Hotel Update

As most of you know, before starting graduate school at Catholic, I worked for Design360 Unlimited in Los Angeles for a few years.  Most of my time there was spent working on the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, a new hotel in the artist town of San Miguel, located north of Mexico City.  After putting so much time into this project, I can honestly say I'm still disappointed knowing I was not able to be there to see this project through construction (although crazy how fast time flies, I'm half-way done with my masters degree and the hotel still is not finished).  Along with the help of other D360 staff, I put together the entire (interior) construction document package for the hotel - from guestrooms to public areas.  I was really excited when I discovered Rosewood posted photographs from the model room on their website - it looks really incredible.  I cannot wait to see the public areas unfold.  I know when the hotel is finished (2011?), I'll be making a trip down to San Miguel - the project still holds a really special place in my heart.

All photos from http://rosewoodsanmiguel.com/en/gallery.cfm.  Hopefully I won't get into trouble for posting them!  Kristin Korven from Design360 is responsible for all FF&E.

Projects Underway...

And I'm not referring to school!  I have a laundry list of things I'd like to do for my room at Eddie's (and a few things for our house in general), so I'm hoping by committing them here I'll actually get some of them accomplished in the next few weeks.  

First thing on the list that I did this weekend:  paint my closet doors. Not terribly exciting, but I needed to since last summer and I finally got around to it.  Just white, semi-gloss, clean.  The painting in my room is finally complete.  I want to use a leftover piece of watercolor paper I have from last semester and paint something for above my dresser, and make a shadow-box type frame for it.  Additionally, I'm going to make some planter boxes for our backyard to hopefully grow some plants/herbs and soften up all the hardscape (alright, let's be honest, hide the chain link fence), and finally a shelf for my desk.  Since I have to work in the wood shop for 10 hours a week, I really feel like I have no excuses to not get these things done.  So, stay tuned for pics - as I move down the list, I'll be sure to post my progress!



Oh the anticipation of the first day of school - even now - and I'm pretty old.  Seeing familiar faces, meeting new ones, living at Starbucks, and oh yeah, the actual school part.  Here's to my second year of architecture school - how time flies.

Image via Flickr


Back in DC

After a summer spent traipsing through Scandinavia, and a brief stint in SoCal, I'm back in DC.  After having dinner with my aunt Cheryl on Thursday night, I drove back into the city and man, did it feel weird.  I still don't feel like DC is "home" (which I'm sure would make my parents ecstatic), which is probably aided by my still total reliance on using my GPS whenever I wander roughly outside the 3 mile range of Eddie's house.  But rumor has it that 2nd year M.Arch students don't have it quite as rough as first year, so maybe I'll finally have some time to really start living here.

It is nice having a weekend to ease back into being here before starting school.  Yesterday Eddie and I went to Monroe Elementary where they were having the 3rd (?) annual Columbia Heights Day Festival.  I had a delicious peach and ginger popsicle from Petworth Pops, pet a camel, saw some great performances, and found out DC has its own Shorts Film Festival starting mid-September at the E Street threatres, which I'm really excited about.  Should be a good start to another fall in Washington.


Soaking up some sun

Apparently it was an unusually cold, overcast summer in California.  Well, I evidently brought the heat back with me from Finland, because it's been gorgeous (if not a tad bit too hot) here my first week here in SoCal.  I'm easing back into Pacific Standard Time (I really hope this going to bed at 9:30 and waking up at 6 am is a jet-lag thing, not an I'm-getting-old thing), and enjoying what's left of the summer.  Thursday I went to Newport Beach with almost all of the Casciari girls - it definitely reminded me of our annual summer beach house rentals on 64th Street.  By the time I got there, they of course had already befriended half the population, so we ended up playing a few games of volleyball, which was really fun as I haven't played in ages (and oh was I paying for it the next day).

Sara drove down to 12805 today, and we spent the afternoon lounging by the pool, catching up and eating guacamole (which at this point is becoming our ritual).  It was so great to see her, even if for not long enough.  Although, we're already scheming a potential trip for me to visit her in New York, her come to DC in the spring, and (my favorite:) where I should plan to throw a huge party for my BIG 3 - 0.  We're thinking weekend destination, maybe somewhere tropical...

