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Frank Harmon Discusses The New AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design in New Video

Harmon and landscape architect Gregg Bleam talk about the design process. 

The iconic AIA NC headquarters nears completion in downtown Raleigh.

December 6, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) — Architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA, recently posted a new video on his website (www.frankharmon.com) in which he and landscape architect Gregg Bleam discuss the design process behind the soon-to-be-completed AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design in downtown Raleigh.

Segments of the video will be updated as AIA NC (the American Institute of Architects North Carolina chapter) moves in and the landscape matures.

Harmon explains at the beginning of the video that the project is the result of his firm winning a professional design competition. One of the reasons Harmon won, according to the judges, was that his concept for a modern, thoroughly sustainable, and regionally appropriate Center embraced building and landscape as a single interdependent, interlocking whole.

“We knew this was a landscape problem,” Harmon says, because of the oddly shaped, triangular site and the parking requirements. As a result, he enlisted Bleam “before we drew a single line” and felt including Bleam in the video on the building was imperative.

Directed and shot by Allen Weiss of Allen Weiss: Works on Film and Paper in Raleigh, the video

Frank Harmon, FAIA

features Harmon in his warehouse-turned-office in Raleigh’s Boylan Heights neighborhood and Bleam in his office in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. It also includes a variety of footage of the building under construction; of Harmon and Bleam walking the site, looking over plans and laughing together; and behind-the-scenes moments in the construction trailer.

This is the first video that Frank Harmon, a multi-awarding winning architect and Professor in Practice at NC State University’s College of Design, has done for his website. Why did he choose this particular project?

“Because of its design, the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design is destined to be an icon in downtown Raleigh,” said Kim Weiss, Harmon’s public relations coordinator. “It’s also the first from-the-ground-up, ‘green’ AIA headquarters in the nation.

“But equally important,” she continued, “is that the general public rarely gets to hear an architect talk about the process that lead to the design of a building, especially one as iconic as this one. Through the video, Frank is creating a rapport with his audience, whether that means students, clients, future clients, or folks just interested in architecture. Together, he and Gregg are communicating more than a written description could.”

She also pointed out that “videos are entertaining. It’s simply a fact that people today are more likely to click on a video than to read a written description.”

The man behind the camera, Allen Weiss, noted how comfortable Harmon and Bleam were in front of the camera. “There was no script,” he said. “They just started talking and were of such a similar mindset that I could easily cut from one to the other as they discussed the design process. I was impressed.”

The video opens and closes with audible off-camera voices. Weiss said he purposefully left the “chatter” in during the edit to give the piece a casual, relaxed feel, “unlike the garden-variety, industrial, talking-head videos that are dry and offer no clues into the personalities behind them. I don’t believe you can separate the product from the dynamic and interesting personalities that lead to its creation. My intention was not only to showcase this important structure, but to allow viewers to get to know Frank and Gregg in a simply, personal, human way.”

To hear Frank Harmon and Gregg Bleam discuss the design process behind the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design, visit www.frankharmon.com and click on AIA North Carolina Center for Architecture Design Video.” To read more about the project, click on “current” projects.

For more information on Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect, go to www.gbla.net.

For more information on Allen Weiss, visit www.allen-weiss.com.

About Frank Harmon Architect PA

Frank Harmon Architect PA is an award-winning architectural firm that is recognized nationally as a leader in modern, innovative, sustainable and regionally appropriate design. Its competition-winning design for the AIA NC Center for Architecture & Design is currently under construction in downtown Raleigh. The firm’s work has been featured in numerous books, magazines, journals and online magazines on architecture, including ArchDaily.com, Dwell, Architectural Record, Architect and Residential Architect. The firm ranked 21st in Architecture magazine’s Top 50 firms in the nation this year and Frank Harmon, FAIA, founder and principal, was included in Residential Architect magazine’s first “RA 50: The short list of architects we love.” For more information, go to www.frankharmon.com.


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Umicore Building Products Donates VMZinc Roof for AIA NC’s New Headquarters

Modern, “Green” Architecture & Design Center to be crowned by

Rendering, AIA NC Center for Architecture & Design

PIGMENTO Red architectural zinc.

September 22, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – Umicore Building Products USA (UBP), headquartered in Raleigh, NC, has donated $70,000 worth of PIGMENTO® Red VMZ standing-seam zinc panels to be used for the roof of the American Institute of Architects North Carolina Chapter’s new, modern, sustainable headquarters building that is now under construction in downtown Raleigh.

