Thursday, September 27, 2012

Neoclassical Revival in a Field of Green

So: I am researching Royal W. Lescher, a 20th century architect who takes credit for many landmark civic buildings in and around Phoenix.  I am building a case to stabilize a certain historic building that he designed in 1912.  

I am at a loss for uncovering personal background on Lescher. He was an architect the same period as Frank Lloyd Wright.  You can find out what cape Wright wore to a ground breaking ceremony but there is not one photograph of Lescher.   How can this be?  

He listened to his client.     

I did find some answers in a field of alfalfa on Tuesday.  Lily my 9 year old had an assignment in social studies.  Instead of trolling the internet I put on my Tevas, filled up my Nalgene bottle and we drove out to the vast fields of agriculture that is a minutes' drive from Serbin Studio.  We pulled off into a dirt entry by a canal with a head gate.  There was an old tire covered in bird drops under a gigantic shade tree that had branches like a living room touching the dirt.  Lily had on her plaid Bermudas and tan tiny cowgirl boots. We tromped along the densely packed field of green looking for an opening to find some black birds.  Red winged black birds are a great way to learn about social networking.  The field acted like an ocean in a dry desert. The wind would push out pockets of cool earthy breaths of air. We sat and waited on a dry cracked piece of ground and were surrounded by green stalks.  We could hear the chucks and konk-la-wees of the red winged blackbirds calling to each other.

A couple birds flew overhead and I had my camera aimed and ready.  The General and a couple of lieutenants with bright red epaulets flew overhead to check us out.  Lily found a black feather on the cracked brown earth.  It is a good day when you can stop and hide in a field of green.

Royal could have stopped on this same dirt road to add more fluid to his sputtering Model T Ford.  He could have taken his leather bound journal and walked into the field searching for a cool place to sit.  Black birds have a way of answering questions when designing something so rigid like a courthouse, where gravitas is expected.

Neoclassical Revival Style is what he chose for the courthouse.  This means throwing out fancy details that don't do anything but look cute.  Fancy cherubs hide the structure and pure lines of how the building is supported.   Lescher was about simplicity and truth, wanting to express only what was needed.

 Simple ideas are beautiful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Buckeye Mainstreet Coalition

I initially asked to be on the Buckeye Mainstreet Coalition on my birthday February 8th of 2011.  It has been a fun ride being a member of the Coalition.  Why do I like being a part of this group?

They get stuff done.  

It is like cooking with my daughter Lily in the kitchen you know.  I have made breaded chicken a million times and I am really good at it.  When she wants to help she gets really excited and wants to help and I just want to do it all myself to avoid the messes.  I am so much faster and neater than her. She will sprinkle flour on the floor and counter and cabinets. There will be flour in the drawers.   She pats the chicken too much and it drives me crazy.  Well I just described how it is when someone like me joins a group of well established friends.  I get so excited that I want to help.  I have learned to hush.

In a short amount of time our Coalition has accomplished many great things and continues to spin out new ideas for Historic Buckeye.  I am helping with the chicken.  It is so awesome helping with the chicken!  I cannot even tell you how good it is.

Historic Buckeye, Arizona

The aerial above is our main focus.  The road going north/south is Miller Avenue and the road going east/west is Monroe Avenue.  The objective for Mainstreet is to work closely with the Town of Buckeye and the Buckeye community to bring a flow of commerce to Historic Buckeye.  We want to celebrate the agricultural and western spirit that says "Buckeye is Open for Business!"  That's Mayor Jackie Meck's campaign.

Our second Design Initiative got approved last night at the Buckeye Council Meeting.  This project is a gateway for Monroe Avenue.

Miller + Jackson Gateway - Design Initiative, Buckeye Mainstreet Coalition

The spot that is getting the new gateway is the purple zone.  It is a manufactured home park along a route where hundreds of vehicular traffic flow to and from to the Equestrian Center to the South on Hazen Avenue.  We want to encourage drivers to hang a right once they get to Monroe. See the arrows!

Existing conditions of Miller and Jackson.

Proposed design intent.

We are proposing painted block with windows of ventilation.

I hope this gateway not only provides a welcome point of entry for Monroe Avenue but also a sense of pride for the ones who live in this neighborhood.

So Verlyne Meck said I get my boots after two years. Stoked.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Angus, Scotland: Glamis Castle

The Queen, photographed in July 1939 by Cecil Beaton.

So why am I now reading The Queen Mother, The Official Biography? Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon, the ninth child of Lord and Lady Glamis is my latest inspiration. She was a party girl who was born at the end of the Victorian era and shimmied in the 1920's till sometimes 3am! She had a crazy sense of humor that helped soften the often stoic Royal family.  She was also Scottish which I am as well. My grandfather Vassar Gregory was Scottish, he is smiling at me in a black and white photo above my desk.