So now, the final chapter to my beaching, I'm headed down to Encinitas with my Dad, to see the beach shack, now complete after months of renovation.  I haven't seen it at all but for pictures my family emailed me while abroad, so I have to admit, I'm pretty excited.  And, of course it will really be great to spend time with my family, and even, gasp, my younger brother, whom I definitely do not see enough.  I'm hoping he'll give me a photography lesson while I'm down there, or maybe even take me out on a board.
Beach house almost finished - so glad I talked my parents into the pop of teal!


An end to Finland

I've experienced so much this summer, and looking back on my blog, I feel I have captured so little.  I guess that's what happens when you squeeze an entire semester into 3 months, a 6-credit studio course into 3 weeks.  But the experience did not feel compressed.  What I have failed to do is write about the places I have seen.  We did a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia - some of the craziest pairings I've seen of old and contemporary architecture.  I squeezed in a weekend trip to Stockholm - a city I know I have to return to someday, as I feel I just glimpsed its potential.  I could have spent the weekend alone at Woodland Cemetery.  As the Finland Summer Architecture Institute came to an end, the 3 Catholic guys and I stopped in London for a few days to end our summer trip.  I started the summer having no interest in staying in London, thinking I'd take the Chunnel to Paris, or fly to Ireland.  With finances ridiculously low, I decided to stay, and what I discovered was a city I could be tempted to live in - even after just three days there.  

I realize I will never be able to "catch up" here with what Finland was about, and since I'm no Austen, I'm sure I would never be able to really do it justice either.  But I have definitely taken a part of Finland home with me.  The culture, the landscape, the architecture, the spirit of place.  Surprisingly, I am feeling rejuvenated and even inspired to start my next semester of grad school.  I am looking forward to the challenge and discovery this new year holds for me.

So, I'm going to try to make a resolution.  I want to write more often on this blog.  It is probably just for me, because I swear even my family doesn't read this any more.  But I hope to continue to write here.  Document what inspires me, what I am thinking - whether design-related or not.  I think our summer studio left that impression on me.  Maybe this is my version of a scriptorium - my way of committing pen to paper - well, you know what I mean...

And since I'm referencing my final project, below are my final boards.


To Amsterdam and Back Again

I can't believe how fast our summer free travel period went.  I had this past week off, and I met up with Anna Kleinsorge (my friend and fellow teammate from Georgetown) in Amsterdam.  It was an amazing time to be there, as the Netherlands played in the World Cup Finals, and the excitement was tangible throughout the city - I've never seen so much orange in my life!  Anna and I partook in the soccer events, as well as hit up several museums, rented dutch bicycles, and generally just ate our way through the canals.  It was a really great break from school.

I flew back to Helsinki Wednesday night and have returned to a heatwave.  After dripping with sweat non-stop for two nights in a row (because of course Finland doesn't have air-conditioning), I went to the front desk to ask about a possible room change, since my room faced the sun all day and our window was "broken" (i.e. it wouldn't open all the way).  My new room is quite an improvement - one of only a few in the entire complex with a balcony, and a nice view of the water.  I'm already living out there.  

Tomorrow I return to school for an intensive 3 1/2 week studio project, which I know very little about, just hints here and there.  It supposedly is going to be very writing intensive, and more of a collage-type project, so it will be interesting to have the details filled in tomorrow.  Somehow in the midst of this, as well, a few of my classmates and I are going to try to squeeze in a trip to Stockholm, which I'm really looking forward to doing.  Alright, better get going so I can enjoy my last day of freedom!

Anna and I at Museumplein for the World Cup Finals, sporting our orange pride and fitting right in.

View from my balcony to the water (as requested by my Dad)


Mmm, Basil Ice Cream

Yesterday we finished the first portion of my summer program - "Documentation and Representation."  The group  worked fiercely these last few days to get everything finished, and somehow we managed to pull it all together for the presentation.

After some much needed sleep last night, and several loads of neglected laundry this morning, Kay and I ventured around town.  I dragged him to see Aalto's House of Culture (as I have to write a paper on it tomorrow), but since it was so nice outside we decided to leisurely walk back to the city centre.  Today was probably the best weather we've had this summer in Helsinki, and it was apparent the Finns felt the same as they were out in droves.  We stumbled upon several groups - out celebrating various events but all soaking up the sun.  It's already tempting me to procrastinate some more with aforementioned paper and go to a park tomorrow and get some sun...

