism in Washington.



Scaled Transparency

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


Thomas Phifer and partners have designed a notable curtain wall on the façade of a recently completed office tower at 1099 New York Avenue in Washington, DC. Complex custom curtain wall panels are rare in Washington because of the height restriction to no more than 20 feet taller than the width of the street on which it sits, allowing the Washington Monument to remain the tallest building. This limitation in the vertical dimension of the built volume can typically drive up the per-unit cost of the curtain wall manufacturing process because of the lower sales volume of panel units. Being the first building they have built in the area, the developer, Tishman Speyer Properties’ opted for a sophisticated and challenging solution for their foray on the scene.


The individual pains of insulated glass are each secured to panels of a unitized system. Each panel is tilted off the plane of the wall on two perpendicular axes so that the projecting corner of one pane overlaps the receding corners of adjacent panes.



Photo of construction by