“We are proud to be a supporting member of the AIA NC building. It is wonderful to be a part of such an important project in our own backyard,” said Daniel Nicely, an associate member of the AIA and UBP’s Director of Market Development.

Officially named the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design, the building was designed by Frank Harmon Architect PA of Raleigh, a multi-award-winning firm well known for its modern, green, regionally appropriate design. Under the direction of principal Frank Harmon, FAIA, the firm won a professional design competition for the project.

The design competition required submissions to be as “green,” or environmentally sustainable, as possible. Among the building’s many eco-friendly features will be the zinc roof.

“The three main environmentally sustainable qualities of architectural zinc are its  durability, its recyclability, and the moderate amount of energy required to manufacture it,” said Nicely. “Using architectural zinc for roofing materials or exterior cladding helps architects achieve LEED points.”

The new building’s other green features include: careful siting, extensive use of glass, operable windows, and open porches to maximize natural lighting and ventilation; a geothermal heating and cooling system; an underground rainwater collection cistern, the use of locally available and recycled materials wherever possible; a broad roof overhang to protect the interior from harsh summer sun; a special energy-conserving elevator; and an innovative parking “garden” comprised of porous paving that will eliminate all storm water run-off.

“There were three irreplaceable elements in the design of the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design: stone walls, landscape, and the metal roof,” said Frank Harmon. “Of these, the zinc roof was the most generous donation, and I think it will shelter the AIA for generations.”

The red pigment in the PIGMENTO® Red panel is created through a factory process that adds the red pigment to the coil during the manufacturing of the sheets and coils. The advantage of adding the pigment during manufacturing is that the panel will not require any reapplication of color, and the color will weather evenly and smoothly as it ages. VMZINC is recognized for blending well and easily with other architectural products, such as the AIA NC Center’s wood siding (cypress), stonework, concrete, steel, and glass.

The AIA NC building and landscape were designed as one interlocking system with the majority of the site left as green, open, park-like space in this urban setting. The building should be complete by the end of November. The landscaping will not be complete until the spring of 2012. For more information on the AIA NC Center for Architecture and Design, visit www.frankharmon.com and click on “current projects.”

For more information on UBP and VMZ PIGMENTO® Red products, visit www.vmzinc-us.com.

About Umicore Building Products USA, Inc.

Umicore is a world-leading producer of architectural zinc. For over 160 years, Umicore has been providing innovative solutions for building owners, architects and contractors. Umicore has offices and representatives all over the world. In the United States, Umicore Building Products USA, Inc., is based in Raleigh, NC. For additional information, visit www.vmzinc-us.com.


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Charlotte’s Oldest Modern House Saved From Demolition

Triangle Modernist Houses, Modern Charlotte Realty find a buyer by

Modern Charlotte Realty's Gail Jodon with the "sold" sign at the Lassiter house.

deadline.

July 22, 2011 (Charlotte, NC) – The 1956 Lassiter House, the oldest mid-century modernist house in Charlotte that was threatened with demolition if it didn’t sell by June of this year, has been sold to new owners and will be renovated.

Gail Jodon of Modern Charlotte Realty officially reported the sale this month after closing papers were signed. The new owners are Leslie and John Culberson, who “are very happy and proud, and I expect they will do a wonderful renovation,” Jodon said.

The Culbersons have selected Matthew Benson, AIA, of Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson in Charlotte to design the renovation.

The previous, and original, owner of the three-bedroom, three-bath house, which was designed by architect A.G. Odell with landscape design by Lewis Clark, put it on the market in February and announced that if the it didn’t sell by June, it would be razed so the property could be sold as a lot.

Aware that the Lassiter house is a classic example of mid-century modernist residential design by one of the South’s foremost architects of the time, Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), the non-profit organization dedicated to documenting and preserving modernist houses, immediately issued regional and national alerts to help find a buyer. Recent Past Preservation Network out of Washington, DC, picked up on the TMH alert and posted it on their website and online journal.

“A. G. Odell put Charlotte architecture on the map through the Ovens Auditorium and countless other Queen City buildings,” said TMH director George Smart. “Because the land value exceeded the house, Modernist gems like this are disappearing at an alarming rate. All of us at TMH could not be happier to know the Lassiter House will be preserved, renovated, and enjoyed by the Culbersons for years to come.”

