Architecture Travel

Visiting Ancient Roma



The arch of Constantine, it’s 1700 years old. There is a lump in my throat as my small feet move, my legs stretch to step along the 1′ square stones, marking the ancient Roman road. The stones are glossy after all of the rain. We are in the forum, a place we can walk around.

Most of Rome’s ruins are below the street, to the enjoyment of my companion. She is from Mexico City, and this ancient city reminds her of Aztec ruins, temples and pyramids hidden below the modern city she knows.

The Pantheon doors don’t tell you about what’s about to happen. My soul is taken, uplifted below the moon disk looming, hovering, suspended and heavy am I, just left standing and staring until someone comes along to accidently brush my shoulder. The Pantheon is even older, built 1900 years ago, remaining as a backdrop to the many movements of people, for a new history.




Architecture Travel

Architectural Trips ~ A Italia


Gloss-lipped sun, over the road that carries morning back to Italy. I love going to a place that’s in my blood. The rays lay down, everyone else moving with me is pale and excited.

Once in the air, we fly along with the barrier islands of the states before heading eastward.

Once in Rome we enter the city through one of the fourteen gates, and bow down before the sunken oval entrance. A mosaic of Jesus greets us, and then we are allowed to sleep.

It isn’t long before we need to draw the Colosseum. The historic mass that takes up the end of a city block. The figure that is recalled so easily in the mind, stands before me in a way that pushes back.



The Health Plan – Wheeling, WV

A new building is proposed for downtown Wheeling, WV and it leaves the architect’s desk today.HP_Main Street Dusk ElevationHP_Boardroom_30brightHP_Lobby02i-Rendering

Read about Mills Group‘s involvement as the architect, and all of the consultants it took to prepare documents in the ground breaking coverage of The Intelligencer.


Time for Coffee – Morgantown Marriott


It’s always difficult to finish. It’s even more difficult to finish a project as large (70,000 sf), out of masonry and through two winters in a little over a year! The Grand Opening party is scheduled for June, but the hotel will open its doors before that. The contractors who have seen that every joint is caulked, ever louver installed, and that each fan is drawing the required air, have been a blessing to the architect. I am thankful that each member of the team cared as much about providing the owners and the Marriott brand with a hotel that is of the utmost quality. Not only were things finished the right way, but they were finished the best way. Thank you, thank you. Come and visit the hotel for yourself soon!




Morgantown Marriott – Punch List

Look at the hotel now! A year ago today the Marriott site looked like this:

Feb 2015 1

The drawings weren’t even complete. They looked like this, without bathrooms in the guest rooms, because we were determining the pod geometry with Oldcastle.

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no bathrooms.JPG

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The first week of March 2015 was spent preparing specifications and the Marriott Courtyard prototype drawings for compliance, selecting finishes and fixtures from the options and coordinating those with our MEP trades. Structural coordination and structural detailing went on simultaneously. Mills Group had the fortunate experience of working with great owners, West Place LLC. Throughout the project we coordinated with A LOT of consultants including: the general contractor, Waller Corporation,  Oldcastle for bathroom pods,  our MEP and Structural consultants at Allegheny Design Services, Cheat Road Engineering for the site, Marriott of course, Mack Industries who provided our precast floor plans, Concrete Fabricators on the stairs and small details surrounding the outside, Fairfield Landscaping, Gilliana Pools, REDI Kitchen Consultants, Mongiovi, Morgantown Security and Fire, and Schindler to name a few. On the sub-contractor side, Elk Electric, Pine Hollow Mechanical, Inc., JMJ who built the cabinetry and Daniel W’s FF&E team who installed it have all worked alongside Waller’s tireless team to be where we are today with a space that is finishing beautifully.

Feb 2016 2

Our architectural firm uses many technologies to complete our work. Revit was used to draft this project during the production drawing phase and during our most recent punch list efforts we’ve used Blue Beam Revu. More on that program to come. For now, enjoy the final few stages of construction and FF&E setup as the Mills Group team sees the progress during the punch list process. Enjoy the images below!

