Monday, August 15, 2011

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion is a Second Empire style country house, now a museum, in Norwalk, Connecticut.
The 62-room mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971.[2]
The estate, then called "Elm Park," was built by LeGrand Lockwood, who made his fortune in banking and the railroad industry.[8] My great-grandmother, Isabel Hyatt, was from Norwalk and her family was well-connected to the Lockwood's.  Her uncle, James W. Hyatt, worked for Lockwood and went on to a political career ending as Secretary of the US Treasury in 1884-1888.  Her father, Franklin T. Hyatt, was a dentist who for more than 20 years had his office on 8 West Avenue.  I am certain that all of the family knew this house intimately, and perhaps were guests of the Lockwoods.  
Construction began in 1864 just west of the Norwalk River in Norwalk and was completed four years later. Designed by European-trained, New York-based architect Detlef Lienau, the mansion "is considered his most significant surviving work," according to the association. Both American and immigrant artisans worked to construct and decorate the house.[4]  Prominent New York decorating firms, including Herter Brothers and Leon Marcotte were contracted to furnish the mansion's interiors.
Stunning embossed and inlaid woodwork throughout the interiors.  The grand staircase ballusters all have 360 degree inlays.  The staircase is said to have cost $50,000 alone.  
Financial reversals in 1869 and Lockwood's death in 1872 resulted in loss of the estate by Lockwood's heirs. In 1874 the family lost the mansion and grounds through foreclosure.[4]  Charles D. Mathews, described in his New York Times obituary as "a very wealthy retired New-York provision dealer", and his wife, Rebecca Thompson Mathews, bought the property in 1876. The mansion was a residence and suburban retreat for the Mathews family, with their Thompson and Martin relatives, until the death of Charles's daughter Florence in 1938.[4]

In 1941 the estate was sold to the City of Norwalk, which designated it a public park. In the 1950s, the building was threatened with demolition, but local preservationists succeeded in saving it. They formed Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, Inc. to run the site, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.[4]

"Progress" has taken a tremendous toll on the old city of Norwalk.  The construction of I95 ranks as one of the most destructive projects ever, particularly to the once pastoral neighborhood around this house.  The blasting is said to have caused significant structural damage to the mansion's upper floors. I95 continues to be a massive and perpetual problem for Connecticut that is expected to cost billions of dollars to remedy.  There are many words to describe the City of Norwalk and its evolution (or de-evolution), too many for this article.  My impression of contemporary Norwalk is that it has suffered, as many cities in America have, ignorance, neglect, bad planning, and rapacious commercial zoning.  This building is a treasure, and it is shocking to imagine the mentality that it would take to justify its wanton demolition, for any reason.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ingalls Rink

David S. Ingalls Rink is a hockey rink in New Haven, CT designed by architect Eero Saarinen and built between 1953 and 1958 for Yale University.[1]  The rink stands at the intersection of Prospect and Sachem Streets. The building was constructed for $1.5 million, which was double its original cost estimate. It seats 3,500 people and has a maximum ceiling height of 23 meters. The building is named for David S. Ingalls, Yale class of 1920, and David S. Ingalls, Jr., Yale class of 1956, both of whom were hockey captains. Members of the Ingalls family were the primary benefactors of the arena. 
Typical problem with sculptural buildings is that they may require a neutral or complimentary background to be perceived clearly.  This building would be far better suited in an open field, and without the landscaping.  It is, however, a strong and balanced composition of flow and symmetry that defies all of the surrounding annoyances well above the threshold of dominance.

This is a great building.  The wood entrance doors and wood clad curtainwall are perfect compliments to this amped up chalet in motion.  

Temple Street Parking Garage

The Temple Street Garage Restoration was an award winning project completed in 2004.
Located at Temple and George Streets in New Haven,CT, it is the result of designs by Paul Rudolph and constructed from 1959-1963.   
"When the New Haven parking garage was being constructed, the remainder of the buildings in the adjacent blocks was not determined. They should have been designed to dominate the parking garage...The parking garage is a peculiar twentieth-century phenomenon. The one in New Haven comes from the design of through ways. Most parking garages are merely skeletal structures which didn't get any walls. They are just office building structures with the glass left out. I wanted to make a building which said it dealt with cars and movement. I wanted there to be no doubt that this is a parking garage."

