Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Most Significant Stable in History

Regardless of our "personal belief system" there are many reasons that these days cry out for deep reflection as we each prepare for a renewed year ahead, thinking on the year past and our lives within it. Doubtless, many of us will decide to quietly press our reset buttons once again with renewed hope.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jefferson’s Stable Brilliance – sui generis

                                                                                          Original Jefferson sketch

Jefferson’s Monticello carefully selected site is beautifully nestled beneath the shadows of the surrounding Piedmont Mountains and forest.  He had a reputation “for being a fierce rider who enjoyed fox-hunting and loved to watch horse racing” so naturally he built stables. 

One stable on the property is an out building for horses and the other is tucked beneath the wings of his home in one of the below-grade dependencies.

The construction of the “inner stables” reveals a glimpse of his architectural genius where form and function blend. Anyone who has ever fed high-spirited horses in their stalls will instantly recognize the elegance of the stable design. 

There is access to the stalls through a central corridor to easily feed each of the horses without having to enter the stall to disturb the animal or risk injury to the stable hands.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

London Mews as they were

The lane-ways were crowded, noisy and odiferous. 
Unimaginable in today's highly valued peaceful inner 
London oases.

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

Preserving London Stables

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.
As defined by Wikipedia:
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.[1] 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: - )

YouTube Photos are courtesy of E/L Studio 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Principles of Historic Preservation

The Value of Classifying the D.C. Alleys

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.