Sunday, December 8, 2013
The lane-ways were crowded, noisy and odiferous.
Unimaginable in today's highly valued peaceful inner
Parking was difficult even 150 years ago.
Note the basic architectural configuration of a typical
stable as it was evolving into squalid living quarters.
The large second floor opening was a hayloft door.
An original stable door is being replaced with an
overhead garage door. Note the irregular brick
work around the windows and the new door. This
is why many mews stables were painted - to hide
the deep scars of difficult past lives lived.
(reference: - The Mews of London by Barbara Rosen and Wolfgang Zuckermann, 1982)
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Very few exciting livable alleys exist today in North America, unlike Europe where alleys have become havens of human habitation after many years of commercial use. In the video below note the homogeneity of the collections of buildings and the traces of their original use as stables. These were abused buildings that have been reclaimed. In many instances the brickwork was "bodged" prompting owners to paint over the brick. Few have retained their original brick facade. These are especially precious.
Mews is a primarily British term formerly describing a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those of London, during the 17th and 18th centuries. The word may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables open. It is sometimes applied to rows or groups of garages or, more broadly, to a narrow passage or a confined place. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernized and considered highly desirable residences.
The term mews is plural in form but singular in construction. It arose from "mews" in the sense of a building where birds used for falconry are kept, which in turn comes from birds' cyclical loss of feathers known as 'mewing' or moulting.
From 1377 onwards the king's falconry birds were kept in the King's Mews at Charing Cross. The name remained when it became the royal stables starting in 1537 during the reign of King Henry VIII. It was demolished in the early 19th century and Trafalgar Square was built on the site. The present Royal Mews was then built in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The stables of St James's Palace, which occupied the site where Lancaster House was later built, were also referred to as the "Royal Mews" on occasion, including on John Rocque's 1740s map of London.
(Reference: -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mews )
YouTube Photos are courtesy of E/L Studio
Friday, December 6, 2013
As with many things in life, not all alleys have an equal potential for meaningful development to become a livable part of a growing city of laneways within a city of roads.
An alley for trash, rats and cats in that order.
The Historic Preservation Office alley survey project is an extremely important undertaking that will become increasingly valuable in the years ahead. Many small enclaves are being discovered along with hundreds of hidden little gems of buildings that once lived as shops, stables, and homes or led some other fascinating life. No doubt, in the course of doing this work, many losses through decay or destruction and unauthorized modifications will be discovered. D.C. alleys have mostly been ignored. The alley survey as our era’s snapshot will not only document what exists today but also help to protect otherwise defenseless properties tomorrow.
D.C. alleys are inhomogeneous. Some are narrow. Others are wide. Some are traditional “trash, services and parking” alleys. In some, there is almost no vestige of past human living because large condo and apartment complexes have usurped the entire outer and inner block spaces.
Cady's Alley in Georgetown
Yet, some have been beautifully preserved, refined and integrated with 20th and 21st century architecture and flourish as thriving destinations. Others await rescue. The process of restoring or reclaiming potentially livable alleys will require well thought out triage to finely focus on areas with the greatest potential for salvage. There may only be a handful of alleys still worth the energy and resources. However, in a city where livable and affordable space is disappearing (as is land for new construction) exploring, documenting and protecting potentially habitable alleys is a wise investment for the future of D.C. and urban planning.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
“If you can see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it.”
S.I. Hayakawa, Berkley
A “learning organization” * is defined by its ability to be open minded, self - reflective and ever changing in response to new circumstances and new information. In essence it thinks and acts differently as times change. A learning organization is so “self-disruptive” that in 5 years time it might not even be recognizable as the same company. Very, very few large organizations have the capacity to do this. G.E. is an excellent example of an exception. Large companies chart their future directions guided by (a) external market forces and (b) outside regulations about how they do business. Would anyone approve of large banks being able to not only create their own rules of behavior and governance crafted in their own best interests, but also enforced only by themselves? Of course not!
Any company without periodic injections of inspiration from outside the company (“new blood”) rapidly becomes stale, for they can only see that which they have been accustomed to creating and seeing already. The company becomes like a Mobius strip with the illusion of making progress all the time because work is expended; yet one always ends up right back at the same place one started. This ossification can only be realized when viewed by others from the outside.
A reader’s comment in response to Shilpi Paul’s recent coverage of a project proposal at 14th Street and Wallach (Urban Turf) prompted the author to wonder if perhaps HPO has become somewhat insular to its own detriment.
“ Johnny said at 9:10 am on Friday October 25, 2013:
I like the design as it is. Too bad the HPRB has to offer their usual input. Which is to make it more boring. “use all the same material and no cantilevering. Just a big box with windows would be GREAT!” DC would look so much cooler if it weren’t for them. Every time it’s the same. “Make it shorter. Make it blander. Make it look faux historicy (sic) whenever possible so that it ‘blends in’” Builders in DC have learned to churn out box after box because what’s the point of trying to make something cool when they know they will just be sent back to the drawing board.”Reference