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And then, two weeks later, photos by Mariah:



Marriott Update December 2015

July 2014 011615 site

Foundations began less than a year ago for the Morgantown Courtyard by Marriott, and now a few months before opening, the building is standing with a real presence.

IMG_0180Mills Group made it on OldCastle’s blog recently for this project in Morgantown! Check it out here.IMG_0133 IMG_0127December has been unseasonably warm. As of today concrete and asphalt surround the building awaiting the winter opening. Winter sod will be installed soon as the finishing touches from floor five down are complete. At the start of December I walked the building with my colleague and we marveled as we watched sixty drywall finishers, some on stilts, move through level three to mud, sand and paint the drywall. The top two floors look like white boxes awaiting their finishes. Soon the Marriott Sign will arrive, and the building will have a name to the public. The collage of photos below were taken by Waller Construction.

Architecture Travel

The Annunciation of Mary – Florence


Italy is the place I always go back to. While my husband explains, and I realize, that there is an entire other world out there, there is something about the Mediterranean climate and the exuberant expressions in the way Italians do everything from eat to talk that I want to keep coming back to. Of course, my family is from there too. While I committed to learning the language with my mother a few years ago, since moving to Morgantown I have not had the same opportunity to continue on with Italian language classes. I am hopeful that my opportunity at Fairmont State University will expand to include travel abroad, and perhaps sitting in a classroom with an Italian professor again. But, for now, a few more photos from our trip April of 2014.

The Santissima Annunziata Chiesa di Firenze, the most decadent and bronzed church I’ve ever been to.

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Architecture Travel

Studying Historic Italian Architecture

Sometimes it takes hearing things three times before they click. I traveled to Italy for the first time as a student at Virginia Tech. That was in 2002. Now, thirteen years later, I am taking a class by a professor who is an astute historian. It’s enjoyable to learn from someone who can sight off exact building dates from architecture built in the 1400’s to now, and probably earlier depending on the structure. The history theory class I’ve taken this semester has offered that third opportunity to learn about the same thing. I’m hopeful that this time I’m retaining the information.

Michelangelo’s square, the venetian library of Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana  on San Marco and Bramante’s forced perspective at the altar of Santa Maria presso San Satiro church are among many works that I’ve learned more about this semester.

palazzo conservatori miche en museicapitolini org


stanta maria delle grazie wga dot hu milan(The photographs above were found online.)

Learning about these again prompted me to pull out photographs from my 2002 study abroad, and define the places that I’ve spent the years since wondering again about what it was that I visited.

8 Study Abroad Exploration

outside Parma

About Me Architecture

What should Architecture be?


What should architecture be? What should I be as an architect? The class discussion about Le Corbusier required that I define something for myself!

The more I learn about how to be a better person, the more I believe everything I do should relate back to the same thing. When my family traveled in Italy in 2014 we took an 11 o’clock taxi ride to our hotel outside of Venice. The three miles was something like 30 euros, a rip-off, of course. My mother was upset and when she demanded an explanation the cab driver simply handed over his laminated ‘terms and conditions’ sheet. My family then decided that we all needed terms and conditions of ourselves and that declaration has been with me ever since.

So, with the task inspired by Le Corbusier from an architect’s perspective and my belief that all things in life relate, I’ve drafted the following.

I must try to write every day. Language relates my actions to my beliefs. Sometimes not until I write, do I fully understand what I think.

Help others.

Reading and writing influence my work.

Everything is better with a good cup of coffee.

Authentic experiences must evolve.

In architecture, there exist inner and outer forces, meaning that there is the way people want to use a space, and the conditions of the site, culture and area in which the project exists. I’ve started a chain letter to a colleague that describes how I start a project, and I believe the next step to understanding the conditions of project is to evaluate the materials with which one is to be working with. Then, the structure, something holds up and together a project, and then the infill may be allowed to be more fluid.

Homes are for eating, cleaning, sleeping. Beyond the home there is work, social interactions, and commerce, everyone sharing their work. I need to develop my thoughts architecture beyond the home.