The highlight of my day, however, had to be the basil ice cream I had this afternoon.  A-MAZ-ING!  Not quite sweet or dessert tasting, but with nuts (almonds?) and more savory, probably one of the most unique and delicious ice creams I've ever had.  I guess it shouldn't be too surprising as Finland is Europe's biggest consumer of ice cream - on average the annual consumption is 13.7 liters per person (I stumbled upon this fact one day as my classmates and I were debating the origin of ice cream, and I of course needed to Wikipedia it...).

The first group we encountered - complete with trance music, and dancers (maybe on something...)

Pride Parade Celebration
Aleksenterinkatu (main shopping street)

I keep forgetting tomorrow is the 4th of July - I wonder how big the U.S. population is here in Helsinki, and if there will be anything going on?  We sure don't seem to run into Americans very often (although, I did hear excerpts of a few seemingly American conversations at last week's Arcade Fire concert in Senate Square).  Happy 4th to everyone at home!  Hope you're enjoying your summers!


Midsummer's Eve

The height of the Finnish summer is the holiday of Midsummer - appropriate that a country that spends half the year in darkness would want to celebrate the longest day of the year. Last night we partook in the annual festivities on Seurasaari Island, despite the pouring rain (that apparently is also basically tradition at this point).

We wandered amongst the crowd, eyeing vendors that had set up their shops - blacksmiths, woodworkers - and tons of kids who played tug-of-war, walked on stilts, and watched a puppet show in an open field. The main events surround a newlywed couple, chosen annually to be married that day on the island, who perform the Midsummer bridal waltz, and light the main bonfire on the shore later that night. Despite not understanding a word that was spoken or sung, the celebration was special. Hope for a new year filled with love and happiness, togetherness of family. It definitely made me miss my family thousands of miles away.


Trying to capture part of the crowd along the shore - waiting for the main bonfire to be lit.

Winding down around 11.


Temppeliaukio Kirkko

I have quickly come to cherish my weekends here in Helsinki. A time to unwind from the week, sleep in, and explore new areas of the city. Trying to keep my last semester's resolution of Saturday = Funday (which is important as I am in Funland, or so my brother calls it), every Saturday I make an effort to see something new.

Yesterday's cold and rain kept me inside most of the day, but late in the afternoon, Kelley, Amanda and I went to Temppeliaukio Kirkko (The Rock Church), which is a short few blocks from our hostel. When we arrived we found out there was a wedding in progress, and the church would only be open for a few minutes in between events. A hoard of visitors pushed their way in as soon as was allowable, and I quickly followed suite - pushing my way in to glimpse the highly anticipated space. Although our time inside was brief, I was captivated by the various textures inside the church: rock, copper, wood, and glass, underlined by the various forms of light within the space, not wanting to leave as we were virtually kicked out no more than 10 minutes later for the day's next event.

Looking up toward the copper ceiling.

Candlelight flickering along the rock wall.


We Whatever (Smile?) in the Face of Adversity

The group of us left campus today around 6 to get our much anticipated bikes. The ride from Domus (our summer hostel) to school is about six miles, so we all decided to get bikes to take a scenic route along the water - most of us, I think, were envisioning a sort of Von Trapp family scenario, minus the matching drapery uniform (because we sure do sing). Used bikes had been reserved for us, so after much testing and debate, we left the shop in a herd, eager to map out our bike route home.

After triumphantly haggling down my bike's price, about ten minutes from the (now closed) shop, my back tire literally exploded. As bikes are not allowed on buses, Kristin offered to walk with me home. So, we naively trotted along, no biggie.

I should have guessed it was a long walk when we stopped at a dog park to ask a gentlemen directions, and he commented, "Why do you want to go to Helsinki?!" My response, "because we live there," followed by him bewildered and telling us it was 10 kilometers away. Well, turns out, we were more like 10 miles away, and spent the next 3+ hours walking home. Thank goodness the weather was really nice today, there were a lot of interesting buildings to look at, and Kristin decided to keep me company. All in the name of not abandoning my great deal.

Definitely looking forward to the weekend...

Blissfully ignorant about an hour into our walk.


The Poetry of Space

After traveling through "the woods" since May 26th, we finally returned to Helsinki last week and were gifted our first free weekend to settle in and do some much needed laundry. Saturday afternoon, several of the graduate students walked to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Steven Holl. After spending last semester reading a lot of Steven Holl's ideas on Phenomenology, I was anxious to experience a work of his. The experience greatly surpassed my expectations. While I have never thought myself to be a great writer, even the best, I think, would lack sufficient words to describe the poetry of space in Kiasma. Light, shadow, texture, color, materiality, undulating forms and movement - a place I will no doubt return to many times while in Helsinki.