(Cook, John Wesley. Conversations with Architects. New York: Praeger, 1973)

Hmm.   No real extravagant intellectual symbolism involved here.  Funny how Rudolph unapologetically laments the dominance of his creation over everything around it.   Perhaps, rather Rudolph should have been designing for the little guy instead of Ultramegaman, LLC.  A more brutal version of Barbican perhaps?   Brutalist Architecture at its most magnificently horrific.  

Yale University Art Gallery

The Gallery's main building[5] was built in 1953 and was among the very first designed by Louis Kahn, who taught architecture at Yale. A complete renovation, which returned many spaces to Kahn's original vision, was completed in December 2006 by Polshek Partnership Architects.

The Gallery is divided by floor and period.

Lower Level Sculpture Courtyard

2nd Floor Donatello
3rd Floor Monet

1st Floor Picasso
3rd Floor Van Gogh

House VI

House VI, or the Frank Residence, is a significant building designed by Peter Eisenman, completed in 1975. His second built work, the getaway house, located on Great Hollow Road near Bird's Eye Brook in Cornwall, Connecticut (across from Mohawk Mountain Ski Area) has become famous for both its revolutionary definition of a house as much as for the physical problems of design and difficulty of use. At the time of construction, the architect was known almost exclusively as a theorist and "paper architect," promulgating a highly formalist approach to architecture he calls "postfunctionalism." Rather than form following function or an aesthetic design, the design emerged from a conceptual process, and remains pinned to that conceptual framework.
Photo not by me
Animated Model of Eisenman House VI

Finding this place was a challenge.  I targeted it back from the road about .5 km on an unpaved driveway near, but not directly across from, Mohawk Ski Area.  I parked in a driveway that had two exits for a quick look.  Walked up to the driveway and saw a vehicle next to the house.  I walked halfway to the house, took a picture, and started walking back and I heard a dog.  The resident (perhaps Ms. Frank) had unleashed her terrier on me.  I ignored it and kept on walking back and made a right turn to see if I could get inside the adjacent field for a better view.  No go.  It occurred to me at that point that this was not a visitor oriented place and I needed to leave promptly.  So, I briskly walked down the road to the car, past the dog and driveway, and took off.  
Photo not by me
Strangely, this situation reminded me of the Smithson Pavilion House, way off the beaten path.  Eisenman's work is perhaps even more obscure as a destination for a pilgrim.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Round Stone Barn

Hancock Shaker Village is a National Historic Landmark District in Hancock,Massachusetts that was established by Shakers in 1791. It was the third of nineteen majorShaker villages established between 1783 and 1836 in New YorkNew EnglandKentucky,Ohio and Indiana under the leadership of Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright.[2]

One of the most notable buildings is the "Round Stone Barn" built in 1826. That barn was created in a circular form for several reasons, the primary one being that it was the most functional.
Inside the barn there are four rings. The innermost is also the smallest and is used for ventilation. This ventilation is necessary to help draw the moisture up and out of the hay which prevents mold from growing and the hay from eventually spontaneously combusting.
The next ring out is where the hay was stored. It was tossed in from an upper level. That balcony was accessible by ox-drawn wagon via a ramp outdoors. Because the barn was round the wagons could enter, unload the hay and then exit the barn without ever having to back up.
The third ring out was where the Shaker brothers would walk to distribute the hay in the second ring to the cows standing in the outermost, fourth ring. The barn could hold up to 70 cows at a time. They would go to the barn twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening to be milked. Inside the barn they were put into wooden stanchions. Standing there, the cows could eat while the brothers milked them. The floor of the outermost ring is split level, with the inner part raised up 3 inches (76 mm). This was so that the milk buckets were not on the same level as the manure which was unsanitary.
The Shakers are a religious order who believe in pacifismcelibacycommunal living, andgender equality. In the nineteenth century, Shaker worship included singing, shaking, and ecstatic dance, which is why they were called the "Shaking Quakers," or "Shakers." Theutopian sect is renowned today for its plain architecture and furniture.

The Hancock community was started in 1783 with the consolidation of land donated by converted farmers, many of them members of the Goodrich family, who were New Light Baptists in the congregation of Valentine Rathbun. Elder Calvin Harlow and Eldress Sarah Harrison were the first leaders of the Hancock Shakers.
The group was skilled at silvaculture and "knew the bounty of the forest".  This knowledge would have greatly facilitated the creation of fine furniture and medicines. I was impressed by the uniform plumbness of every trunk in this grove.  No accident of nature I suspect.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Darwin D. Martin House Complex

The Darwin D. Martin House Complex, also known as the Darwin Martin House State Historic Site, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 & 1905. Located at 125 Jewett Parkway in Buffalo, New York, it is considered to be one of the most important projects from Wright's Prairie School era, and ranks along with The Guggenheim in New York City and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania among his greatest works.