All things great or distressing become better when they are shared with someone else.

Live life how you believe you should be living. (What you identify with, you become. – from the Deepak Chopra meditations.)

What are your ‘rules’ of life?


Articulate where you stand.

Le Corbusier, a renowned 20th century architect, demanded a response from himself constantly during his lifetime. He still stands to ask the same of students of architecture: ‘Articulate where you stand.’

The past semester we read many treatises from architects ranging from the 14th century to the present day. The last class discussion centered around perhaps one of the most enjoyable pieces by Le Corbusier I’d ever read, Nothing is Transmittable but Thought. This was compared to The Modern City: Context, Site or Place for Architecture? by Alberto Perez-Gomez. The piece below is what I wrote prior to our class discussion.

Why do our buildings lack the richness of old buildings? Perhaps it is because our culture spends less time in one place, or thinking about one place because the trend is that we’re so mobile. We also live a portion of our lives in a virtual reality. As an architect I do the majority of my drawing this way. We can construct false lives for ourselves, allowing others to not understand us for one, by only appearing a flattering way. We limit the picture. What’s the answer to becoming more real? A dedicated focus of time on what we’re interested in, allowing a time for the relief of distraction. Perseverance as Corbusier states in his writing Nothing is Transmittable but Thought. Further on in this reading Perez-Gomez states ‘In our time we individualize culture.’ Today with our ‘radicalized faith has become increasingly international and transcultural fueled by more efficient systems of communication, blurring traditional boundaries.’ (p4) Society assumes so much by the appearance of being present in pictures. What about stories, history and political understanding? (Chris Luebkeman questions emphatically in his lecture What will [y]our normal be?) One must find out how to actually be somewhere, be silent to understand the entirety of one’s surroundings. What is the remaining scar of the Berlin wall without the understanding of what it cut and divided, and how long it remained as so?

The authors Perez-Gomez and Corbusier discuss journalism as having a limited perception, that is, unfortunately, the one that is shared. Perez-Gomez laments that ‘media is the more authentic public’ (p4) as Corbusier discusses that if you are perturbed by the journalists, it is but for just one day. The public moves on.

Content is woven in the present through our desire, Perez-Gomez states. Yes, there may be more than what’s usually present, and isn’t that what any artist is after? One must take a position on all authentic knowledge to play a role, participate in life. Perez-Gomez says ‘we must make.’ I say yes, we must draw, make, yes, just as the poet must try to keep writing the same thing in different ways.


‘Make to recall being Perez-Gomez repeats again citing Hejduk’s architectural masks. (photo from effettobeaubourg)

Lauren Rapp a woman who made a chair a day for the last year – Washington Post. Compared to Hejduk’s masks, these pieces question a range of materials to be a specific object.

What else can we use to understand a place? Perez-Gomez suggests we free ourselves from ‘The modern world’ that has a ‘specific reality which is not independent from our thoughts.’ (p3)  In the same paragraph he explains that Heidegger’s take on tradition talks of tradition ‘The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and prescription, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness in relation to the historical moment.’ I recall similar laments in previous readings for class too. For example, in Hans-Georg Gadamer’s The Relevance of the Beautiful he says if art has anything to do with festival, it is about transmission.  (Something passed along such as tradition through families) ’tradition means transmission rather than conservation. It does not imply we leave things unchanged.. it means learning how to grasp and express the past anew.’  (p49 – 50) As architects we must understand the assumptions we’ve come to depend on in society in order to think anew. We must find deeper meanings to the surface of tradition that suggests we just go through the motions. Expect more from what’s given on the surface, and molded to look the same each year. Instead, we could share stories, and debate the true meaning.