Skateboarder paradise near the cafe entrance.

Entry Hall from second floor.

A stunning exhibit by Denise Grunstein.

Textured concrete made by wood forms - a nod to Finnish culture.

Rear auditorium wall wrapped in cerulean velvet panels, asking to be touched.



Sean, Mike, Kay and I arrived in Helsinki Tuesday night to join a group of 12 students from UT. After feeling mildly lost, we finally found Scott Wall (the program's head), who promptly gave us a map of the city, and instructed us to find our way to the hostel. After a long day of traveling, it was nice to finally arrive and meet the group - after dinner we had a "scavenger hunt" to orient ourselves in Helsinki. Our group of course got lost, but it was fun - you'd never know it was so late as at midnight it still looked like a typical night at 8pm. The Finns were out in abundance as well, enjoying the light they missed through the dark winter.

Wednesday morning we had a short orientation to the Otaniemi Campus (where we'll have class for the summer), which is a beautiful campus with amazing facilities. The wood shop alone would make the best carpenter salivate, and the shop itself has a sauna on the ground floor (sauna is that important to the Finnish culture). Then we left for Kiljava, an hour's bus ride away, to become better acquainted with each other and start learning the traditional Finnish measurement skills to document our summer project. The past few days have consisted of good food, company, a lot of dimensioning and drawing, and Jari Jetsonen teaching us important Finnish phrases - from the words "thank you" and "sweat" to "greetings from my ass" (apparently what you'd say if someone's work was not good). It's been a lot of fun - probably not entirely reflective of the work load to come, but fun nonetheless.

We left Kiljava this morning, and are now several hours and bus rides away in Kauttua, where we will be for 4 - 5 days, documenting a terraced house Alvar Aalto designed. We just arrived a few hours ago, and everyone rushed straight away to their rooms, as we finally have internet access again. We are just getting started making dinner together, then will relax before starting the big group project tomorrow morning.

The group - outside the SAFA (Society of Finnish Architects) - our first stop in Kiljava.

Our house in Kiljava - photo taken around 10 pm.

Early drawings at the old sauna to practice measuring/group documentation.

Sauna time before dinner - cooling off in the lake.

My favorite house in Kiljava - of course it's the one with the yellow door.


Experiences of Water

With the first year of school under my belt, I wanted to post my final project for the 502 studio. The first half the semester we did an urban design project (mixed use commercial/residential building on 14th and W Streets NW), and while I liked the project, our second project for the semester really resonated with me. We were given two potential sites on the Potomac River in DC, and were to design a boathouse. One of the sites was just west of the Key Bridge, an urban, compact area with a fast change of grade. I, however, landed the other site, west of Georgetown, with a gradual sloping terrain and more remote location.

This semester for my theory class, I did a ton of research on phenomenology and architecture, which snowballed into a great interest in perception. In fact, over Easter, I went to the Hirshhorn, and saw an exhibit of Josef Albers and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and was really inspired by their pure geometric forms and how they manipulated perception of said forms, which eventually would influence my decision to use multiple buildings of simple forms.

My concept began with the movement of water, fast versus slow, which translated itself into active versus restful programmatic areas. Using water to indicate path, my project explored circulation, and crossing thresholds into various levels of rest. The visitor to the boathouse would "enter" through the information center, and have different options along the path: either head straight down to the boathouse along the main path (the "fast" movement), or cross a water channel at various points along the way to experience the dwelling units, spa, community room or cafe (the "slow" experiences).

I spent much of my time working on the dwelling units. From crossing the threshold on the path, one would take a bridge along a pool that all of the units floated on. This larger body of water mimicked the canal and Potomac, indicating a slower, more restful zone of the project. Upon entry into a dwelling unit, the viewer would experience a linear continuation of water which raked down the sloping terrain. This experience of water was underlined by the rain shower created on axis with this flow of water - reiterating the idea of water and path.

My first experience with water color paper and water colors - a lot of fun, but a lot of work. Here is my site plan and a section of the site.

Plan of project. Entry is on the right, and as the visitor walks down the path, experiences the dwelling units, spa, and finally the community room and cafe walking towards the dock.

