Friday, May 28, 2010

Life as a House

Is this a movie about art imitating life as art? Or is it about architecture imitating life? This is a rather decent movie about a father-son relationship and how focus on work can overwhelm family life. Kevin Kline is excellent in any role, playing an outdated architectural model builder is no stretch for him. Hayden Christianson plays his son, a fume huffing, sexually troubled gothic teenager. As the film opens, Kevin's character is living in a broken down cottage by the sea. He commutes to work and is given his notice of termination after working over 20 years for the same firm. He proceeds to destroy many of his models on his way out of the office, then falls to the ground from the cancer that is destroying his body. He has neglected his health and his house. We also learn that he has ignored his son from his ex-wife. After learning of some of his sons' troubles and his health, the architect insists that his son live with him for the summer and help build his dream house on the same lot as his cottage. Of course after several weeks of not getting along, the two begin to work together to rebuild the house. At the end of the film, the father dies, but not before many other hands have pitched in to complete the project.
This film speaks to me because of the relationships that are formed in life with our families can be expressed in the physical surroundings where we live. Each relationship is necessary, but not at the cost of another. The house and the architect are in poor health. Both are nearing the end of their lives, both will be reborn into a new vision. The father and son reconcile to produce a bond that will be sacred after death. The house and the family produce a physical representation of the unifying of passion and goals. The three fractured characters, father, son, and building are stripped and rebuilt with the ability to relate to each other. The climax or major breaking point for these characters occurs early in the film, with the remainder being the resolution to the actions each has taken over the past 15 years.
Overall, a nice story of learning about hard work and the perils of ignoring one part of your life for another. Coincidentally, after this movie, Max happened to draw a little cottage that I turned into plans, sections, elevations, etc., that we could build a neat little camp in the woods. Laying a strong foundation for relationships ensures a connection for years, not an act near the end of your life. Enjoy everyday that we have together and create those memories now. Balance your life, reconciliation might never happen.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Architizer part 2

I am updating my architizer blog, adding more text, logos done by Stuart as usual. I will have some of my ideas shown there soon. The concepts will hopefully garner some traffic and interest!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Money Pit

Classic comedy with Tom Hanks in a great role with Shelly Long, said to be a remake of "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," but not really. The portion of the story regarding the house doesn't start for about a half an hour into the movie, similar to MBBHDH, but definately more comedic and diverse. The house in this movie is definately a remodel job, although many of the contractors believe that missles are being tested at the site. The house was shown as a slight fixer upper with plenty of charm and in decent shape, changes happened immediately the couple takes ownership of the place. Situations quickly deteriorate and set up the comedy for the remainder of the film. As a character, the house is a partner in slapstick with Tom Hanks. The house is allowed to be stripped naked and mocked. Diginity is restored to the house at the end of the film, but the arc that it takes drives the actions of the human cast. Without the willingness to be exposed and the sidekick in the comedy duo, the film wouldn't work. "The Money Pit" is a great way to laugh at the house and the situations that occur during a renovation project, similar to what happens in teen dramas about the comedy that comes along with beautifying the awkward girl into the bell of the ball.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Amityville Horror

Another movie based on a book! The book and video covers both have the iconic image of the end of the house with sinister "eyes" in the attic, chimney for a nose and teeth in the windows and railing. This is the one of the two movies with the house having a "human" face that we can relate to create a character, the other being "Monster House." The background of the events in the house is that a horrible murder occurred in there by a deranged son, in the movie the real reasons aren't given. There are hints as to him hearing voices due to the fact that the house was built on a burial ground. Being dramatic and not searching for the answers is the exploitative portion of the movie, I was looking for some hard facts, but Hollywood is not big into facts. Nonetheless, after about 18 months of the house sitting empty following the brutal murders, a new family moves into the house and is almost immediately experiencing supernatural disturbances. Besides devolving the entire plot and story line, the house expels a priest, telling him to "Get Out!", a couch eating money for a wedding reception, and awakening the occupants at the time the murders occurred. Other events include cold spots, visions, spontaneous fly growth in the late autumn, locking an annoying girl in the closet, disconnecting the phone lines, a window "biting" a boy that is taunting his sister. The source of the problems is a hidden "red room", where the family dog digs at the wall and barks at this previously unknown space.