Jodon offered “a very special shout out to George Smart for putting out a preservation alert, which really helped put the home in the spotlight and created a real sense of urgency that was instrumental in assisting me in getting this home sold and in good hands. I am thrilled that the Lassiter home has a new owner and that this important piece of Charlotte’s architectural history has been saved from the wrecking ball.”

She added that successes like this are the reason she chose to specialize in mid-century modern houses. “I don’t win them all, but it is so satisfying to be able to say that Modern Charlotte Realty played a key role in saving this home.”

Published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1956, the house features steel beams that support the roof, eliminating the need for load-bearing interior walls. As a result, the interior spaces are large, open, and thoroughly wheelchair accessible. Extensive glass walls and doors visually and physically open the inside to outdoor gardens. Architect Charles McMurray designed an addition to the house in the 1970s.

The sale included significant tax credits since the house is designated as a Historic Property by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Properties Commission, who calls it “extremely rare as a fully realized example of Modernist Style” and “important as an early example of the [Modernist] movement after World War II to apply technology to residential architecture.” For more information on A.G. Odell and the Lassiter house, visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/odell.

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007, dedicated to documenting, preserving and promoting modernist residential architecture. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog and advocate for North Carolina modernism. TMH hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “livable works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at www.trianglemodernisthouses.com. TMH also has an active community on Facebook.


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Triangle Modernist Houses Hosts Tour of 1959 Carter Williams House

“Blue Haven” will be open to the public for one day.

Inside the Carter Williams House

July 6, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) — The 1959 Carter Williams House Tour, designed by prolific Raleigh architect F. Carter Williams, FAIA, for his family, with landscape design by Dick Bell, FASLA, will be open for public touring on Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. until noon.

The tour of this classic mid-century modernist house, nicknamed “Blue Haven” for the distinctive “Carolina Blue Stone” used in its construction, is presented by the Triangle Modernist Houses and sponsored by Eidolon Design.

The two-level house is typical of mid-century modernist houses in many ways. Lower level floors are terrazzo and glass walls flood the spaces with natural light while opening the interior to the exterior. Upstairs, multi-columned stone construction visual divides the entrance hall from the great room beyond, where floor-to-ceiling glazing offers panoramic views of the landscape and forest beyond the house. Built-in casework throughout the house is walnut.

Current owner Jill Maurer has filled the Williams house with high-end mid-century

Entrance, showing landscape design by Dick Bell.

modern furnishings, including a Florence Knoll lounge, chairs and tables by Bertoia and Eero Saarinen, and an Isamu Noguchi coffee table. Her art collection, including abstract paintings by such North Carolina luminaries as Claude Howell and George Bireline, also complements the house’s architecture and ambiance.

Metro Magazine’s Diane Lea called the house “one of Raleigh’s acknowledged early Modernist jewels” in her feature on “Blue Haven” in November of 2010.

Over his 40-year span, Carter Williams and his firm designed more than 600 projects throughout the state. From 1939 to 1941, he was an assistant professor at the NCSU School of Design. The highest honor AIA North Carolina presents each year to an individual for a distinguished career or extraordinary accomplishments is named the

Rear elevation

F. Carter Williams Gold Medal.

In the study Post-World War II and Modern Architecture in Raleigh, North Carolina, author Ruth Little writes, “It is safe to say that Williams’ elegant understated modernism had a bigger impact on Raleigh architecture than any other architect in Raleigh from 1945 to 1965.”

The Carter Williams house is located at 6612 Rest Haven Drive. Tickets are $5.95 in advance until July 16 and $8 at the door. To purchase advance tickets and get directions to the house, go to http://trianglemodernisthouses.com/tour.

For more information on Triangle Modernist Houses, visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com.

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism.  TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “livable works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at www.trianglemodernisthouses.com. TMH also has an active community on Facebook.


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Oak Alley: “Gone With The Wind” That You Can Rent

By Frank Harmon, FAIA

I went to see Oak Alley plantation in St James Parish, Louisiana, because of its shadows. An architect friend told me that the pattern of light and shade cast by its

Oak Alley's alley of trees. Sketch by Frank Harmon

double row of 300-year-old live oak trees was unforgettable. The Mississippi River flows past one end of the alley of trees, which is about the length of two football fields. At the other end stands the plantation house, three stories high and wrapped in dusky pink columns that appear like trees of stone surmounted by foliage and dappled in shadow.