In discussing the ‘symbolic power of some architecture’ (p6) Perez-Gomez states ‘Our home must accept a dimension of utopia -the possibility of real historical evolution and our self-assertion as individuals- even the architect as artist -their works are comparatively free from the traditional limitation and associate of the specific site.’  Let’s think about this -to be participating humans we must understand the essence and actuality around us, recognize the abundance that surrounds us. Corbusier discusses something similar when he states in Nothing is Transmittable… ‘the only possible atmosphere conducive to artistic creation is steadiness, modesty, continuity, perseverance. Constancy is a mark of courage.’ (p2)

These writings defend and motivate architects as creators to believe in a higher role of building as our job. ‘Place has to be reinvented’ Perez-Gomez urges.

I find another parallel in Perez-Gomez’s statement ‘architecture had become meaningless due to its lack of semantic ground’ (p8) and Corbusier’s piece title Nothing is Transmittable but Thought. If a place or rather, architecture, comes from the culture, the site, the drive of an architects’ ‘rules’ would it not come with a story? It would. Poetry and architecture are similar to me in the way they are created by being tooled over and then in the end crafted to mean something. There is always a better word, or the right use of material, to help tell the story. In the end the architect/ the poet must come to the final piece with the same question; does it tell the story? If this part of the critique to the whole has been lost then how would one ever know it is finished? Rules must be established.

In other Perez-Gomez writings he spoke of an architect’s rules. In Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science he wrote of a mandatory call for understanding the patterns of society. Or in Hermeneutics as Architectural Discourse where he calls us to create our own order, one grounded in knowledge and one based on furthering the desires of our own experience. We must make until ‘exceptional coincidences’ happen through our own making.

Corbusier describes ‘play, that the architect will take certain ideas of the client until his own order begins, evolves, comes to light -this is his play.’ (p5) I wondered to myself while reading those worlds what Corbusier was trying to fit into by the end? What were his rules? He responds with ‘modular.’ In the end he wanted everything to fit into the human proportion, so it is the way he built space sizes, the way we ourselves as humans are proportioned.

What are my own rules? What ‘house’ of mine must look like a house? Certainly Peter Waldman’s House X could not have been preconceived without the site, but found in the way the family wanted to use the home. In the past I’ve written about inner and outer forces in my own architecture work. There is the desire of the inhabitants with the availability of labor and materials, the site and the vernacular (symbols, traditions and rituals to consider now too) among the many things to discover about a place. These two things, the inner and outer forces, meet at the enclosure, the place, the wall. But what does it say of how the two meet? How thy push and pull depend so much on particular factors. In the end though it needs to uphold the original idea.

The difference between school projects (or theory projects) and what I feel is expected of me in the profession are different. Where school pushes the discovery period, work expects something to be finished quickly. As a professional I’ve been able to mature into understanding deadlines that translate into when something needs to begin reading as a finished whole. The process of discovery probably becomes truncated. It’s too easy and normal to fall into the assumption that the right thing to do is to be literal in what the client requests even if it’s too bland as ‘I want a garage.’ As an architect we expect an offering to our client more along the lines of ‘the place of arrival.’ The architect has the ability to share this sense of passion. What the architect provides for the client is more than they were asking for in terms of a holistic project, and this practice is developed with a set of each architect’s personal rules.

From making to language, so in the end we must use words not only to begin but to direct and explain the story we’ve told in the end. To understand being in a place there must be critical thought. The subject of Hermeneutics, or knowledge of interpretation, has been integral throughout other Perez-Gomez writings as mentioned previously. Perception, interpretation, different architecture, different poets -we’re all coming to art through a different set of our own rigorous rules developed by personal ways of study and evaluation of knowledge. It’s wonderful to see the variety and is motivation to develop one’s own personal way of study and creating.

Ricœur is acclaimed for his textual interpretations, bringing the close of Perez-Gomez’s writing together with yet another proof that our ways of making lasting impressions are in themselves not static either, but are an endless source of opportunity to come to a deeper understanding and for the architect and the poet to share a deeper vision with the world.

As the author Perez-Gomez concludes ‘the role of poetic language to reveal the appropriateness of form… the architect/ poet…finds its archetypal roots, its program of poetic inhabitation.’ (p8)

At the end of our discussion I was left with the desire to make my stand more simply.