The house works to split the family, creating a rift between the parents and the children alike. What kind of character is the house? Is it an old person, someone wronged by the previous owners' actions? It is a vengeful teenager, unable to remove itself from the past transgressions of the burial ground? I liken this house to the former, an elderly parent that has been set upon a site where it's friends have been buried. Again, being haunted by the disturbed souls on the grounds, the house wants to expel the new inhabitants, knowing living souls can't stand to be in such proximity to disinterred burials. Most importantly, this house has a memory. It knows where it is, when it was built, who has lived there, and what has happened there. Yet this house can't move, only do anything it can to keep people away, at the expense of it's own happiness and usefulness.

Land Ho!

E and I have been pouring over, leads from our realtor, and some signs posted in yards for a "lot for sale." This was a weekend for driving by the lots. We have found some great lots for reasonable prices. Finding the right location, site, neighbors, school district, and orientation is important to us, and we are just taking our time to educate ourselves. Nonetheless we are excited and full of possibilities. I have been working on several plans, so the plans are not an issue, just getting the land and construction loan. I have already talked to our realtor and a mortgage advisor. We are getting the ball rolling so we can strike when the time is right.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mister Blandings Builds His Dream House

Based on a book written just after WWII, this 1948 film is a light comedy about the trials and tribulations of building a custom house. Some of the elements are revisited in movies like the "Money Pit", but are comic when done well. The story is basic and seen as an everyman story. Set after the war, an over cramped city-dwelling family wants to spread out in the suburbs that are now encouraging white flight. Relocating from an unnamed borough of NYC, Connecticut is the green paradise with 10 acres for anyone willing to drive an hour commute to the city. The first half hour of the movie sets up the disdain for the cramped apartment, ideas for the house, budget, location, and otherwise unprepared buyer/builder shenanigans that occur with some clients building their first home. At first the Blandings family believes they can salvage the existing farmhouse on the land, but the building is revealed to have major structural damage and unable to be saved, so long historic structure! When meeting with their architect, the couple blows the budget, the plans, the elevations, and the vision out of the water. Understanding what they can live with versus their dreams begins to solidify the Blandings' concept of their house. Again, more hi jinx occurs due to miscommunication, poor communication, and lack of communication. These scenes are similar to when a couple in a romantic comedy meet the first several times and prejudices and preconceived notions of each other arise. Regardless, the house is complete, with the family surviving, the husband and wife still together, a great new contract for the husbands' office, and a lesson learned about building a single custom home.
The first house can be seen as a fortune teller, warning the buyers of the land and house that there are many bridges to cross, then disappearing, similar to a Shakespearean sooth-sayer. The way in which the second house plays a role is interesting, it as an potential friend or lover. Learning about what it takes to turn each other on and each others boundaries. The owners push for a bigger house, but the budget doesn't allow. Colors, windows, locations of rooms, and exterior finishes are similar to dressing the unpolished character into the belle of the ball. Refining and learning about each other as the story moves forward, the unknown house becomes a friend, with the values of the owners expressed throughout the house.
Whether or not the writer or director knew it, the role of the house growing, maturing, or whatever you want to call it, it is about finessing a character from a rough lump of coal to a shimmering diamond.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