Few buildings are as evocative of the Deep South as the pillared mansion preceded by an alley of live oak trees. These ante bellum houses represent a gracious way of life, of languid afternoons on shaded porches, of mint juleps and magnolias, of a world of well-being.

Yet behind Oak Alley’s columns lie some practical strategies for coping with long, hot

Sketch by Frank Harmon, FAIA

summers, such as porches that shade the mansion’s rooms, and the symmetry of spaces that allowed the family to inhabit rooms on the east side in summer to escape the afternoon sun, and to live in west-facing rooms in winter when the sun’s heat was welcome. Tall ceilings allowed hot air to circulate upward, and the legendary oak trees, planted 100 years before the mansion was built, shade the house and help steer the breeze through the house’s tall windows.

Today, Oak Alley’s plantation house is a flourishing events center where visitors arrive for business retreats, hold reunions, dine at sorority luncheons, and shop at crafts fairs. And then there are the weddings: Marriage ceremonies are as common at Oak Alley as magnolia blossoms, as are the preceding bridal showers, catered luncheons, engagement parties, bridal photographs and, later, anniversary dinners. Think Gone With the Wind that you can rent. Columns, trees and the river vista create a perfect wedding backdrop, suggesting a life of Southern charm, beauty and perfection.

It is easy to idealize a place as beautiful as Oak Alley, and the lives of the people who lived there. Perhaps our sense of a lost world is part of its fascination.

Yet the irony of Oak Alley is that life there was very different than we imagine.

Built in 1841 by a Creole planter for his bride, it suffered a series of misfortunes. First, the bride hated the remoteness of the house and refused to live there, preferring the social life of New Orleans. And of course, the entire enterprise was founded on human bondage. Also, the man who built it died of pneumonia after living there only seven years. His wife died two years later. Indeed many of its inhabitants lived short lives as a result of malaria, cholera and yellow fever. In fact, one of the 20 rooms was a mourning room to shelter the deceased prior to burial.

After the Civil War, the children who inherited Oak Alley were forced to sell it at auction for a pittance. The house stayed empty for decades until it was restored in the 1920s to begin its present life as a wedding backdrop and tourist attraction — just in time for Margaret Mitchell’s epochal Southern novel Gone With The Wind.

One might say that Oak Alley has a far happier life today than the life that originally took place there – a life we have romanticized over time.

Twenty-eight columns surround the house just as there are 28 trees that form the alley. Trees and columns cast shadows that vary daily and seasonally, much like a sundial. There is something timeless about this uniquely American dream house and its enchanted grove of trees.

In London recently, another enchanted grove of trees adorned the great stone nave of Westminster Abbey for Kate Middleton’s and Prince William’s royal wedding. Elizabeth Sinclair, the wife of the recently disgraced Dominique Strauss Kahn, wrote of the royal wedding, “I can understand those who didn’t want to miss a crumb. As if, quite simply, we were children who, before going to sleep want a tale, a story with a princess and a dream, because real life catches up with you soon enough.”

Late on the May afternoon when I visited Oak Alley, one wedding was in progress

Oak Alley in relation to the Mississippi River and its levee.

while another was queuing up — pretty girls in gowns laughing, young men in formal wear chafing each other. Hopes for the future contrasted with a more troubling reality at the other end of the alley, where the levee held back the Mississippi River, now surging at a level higher than the roof of the plantation house. Perhaps its witness to slavery, plague, war, and flood makes the beauty of Oak Alley more poignant. As evening fell and the wedding candles were lit, none of that seemed to matter. We were bathed in the shadow of romantic art.

 


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Pinecote

By Frank Harmon, FAIA

Few building forms are more familiar than the one-story gabled roof. The earliest

St. Paul's Covent Garden, by Frank Harmon

Greek temples feature this form, as do 19th century tobacco warehouses, churches, and government buildings. Our own state Capitol in Raleigh, designed by Town and Davis in 1840, is adorned by the upright columns and V-shaped roof of the earliest Greek temples.

Many architectural historians consider the temple form a descendent of an earlier forest dwelling, created by primitive builders who pulled tree branches together to create a canopied shelter. The 19th century French critic Viollet-Le-Duc thought this bowered structure of trees was the origin of all architecture.

In a swamp beside a pond in Mississippi, the esteemed architect Fay Jones, FAIA (1921-2004), who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, added to the history of the venerable building type with an open-air pavilion called Pinecote, which was constructed in 1986 as part of the Crosby Arboretum. Like Wright, Jones believed “the nature of the land must be the generator of the architect’s work.”

