March 11, 2017
I am deeply honored to have won the annual Sarah Booth Conroy Prize from the American Institute of Architects’ D.C. chapter. Conroy (1928-2009) covered architecture, city history, and high society during a long and storied career at The Washington Post, and the prize named for her recognizes journalists who write about the city’s architecture and urban design. I’m grateful to AIA|DC for setting up this program (which is only two years old) to support local architectural journalism.
More on Conroy and the prize:
Sarah Booth Conroy (The Washington Post)
May 31, 2015
Last week I ranted in The Washington Post about kids and the culture of excessive, enforced snacking (aka Snackism). Commenters either said “amen” or told me to butt out of their child-rearing. One guy said I’m why the terrorists hate us.
Anyway, I went on KMBZ in Kansas City to talk snacks, which was fun, and assured all the snack-toting parents I know that they are better people than I am. (They are.) I even brought some snacks to my son’s last soccer game of the season – whether out of irony or guilt, I don’t know.
May 16, 2012
Today over at Architect magazine, I write about the convoluted and still unresolved saga of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, an important Brutalist structure designed by John M. Johansen. A member of the Harvard Five (along with Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, and Landis Gores), Johansen was a protege of Walter Gropius who married Gropius’ daughter, Ati.
The Mechanic, with its blocky concrete piers, inspires both derision and affection among locals. But its architectural significance is beyond doubt. Five years ago, Baltimore’s historic preservation commission deemed it worthy of landmarking–only for the landmark designation to be denied, unusually, by the city’s planning commission. Their rationale was that the redevelopment plan at the time would preserve and reuse 80 to 90 percent of the building’s shell. Landmarking would have been moot, and could have hindered the execution of that plan.
Of course, the economy has changed in the intervening years, and this high-minded plan gave way to one that will deliver better ROI, replacing the theater entirely with apartments and retail. The developer recently filed a demolition permit–effectively exploiting the landmarking loophole that was brokered back in 2008.
Detractors say the theater is obsolete and resistant to reuse. Whether or not that’s true, the push to demolish seems hasty and a bit underhanded, given that the theater should have been protected in 2007, but the developer was given a special pass.
The city’s preservation commission has now re-initiated the landmarking process, but that depends on further approvals by the planning commission (the former naysayers) and the city council.
I wonder: how many more years before Brutalism comes back into fashion, as Mid-Century modern did about a decade ago? With several buildings by Johansen and Paul Rudolph under threat, much of their legacy could disappear just as people start to miss it.
March 23, 2012
A few photos from last night’s premiere of Doug Aitken’s video installation at–more properly, ON–the Hirshhorn. I previewed this show in The Architect’s Newspaper a few weeks back, and it did not disappoint. I hope to return soon.