This family oriented movie is a great piece of film for all the right reason, the colors, the story, the characters, the images, the music, and for me, the flying house. The story of Carl, Ellie, and their house is a three person tale where their dwelling takes on many characteristics and fills a non-speaking role. Ellie and Carl meet at the house as children, they dream of living next to a waterfall, they fall in love there, they nurture the building back to health. Unfortunately, the human occupants can't bear children, but their residence becomes a child that is raised in a loving home. The couple dreams of taking a vacation to a South American waterfall location, constantly saving and having to repair each other and the house. As they grow, so does the house with broken bones and other ailments, just as a child develops in real life. After Ellie passes, Carl protects his home from the scary outside world of development. He does what many parents can't really do, remove them from the poor environment. We see Carl as a person who has no trouble leaving people, but his possessions are important, for they haven't left him or changed. Carl withdraws into the house to release the balloons that will set him and the house free from the ever encroaching city life. These events described above occur with very little dialog and brilliant cinematography. After taking to the skies, Carl realizes that there is a stowaway on his voyage to South America, Russell, a scout looking for his last merit badge. Many shenanigans occur after their arrival in South America, most of them include the house being tethered to Carl and Russell, this is symbolically the college years of the houses' life, still reliant on a parent for direction, but learning to navigate the world. A breaking point with the antagonist, an adventurer from ages past, Russell leaves Carl with the house, near the waterfall, too heavy from the baggage of two lives lived in it. Carl, in an effort to save the boy, purges the house, but for the necessary equipment to steer the house. The house can be seen a active in this scene, pursuing the boy and blimp, caring for those that have cared for it. After another thrilling action scene whereby the house brought Carl to the adventurers' blimp, Carl must decide on whether the house is more important than the lives that have lived in it. Freeing the house is the way for to release the building to it's future, where it should be. Carl lets go of the past, the loss of Ellie and their dreams together for a present reality and future necessity. The couple of Carl and Ellie could be seen as projecting their love of the waterfalls on the house, and then their dreams reach the waterfall. Imbuing their love into the house, it finds it's way home.

Another interpretation shows there are five stages of the house, similar to people, babyhood, in the beginning, an incomplete structure, unsure of how to handle the people inside of it. Second being childhood or adolescence, the house is repaired and clumsy, needing care from the occupants. Next is adulthood, working for years as a steady domicile for Carl and Ellie. In the penultimate stage, possibly retirement, actively aiding those that need help and shepherding them to the waterfall. In the last years, only hours, resigning to the place it occupies in the world and resting peacefully next to the one it loves, the waterfall.

As an architect, both interpretations work, especially since I am also a parent and a son. We are more than one thing, one viewpoint, we see multiple viewpoints. The story is complex and difficult for some people to emote due to the fact that a major character is an inanimate object, a house. The directors, writers, animators, etc., hit the right notes to make us feel for the house and the people in this great story.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Networking Mid May Update

After months of getting my name in front of countless people, I have received several job leads in quick order. These are not full custom houses, but the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. This just shows that you never know what can happen by talking to someone. Tonight is design night, then some writing for my reviews of architecture (houses) in movies.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Update

Here is some verbage that I created for a renovation project in Ardmore. Brushing up on my words, along with my images.

Architectural Narrative
Re: 151 Linwood Avenue, Ardmore PA
A twin home located in the suburban Philadelphia region, renovation and modernization were needed to produce a marketable residence. Beginning on the Third Floor, one Bedroom was utilized to provide a volume ceiling to the Master Bedroom below and mechanical space for a mechanical unit. The remaining Third Floor spaces were renovated and include more usable closet spaces, including a Hall Bathroom. The Second Floor features an expanded Master Bedroom with gracious closeting and a volume ceiling with a skylight and modern Master Suite Bathroom. New beams and columns were installed to create the volume ceiling and define the spaces decoratively. Again, the remaining Bedrooms and Bathroom were renovated and updated. Opening the First Floor rooms to create a more contemporary layout required installing and replacing several beams and walls. Unifying the front rooms to one large Family Room and the previously separated Kitchen and Dining Room required carrying the floor loads from bearing walls to beams now hidden in the ceiling structure. Modern conveniences are now located on the First Floor, such as the Powder Room and Laundry facilities. Due to deteriorating conditions in the Basement and the loading of beams and posts above, new structural steel and wood beams and joists were installed. Again, in an effort to create an attractive, modern, and convenient home, HVAC units are located in the Basement that now boasts a much more accessible and usable space for storage. Throughout the house the stairs and windows were only either repaired or replaced, retaining the charm of the original house. This house boasts five Bedrooms, three and a half Bathrooms, and a Large Family Room and joint Kitchen and Dining Room.
Prepared by Brett Hand, AIA