Wright designed the complex as an integrated composition of connecting buildings, consisting of the primary building, the Martin House, a long pergola connecting with a conservatory, acarriage house-stable and a smaller residence, the Barton House, which shares the site and was built for George F. Barton and his wife Delta, Darwin Martin's sister. 
The complex also includes a gardener’s cottage, the last building completed.  The complex exemplifies Wright's Prairie School ideal and is comparable with other notable works from this period in his career, such as the Robie House in Chicago and the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. Wright was especially fond of the Martin House design, referring to it for some 50 years as his "opus", and calling the complex "A well-nigh perfect composition".

The Martin House Restoration Corporation (MHRC), founded in 1992,[27] is a non-profit organization with a mandate to restore the complex and to open it as a public house museum in its 1907 condition.[27] The Barton House was purchased on behalf of the MHRC in 1994 and the title to the Martin House was transferred from the University at Buffalo to the MHRC in 2002.[12] The restoration began with Buffalo architects Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects (HHL) hired to restore the roof of the Martin House. The Gardener's Cottage was purchased in 2006, and the demolished carriage house, conservatory, and pergola were reconstructed and completed in 2007.[12] 
Currently the MHRC operate guided public tours and present educational programs for volunteers and the general public. In 2008, the Gardener's Cottage was finally included on the tours of the complex.
The Eleanor & Wilson Greatbatch Pavilion Visitor Center, designed by Toshiko Mori, opened March 12, 2009. [30


Kleinhans Music Hall

Kleinhans Music Hall, home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was built in the late 1930s and opened October 1940. It is located on Symphony Circle. The music hall was built as a part of the last will and testament of Edward L. and Mary Seaton Kleinhans, owners of the Kleinhans mens clothing store. The couple left close to 1 million dollars for the music hall's construction. 
The building was designed by Eliel Saarinen with his son, Eero Saarinen and "was recognized as one of the greatest concert halls ever built in the United States".[5] It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.[4][6]
This is the kind of building that is so inspiring as to bring tears to my eyes.  The lines, the form, shifting perspectives, and the reflecting pool create a surrealist montage.  The canopy in the photo above looks like it is floating in Daliesque fashion.  Saarinen clearly understands how shadows can be manipulated by the form and create their own geometry on the facade.  Must see at night some day. 


The Guaranty Building

The Guaranty Building, which is now called the Prudential Building, was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, and built in Buffalo, New York.
The supporting steel structure of the building was embellished with terra cotta blocks. Different styles of block delineated the three visible zones of the building. 
The building is essentially a U-shaped plan stacked upon a rectangular solid. The interstitial spaces between wings of the “U” create opportunities to introduce skylights to the lobby below, and to cover the ceilings with stained glass. The plan contained a single vertical circulation core with four elevators, a mail slot, and staircase. No fire-stair was provided or necessary. The internal portion of the “U” faces south so as to collect light for the interior recesses of the building- light being a necessary commodity to attract good tenants. Sullivan spared nothing to accomplish this end for: “In order to increase the amount of light to the interior, the stairwell and the light slit facing the inner courtyard were lined with white glazed terra-cotta that was more costly than normal tiles.”[4](Frei 1992)  Mechanical systems were relegated to the basement, including the motors for the elevators, boilers, and electrical “dynamos.” Entrances were provided on both Church and Pearl Streets. A concierge desk offered services to tenants and guests including mail delivery. A series of office floors of identical plan above the “base” of the building  were placed . These floors featured private lavatories in reconfigurable office spaces. The halls were defined by wood and glass partition walls, intended to give the interior a bright and “club” like feeling. The elevators and staircases were enclosed not by walls, but metal cages permitting southern light to penetrate through the circulatory systems and into the hallways. 
The only exception to the rise of offices was the seventh floor with lavatories and a barbershop, and the top floor with a US Weather Service Bureau office and spaces for building attendants.