I love that Elizabeth was well taken care of throughout her life, like one continuous red carpet extending 12 feet in front of her at all times.  She is also in the tiny hair club.  So far in the book Elizabeth's letters glow with rapture when she spends time at Glamis.  Even after marrying Bertie she seems to get recharged after staying in the suite at Glamis and getting away from the regimented Balmoral, the country castle that Queen Elizabeth II retreats to.

So far, I am at Chapter 7 of the Biography, Birth of a Princess 1925-1927.  The baby princess is none other than the future Queen Elizabeth II of England, my other inspiration who has reigned the Commonwealth of Nations for the last 60 years.  So this biography is about today's Queen's mother.  I have already read about Queen Elizabeth II so I am working my way backwards.

Young Elizabeth grew up living between Glamis Castle and St. Paul's Waldenbury.  Not a bad plan! I love to look these places up while reading.  So far in the book Elizabeth's letters glow with rapture when she spends time at Glamis.  Even after marrying Prince Bertie she seems to get recharged after staying in the suite at Glamis and getting away from the regimented Balmoral, the country castle that Queen Elizabeth II retreats to.

The Strathmores, Elizabeth's parents had people over to Glamis for hunting parties seasonally. I am not talking about a party of eight either, back in 1903 Elizabeth's grandparents invited "...571 children from five schools in the neighborhood to tea, sports and a conjuring show, followed by fireworks..."   So I am going overboard on Eva and Lily's birthday parties this year.  Why not?  I could at least have a conjuring show.

  When I come across statements like this I usually read it about 3 times:

"A house party at Glamis was always exhilarating, an informal, ever moving tableau with a panoply of entertainments - tennis, cricket, shooting, walking in the evenings, dressing up, charades, dancing, cards and singing around the piano." The Queen Mother, The Official Biography, William Shawcross, 2009, pg. 118.

Anyone who had the lucky fortune of staying at Glamis, and it sounds like there were many, remarked "Everything at Glamis was beautiful, perfect.  Being there was like living in a Van Dyck picture.  Time, and the gossiping, junketing world, stood still. But the magic gripped us all."  The Queen Mother, The Official Biography, William Shawcross, 2009, pg. 119.

Glamis was a hunting lodge that got transformed into a castle in the fifteenth century.  Today there is probably a turn table playing Bob Marley echoing in a stone archival library as a docent dusts Elizabeth's letters and memoirs.  I would love to wander the grounds and of course traipse every room inside the castle. I love knowing that this place exists!  The video below is wonderful except for the sinister background music.   Who died?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vail, Arizona: Colossal Cave Mountain Park

The visitor center at Colossal Cave overlooked the desert valley and framed it so beautifully.

The first thing the tour guide told our group was how the Native Americans, the founders of Colossal Cave only hung out in the entry crawl spaces.  Natives simply didn't have the light source to see any further.  Remnants from these times were pottery and blackened rock above camp fire burn outs. The black soot was about 12 inches *Ok...16 inches* from the rock below so I guess they were either really short or cooking quail was more fun lying on their chest, I don't know.   No seriously, they used the cave to store things that they wanted to keep cool. 

My essentials I wanted to keep cool were Chanel lipstick, Precise Rolling Ball Pilot pens and a tiny green notepad *grid lined* just in case a ghost wanted to tell me where the money was hidden.  It is kind of incredible to think early Natives were only exploring 3 percent of this cave.  They had no clue that the sulpher etched cavern had great rooms, a lake and narrow craggy bottomless shafts.  

I did learn the difference between a stalagmite which is formed in limestone caves from the ground up and "mite" knock you in the knees if you are not paying attention.  Stalactites grow in "tite" clusters from the ceiling.

No, this is not me.  Now just stop it!  This 40"x36" hand painted 1950's photo in the ever so cool stone gift shop adjacent to the Colossal Cave entry.  

It was pitch black once inside except for light from the guide's flash light.  It smelled like petrified skunk, dirt and tossed with nasty cologne. The guide pointed out a boarded up crawl space way up high that used to be a shaft formed by  Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930's.  

Once on the parking lot which was on top of the cave I found the asphalt cover that hid the mine shaft.  I could imagine sunlight streaking into the dark cavern and miners lowering in massive hunks of flagstone to the others who were shoving their used up cigarette butts into the wet and chunky grout to pave the future pathway for people of the future like us.

The entry to Colossal Cave.