Philadelphia Garden Thoughts

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David Culp spends an early Thursday afternoon touring friends around his home 2 acres, the layered garden he has hand-planted in the forest. He says, the house is the best ornament of the garden. It’s a 1790 home on a hillside. In October’s change of season the locus drops its yellow color, filling the wind with flat worn darts. Broken antique tulips from the 1800’s are buried below the surface, in the spring the gravel drive fills with red poppies. Outdoor rooms surround and open the house below the 100-year-old Virginia Spruce. He has a black and white garden, bonsai trees growing in hollowed logs, a winter garden, and a full summer one waiting to go to sleep. He borders the wilderness, and as the land falls away from him, he offers it to the natural garden, mother earth.

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At Winterthur there are a pallet of materials that you will find in the garden. Jeff is in charge of the garden objects. We too are among the big forest trees, small in their tall cathedral. Gardens may be for education, for health, none of us tire at being outside among the blooms for four days. We walk near the 8 acres of azalea woods, then into the stone circles surrounding meadow trees. Color moved through the outdoors, and in the children’s garden the stone bench sunk into the mortar, the roof thatched by the in-house Thatcher.

At Chanticleer every gardener had the winter project of making. Cherry wood soft to the touch led us through the pathways and sunk into the ground to welcome the boundaries making places. Out door rooms just 25′ by 24′ have arbors, stairs to the guest room, and floating flowers in the still water urn. On Fridays, guests are welcome for picnics.  Water fountains drain to trickle troughs and the reflective surface of the ruin dining room table is one large coffin. A roof has collapsed, this is Emma’s garden where acorns have embed themselves in granite books, floating faces gasp at the surface of the black basin.

Water is managed everywhere, at the Morris Arboretum it is held in cisterns below recycled metal green roofs, circuited beneath the porous walkways and directed from the large asphalt lots. The old estate now has showers, horticulturists, classrooms, designers, equipment sheds, mulchers, one place to locate everything you may need.

Mt. Cuba shared the native piedmont plants and the sound of us walking around on the gravel to end our trip. This garden was most similar to what the West Virginia Botanic garden is, the managed meadow with a few grasses, and small seedlings at the edge. The Walden pond, dyed black to improve the reflectivity of tourists, fall balls of the bursting heart, and coupled benches. It is an all of a sudden reflectivity, complete at the edge with pitcher plants.  ‘What did nature put here? What did people put here?’ – Hough

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How to be More Me

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As an architect creative work can be challenging in both big and small jobs when working on a deadline and within unknown expectations. The only way to continue being more me is by recognizing opportunities and reinforcing my hopes while being open to growth.

Life is a web connecting all experiences. Memories of hiking blend with writing and sketching while sitting in the shade of my back porch watching the flowers birds and bees. Encouraged to create the life I want to make for myself has made me feel lighter in everything I do. With positive thoughts all parts of life will begin to point toward the central meaning of life.

In my professional life everything goes into the process of architecture. The key is finding the spark in doing the work. Architecture school teaches how to push work to its best by researching, collaborating and asking questions. Whether trying to sell work to new clients or the motivation to finish a project well, keeping the sense of excitement in work is important. Getting lost in the enjoyment of work is the best feeling.

Thinking these thoughts this week while walking to work the simple T-shirt statement OBEY clicked with me. Created by Shepard Fairey, the shirt has a political connotation to it as does most of his art. What OBEY meant to me that day was out of context. I read it on my morning commute and that day, more than usual, there were more business people with backpacks, students going to class on skateboards, and hotel-goers out for a morning stroll. I felt a kindred spirit with them all. We were enjoying exercise and the outdoors, on our way through the day. ‘Obey’ meant obey myself, obey my desire, be more me, and I liked it.

When I open my mind to be perceptive I see clues all over the world. Nike’s iconic statement ‘Just Do It’ and the film that still brings me to tears, ‘Move’ are other advertising examples. These messages are about pushing yourself, believing in yourself, knowing yourself. It’s what I love about getting up early before work to take a run, knowing that this time is mine and I am achieving a goal.

The meditation series ‘Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life’ by Deepak and Oprah is about allowing creativity for yourself while promoting others creativity. We are all motivated when engaged in something we personally enjoy. Reflecting on work then, how do I make these moments an open place for growing? All parts of work aren’t enjoyable. By finding creativity in different tasks, we can feel lighter and more encouraged. After all, this is where most weekly energy is spent.

The book Bossypants by Tina Fey offers some great co-creator* thoughts. Fey’s number one advice is agree and then offer yes, and solutions. The yes, and approach means building on ideas. That is, building on their ideas instead of saying no. Make positive statements when addressing co-workers. For example, statements that recognize accomplishments and task items are better than beginning a meeting with ‘where are we?’ Share empowered feelings while acknowledging everyone’s role in the product. This is easier said than done, as not everyone you work with may be so cheerful. ‘In any situation when faced with unsolicited advice ask yourself “Is this person between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used during your work and outpacing people that way… If yes, use the Sesame Street strategy of “Over! Under! Through!” to be yourself. Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.’ Fey encourages.

Twelve years an architect and I realize doing the best kind of architecture comes from within and from collaboration. At this point in my career I can attract the kind of work I want because I have had the experience of doing it. Living within a six-hour drive from New York City, DC, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, all megacities of art and architecture, my life is relatively easy-going and continues to grow in my profession. I am an architect in a community setting. I want to work. I garden, know my neighbors, have time to run, practice yoga and meditation. These are a part of my practice. I have time to hike and upkeep an old house with my husband, money to travel and money to save. I have a great quality of life that influences my work.

I want to be me more in my architecture by promoting the work I enjoy doing. This week I was pushed by being open to noticing the ways in which the world gives opportunities. Being my best person and architect is done by thinking and acting on what I love to do. I encourage you to do the same.

 

*Common saying by Deepak Chopra

Bakers Wine Cellar – Morgantown

A street view by Google offers a lively account of what the corner of High and Pleasant Street already look like in downtown Morgantown, WV. With Tin 202 keeping the corner alive into the night, the hip residents that frequent the Real Juice Bar, Black Bear or the Co-Op by day now have another venue to look forward to. The surrounding area has continued in the last few years to be revitalized and the owners of the popular night spot, Tin 202,  have decided to keep on renovating their own block. The owners, alongside of head chef Josh, hope to open a lunch/cafe and wine tasting bar that will offer craft cheeses, meats, and more.

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The Mills Group has been asked to help with this renovation, and we’ve started by describing the desired scene in sketch.

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Once inside, the two new storefronts will be opened up to one another. The left side will have a craft-food retail area and extend into the new dining room space next door. In the market, a large kitchen will be open throughout the length of the space so that customers shopping for special meats and cheese, may see exactly how their food is being prepared.

 

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Sketches turn into floor plans and details. Then, we begin to assign materials that can be shared with the client to assure them that the space appears and functions the way they need it to. The initial sketches become construction documents with which contractors may begin to be involved in the collaboration. We’ll keep you posted so that you can plan to sit, sip and sketch in the newest space in Morgantown too!