Critical reception of the Guaranty Building was quite strong upon its opening. The critic Barr Ferree in 1895 opined: "though possibly the most richly decorated commercial building in America, the skill of the artist has produced a design of structural sobriety with great richness of effect.' This unity of structure and aesthetics 'has been attained' he diagnosed, 'by the long unbroken vertical lines of the superstructure.’ Montgomery Schuyler knew of 'no steel-framed building in which the metallic construction is more palpably felt through the envelope of baked clay.'" (Twombly 1986)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Allegheny County Courthouse

Allegheny County Courthouse is a government building of Allegheny County located in the county seat, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Following the destruction of the second courthouse, Allegheny County Commissioners decided to hold a competition to design a replacement. The winner of the competition was Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson and construction of the buildings was begun by the Norcross Brothers, Richardson's construction firm of choice, in 1884. The excavation and foundation of the site was contracted to Booth and Flinn. The jail portion of the complex was completed in 1886, the year of Richardson's death and the entire court house was finished in 1886 by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, Richardson's successor firm. The total cost of the project up to that time was over two and a quarter million dollars.
The building is built around an interior courtyard, thus allowing natural light and fresh air to reach most of the building. 
A tower rises five stories from the courtyard's open side. The roof is steep.

A prison is connected to the courthouse via the "Bridge of Sighs". The design was based on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. 
The entire complex was built of large rusticated blocks of granite, with the entrance ways and windows topped with wide arches.
 This gives the building a heavy, stable and dignified appearance.

Having Richardson's education at the Ă‰cole des Beaux-Arts proved fruitful.  This is a highly planned and organized facility, in addition to being pleasing to the eye.  Though lacking the ornamentation of the similar civic buildings abroad, this building achieves stature without excess.  The courtyard is a pleasant feature, while not an innovation, it is consistent with baronial castle architecture in Scotland.  Indeed, Richardson's aim may have been to build a castle in the center of Pittsburgh... 


Fallingwater or Kaufmann Residence is a house designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The home was built partly over a waterfall on Bear Run in the Mill Run section of Stewart TownshipFayette County, Pennsylvania, in the Laurel Highlands of the Allegheny Mountains
The structural design for Fallingwater was undertaken by Wright in association with staff engineers Mendel Glickman and William Wesley Peters, who had been responsible for the columns featured in Wright’s revolutionary design for the Johnson Wax Headquarters.  For the cantilevered floors, Wright and his team used upside down T-shaped beams integrated into a monolithic concrete slab which both formed the ceiling of the space below and provided resistance against compression.
Bear Run and the sound of its water permeate the house, especially during the spring when the snow is melting, and locally quarried stone walls and cantilevered terraces resembling the nearby rock formations are meant to be in harmony. The design incorporates broad expanses of windows and balconies which reach out into their surroundings. The staircase leading down from the living room to the stream (mentioned above) is accessed via movable horizontal glass panes. In conformance with Wright's views, the main entry door is away from the falls.

On the hillside above the main house stands a three-bay carport, servants' quarters, and a guest house. These attached outbuildings were built two years later using the same quality of materials and attention to detail as the main house. The guest quarters feature a spring-fed swimming pool which overflows to the river below. 

I have a few critical comments to make about this celebrated structure of American design.  While certainly "bold" and original, it fails remarkably in many ways.  I usually prefer to overlook imperfections, but in this case it is not possible.  The color scheme is hideous, I mean absolutely grotesque.  I had always thought of it has having a white stucco, not skin colored, "peach" or "light tan".  This color does not compliment the flora or the landscape in any way.  In fact, it is entirely objectionable.  The Japanese love white stucco and white buildings, therefore I do not understand why he would have opted for this choice though I have read that it was Wright's original intent to gild the concrete in dull gold leaf. ( Toker, Falling Water Rising)The interior has a veneered black walnut finish that is not complimentary at all to the burnt orange window frames.  Additionally, the windows were brush painted (in the renovation perhaps) and the strokes are visible.  How terribly wrong to brush paint steel now.  If Wright truly studied Japan, he may have better understood how to integrate organic materials and neutral colors together, particularly with wood. 

I suspect that the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's bureaucratic management scheme is a contemporary problem.  How could they accept the visible membrane flashing on the terraces? (a result of the 2002 renovation).   With a renovation of this significance, it is unfortunate that the preservationists did not collude well with the aestheticians.  The grounds are entirely overgrown.  Living in harmony with nature does not necessarily mean allowing the trees to take over the site.  The tour was like being force fed by an overbearing nurse. I do not understand why they have to run the tours so aggressively.  At any one point in time, there are at least three groups of 10 people in the house.  The standard tour was $20, but I felt like I was in a cattle chute being herded around.  I understand that the demand is high for this "masterpiece" of the "greatest American architect of the 20th century", but let's be honest and say that it is not quality that draws people here, but novelty.   

That being said, Fallingwater is an interesting place, a veritable oasis in an architectural desert, and worth the trip.