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Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 update.

A somewhat rambling update is about to occur.  I have a couple things to discuss.  First is a photo of a home recently completed by Monogram custom homes.  I'm not getting around as much these days to snap photos of houses as they progress, but things are moving along.  Monogram won several awards this year at the LVBA's annual gala, two of which have appeared in this blog (no more formal rooms Jan 2010)- a home up to 700k exclusive of land and a home up to 800k, so congrats to him.  Erwin Forrest, another builder whose work has appeared here also won his first award, home up to 400k exclusive of land, the first of many I'm sure. Go to the LVBA website and click on awards, scroll down to Monogram and Erwin Forrest for a peek.

Next thing I want to talk about stems from a trip back to Princeton last fall for the Harvard game.  Haven't been back for a game in many years and greatly enjoyed the new stadium by Raphael Vinoly.  This is just a fabulous place to inhabit and a worthy successor to the iconic Palmer Stadium, on whose site it now stands. .  On this day, The princeton team looked awful during the first half with virtually no offense.  I don't think they had a first down.  As the weather was grand, I decided to walk around the campus and check out the new buildings during the second half, during which the Tiger's rallied to their greatest come from behind victory in their history.  So it goes.  The walk was well worth it none the less.  The Princeton campus is a grand vantage place from which to experience the gamut of American architecture.  From the Georgian colonial refinement of Nassau Hall to the latest Frank Gehry explorations in mass and space, it can all be found right here within easy walking distance.  For the purposes of housing though let me focus on a couple highlights.

Start with John Notman's Prospect Hall.  Notman lived in Philadelphia and was instrumental in introducing Italianate architecture to this country in the mid 1800's.  Think of him as the grandfather of the modditteranean if you wish.  The style should certainly speak to those who favor the tuscan influence popular today.  This one is pretty spectacular with a tower and port cochere.  It became the president's house in the 1870's and was inhabited by Woodrow Wilson during his tenure at Princeton.  To me, what is more interesting in William Platner's 1968 addition to the rear when the building was converted into the faculty club.  Platner is a mid-century modernist who worked in Eero Saarinen's office, and later Roche and Dinkeloo's.  He is famous for his interiors, furniture, and detailing which integrates the entire composition of the building with the interior treatments.  This particular work is not heralded, but if you ever visit, I defy you to find more elegant detailing.  Exquisite!

From Prospect, you can wander through Venturi's post modern Frist Hall, cross Washington Road and gaze to the rear of Robert AM Stern's recent work on the old Campus Club.  Here he was channelling C.F.A. Voysey, one of the pioneer's of modern design working in England in the late 1800's, early 1900's.  This building was panned by the critics, but I find it interesting and appropriate given the context of the Collegiate Gothic setting.  Turn 180 degrees to view the front of Gehry's science library. Hello!  A lively introduction to the back side of the campus.

You want some I.M. Pei, wonder over to Spillman Hall, where the Picasso sculpture "head of woman" has been placed.  The harsh geometry of this dorm complex is made interesting by the diagonal circulation through its core that really has to be experienced to appreciate.

After all this modern and post-modern and deconstructionist stuff, we get back to Demetri Porphyrios and his work on Whitman College.  His "classicism without style" as applied to the Princeton collegiate gothic context has gained some acclaim.  On its own, its an interesting space and an enjoyable design.  Unfortunately, when viewed in the context of the original Cope-Stewardson product, and the Charles Klauder work, it doesn't look as appealing.  Still a great experience, however.  Contrast this work with the Blair Hall archway nearly a century earlier.  The walkway up from the new buildings towards Blair take you through some fabulous courtyards and dorms, largely the work of Charles Klauder, another Philadelphia architect whose firm picked up where Cope-Stewardson left off.  Klauder worked at Cope- Stewardson and Horace Trumbauer's office and became one of the collegiate gothic masters.

Moving back up campus, we move back in time to the Richarsonian Romanesque work of William Potter.  Alexander Hall, Witherspoon dormitory, East Pyne hall, Chancellor library (turned in to the campus pub when I was there in the 70's.  Unbelievable space in which I spent a lot of time.)  One other building worthy of mention are the neo-classic Whig and Clio Hall behind Nassau Hall on Cannon green.  Whig has a post-modern addition by Charles Gwathmey that's worth a visit. Very controversial in its time, it brought Gwathmey to campus often in the mid 70's and he often did guest "crits" in the architecture school.  "Oh my God" he said of one of my projects, "its a Venturi building".

      Anyway, this was the laboratory in which my architectural sensibilities were incubated, for better or worse.  If you are an architectural enthusiast, its well worth a visit.  Which leads me to my next topic.   Seeing all this European influence in the history of the campus, its no wonder I can easily flit from Colonial revival to English Cotswold and back again.  Epernay, a project I have contributed to in a French rustic style has decided to try to sell Florida lifestyle plans which will blend in with the French Cottage theme.  The developer was taken with Dan Sater's plans which most often are drawn with a Mediterranean flavor popular down there.  Dan is a fellow AIBD member, and past president of the organization whose work is widely publicized.  It made sense to me to collaborate with him, rather than try to reinvent a wheel he has already mastered, so his plans have been slightly adapted and new elevations put on to blend in to the village setting which has been put in place.  Here are two of the newly rendered homes which Bud Lichtenwalner has just brought to life.  These are available now in Saucon Valley in the village of Epernay.