Monday, May 17, 2010

My wonderful wife in front of a great building in the French Quarter. So many buildings on each block are worthy of their own album of photos, but only so many pixels, so little time! Check out all the pix on my facebook page with some notes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sculpture Park

A great city park near the art museum! This sculpture park is nestled in the larger park and is a great respite in the middle of our bus tour. This piece is dedicated to the firemen after the Katrina floods. More on my facebook page.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great image from the rear of Saint Louis on our last night in town. Plenty of pix at my facebook account. A great combination of French and Spanish design flourishes make it uniquely American. The high spires are not original, domed cupolas were original.

Friday, May 14, 2010


This is a modern firehouse right at the edge of the French Quarter and quite unique in the city. Not sure what was here, but it is right across from the Old Mint.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Again, more quintessential New Orleans "architecture". These mausoleums are scattered throughout the city and are the subject of tours for that alone. 40 cemeteries in the city house dead for the last several centuries. These houses for the dead are of many levels of detail and maintenance. Quite interesting compared to what we have here up north. Again, refer to my facebook page for the whole set of pix of this one particular cemetery.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Piazza d'Italia

This is a time when I will actually use facebook for pix instead of blogger. Regardless of where the pix are located, the concept of post-modern architecture remains the same. Architecture of this era is, as a colleague of mine said, "sarcastic." As much as I can respect the idea of reinventing the past, the post modernists are making a farce of traditional architecture. Check out my facebook page for more pix.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Even the trees have beads here! This is in the sculpture area of the City Park.

New Orleans recap

Thursday was our day of arrival, off the plane, straight to Bourbon Street. Walked around and saw tons of great buildings. Scoped out tours for the next two days, then just relaxed with great food and drinks. The next day we had great beignets, driving tour of the French Quarter, Lower Ninth Ward, Treme, the Garden District and Central Business District. Pix of Charles Moore's Piazza D'Italia was high on priority. Saturday was a great day for the French Market and more of the French Quareter by foot. Taking a Haunted Ghost Tour was really neat and brought some "life" to the nearly 200 year old buildings. We enjoyed everyday and relaxed and took photos and had great food. This week on the blog will focus on several different areas and the photos of each. More to come as we catch up with our lives!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Obvious and necessary

This is an article that explains the obvious and reinforces what I believe is the truth about the future of residential design. These small changes are are what we need for a more sustainable future.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Show House

I am working on small plans and a plan for our house that is small. Is our house going to be a show home for what can be done locally, small, and green? I certainly hope so! After a short trip to NO to see small and vernacular houses, I am sure there will be some insights that I post.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Land hunting

Knowledge is power! I am educating myself to locations and prices of land in the central Chester County region. Acreage and prices vary, but I am getting familiar with what is available.

Monday, May 3, 2010

New old client

Some of the work done at my 9-3 job seems to be building with friends of past clients. Actually, I have a new client, but they had worked with my 9-3 also. Now they are looking for something more affordable and flexible, stylistically. I am excited that these connections are starting to yield results.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

This is not a call for help, but instead a call for people to buy stuff from our yard sale. A bunch of stuff we haven't used in eons. Plus, the kids are growing, so they don't play with tons of their toys and have outgrown so many toys. Still on the hunt for land. Some promising locations to look at tomorrow.
Enjoy a mint julep and watch the derby.