Various programmatic areas blown up drawn in plan, section, and perspective.

32nd scale massing model of the buildings and how they related to the site.

Quarter scale dwelling unit from river side. Channel of water was to flow from pool down terrain.

Dwelling unit from entry side along bridge.

Interior of dwelling unit. Rain shower was between skylights, along the path of the water channel down the site.


Girls with Glasses

So my posts have been dwindling as the semester winds down - three more weeks to go! As much as I'm ready for it to be over, I have a mountain of work to get done in that time, so it's a little stressful as well. But the exciting part getting me through is I'll be done with my first year of grad school AND then be off to Finland for the summer - that's some pretty serious motivation.

I ran across this last night while perusing my usual blogs, and I had to post about it, as a fellow girl with glasses. Not exactly sure what the show is going to consist of, but I loved the theme song and accompanying animation. Reason still to be taking more photos...


Film Inspiration

Eric (my brother) posted some film he shot lately, and it's definitely inspiring me to keep using my Holga (and finally get my finished rolls developed)...


In the Pink

My good friends know I spend, well, an excessive amount of time reading design blogs. I like to think it's just part of my morning ritual and inspiration for the day. One of my favorites, Coco+Kelley, had a Valentine's day post for single girls, invoking them to embrace their singlehood and decorate with pink while they still could. While I always tend to hover toward my favorite palette of "any shade of blue", I realized going through my saved images, that I have a lot of love for pink as well. Hmm, inspiration for my next apartment?

Oh, how I would love this front door (and house, too).
Work of Moises Esquenazi, via Desire to Inspire

Betsey Johnson's old New York apartment dining room. Can I have that chandelier, too?

My dream closet! - can't remember where I pulled this from.

Photographer Brandon Barre via Desire to Inspire

Vignette from Kelly Wearstler


Heart Art

Call me the eternal optimist, but even though I'm going to spend Valentine's Day solo, I still find all the paraphernalia that comes along with it adorable (my mom also is a great stand-in for the holiday, which I'll admit, I love). DPA sent me some holiday-related art today, and I couldn't help but smile - loving all the hearts! I would even go as far as saying for the next few days, I might not even hate the color red :).

In the holiday spirit, I watched "New York I Love You" last night, and really enjoyed it. Plus, the residents of the Blue House made a Valentine's Day cake (pink frosting, heart sprinkles and all) - guess we're really becoming domestic as we're cooped up waiting for this Blizzard to end.


Snowpacaplyse/Snowmageddon hits D.C.

Ahh, the snow is beginning to pile up... apparently we're in for the worst storm DC has seen in the last decade or so. Luckily, I was prepared this time - moved my car to Catholic's garage, and managed to endure the craziness that was Giant Grocery yesterday (seriously, people panicking because there wasn't enough water, and lines that extended down the food aisles).

So, I'm spending the day at home, curled up, catching up on some homework (or pretending to at least). My big adventure for the day was finally tackling the French Press I bought last semester, and was proud of the pot I brewed this morning.

The snow is supposed to stop late tonight, and I'm going to venture out at some point. Eric got me an Holga camera for my birthday, and I'm excited to (finally) start shooting some film again.

Looking out my bedroom window - at 9 this morning - with another 12 hours of snow predicted.


The Third & The Seventh

I should probably be asleep getting a good night's rest before I'm back to school tomorrow, but my brother sent me this architectural video today, which I really enjoyed (and felt like a cool and/or nerdy architecture student as I identified all the buildings ;) ):

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo

Now, I have no intention of creating films this semester, but it definitely inspired me to get out my camera and start shooting again.


Am I crazy or what?

I've had a nice, relaxing time while at home the last few weeks. And, while one of my New Year's resolutions is to make the best out of (seemingly) negative situations, I do have to point out the craziness of my life's change of scenery. I have given up this:
Sunset last night in Venice
For this:
Snowstorm I witnessed at the end of December in DC
I am definitely not mentally prepared to head back into cold weather. Although, if anything my decision to head back to DC has made me more appreciative of my California roots - which I am sure to my parents' utter happiness, I plan to return to when I finish school.

My other big resolution is to really try to strike a better balance between school and life (since I had none of the latter last semester), so stay tuned, I am finally going to start having some DC adventures to blog about - through the snow and all! Off to go enjoy my last few days in California!