I visited Pinecote in mid-May, 2011, when the magnolia trees in southern Mississippi

Pinecote sketch by Frank Harmon

were just coming into bloom. Located incongruously next to a strip mall, Crosby Arboretum was created by landscape architect Edward L. Blake Jr. (1947-2010) on 800-plus acres of pine and wetland forest. The charms of Crosby Arboretum are quiet: a forest habitat mottled in shadows, the home of pitcher plants, river otter, and bay laurel.

From one end of the mile-long arboretum to the other, the earth falls only three feet, yet 36 inches of level change creates an entire shift in habitat, from pine forest to hardwood swamp. Compared to the Grand Canyon, which is more than a mile deep, Crosby Arboretum is shallow, yet it is no less satisfying — a subtle pleasure like the song of a wood thrush.

Fay Jones’ contribution to the quiet beauty of Crosby Arboretum is less a building than a structure that frames nature. His open-air pavilion is used for picnics, gatherings, reunions, conferences, and weddings, or simply for the study of nature outside its four open sides. The inside of Pinecote is about the size of a small church sanctuary and is covered by a broadly sloping gable roof. The roof ridge runs 40 feet above a brick floor from north to south, with the south gable end opening to a view of the pond.

Above the pavilion roof swamp oaks, maples and pine trees form a secondary roof of twigs and leaves. So hidden is Pinecote that the visitor doesn’t see it until entering — like coming upon a fawn in the forest.

Jones built Pinecote almost entirely of wood, with a few ingenious steel connectors that are as light as a wedding ring.

Although the pavilion can accommodate up to 200 people, the majority of its wood pieces are less than one-and-a-half inches thick and the wood columns are small enough to put your fingers around. Rising up from the brick floor, columns branch outwards to hold the roof, like a waiter’s fingers supporting a tray. When you look up to the underside of the roof, you see through a glass ridged skylight into the sky. Descending down from the roof ridge, rafters end as slender sticks — feathers against the leaves. A shaft of sunlight creates patterns on the floor.  Breezes flow easily through the shelter. The whole has the delicate scale of the forest. Wood is left to turn silver- grey, like the tree trunks, and the shingle roof is dappled by the shadows of the forest.

A short walk along a forest path brings you to a clearing on the far side of the pond where sky and forest are reflected as olive-green and blue slivers in the dark brown water. Merging with the pond, Pinecote hovers, wide and snug, set back in the shade beneath broad eaves. Next to it, a green heron stands motionless.

Many people visiting a redwood forest remark on how they are reminded of a cathedral. The gothic cathedral is another manifestation of the gabled temple form with its clustered columns reaching heavenward. Perhaps Fay Jones had these precedents in mind when he sat down at the drawing board to design Pinecote.  Regardless, he designed a building of reverence for nature.

However dated this idea might seem in an age of cool buildings produced digitally, there is something about Pinecote that is endlessly satisfying. Fay Jones made a modest building that is just as moving as something far grander.


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Cool Without AC: Dewees Island House Featured in Mother Earth News

Vacation home by Whitney Powers, AIA, one of three projects selected.

May 24, 2011 (Charleston, SC) – A sustainable beach house on Dewees Island, SC,

The Yost House, designed by architect Whitney Powers, AIA

designed by Whitney Powers, AIA, of Studio A, Inc., in Charleston, is one of three

houses selected by Robyn Griggs Lawrence whose blog “Natural Home & Garden” is carried in Mother Earth News to demonstrate successful “passive cooling” without air conditioning.

“Over the years, I’ve been in enough naturally cooled homes—in brutally hot and humid climates—to know that passive cooling works,” Griggs Lawrence writes. She visited the house Powers designed for Rives and Walter Yost to experience the effect herself.

Powers’ two-level, 2700-square-foot Yost house features eight screened porches, an abundance of French doors and sash windows, high ceilings, and ceiling fans to facilitate natural ventilation.

“We didn’t come all the way from Pittsburgh to close the windows and doors,” Mrs. Yost told Griggs Lawrence.

A view from the kitchen through the living area and out to the porch and trees.

The ventilation system Powers designed pulls air in through the windows on the lower floors and up through the house to windows located beneath the gables. Reflective window coatings deflect the sun and reduce solar heat gain. Screened-in sleeping porches also provide naturally cool places to rest.

“The Yost house is designed for indoor/outdoor living, with porches on the front, back, and corners of the house that provide outdoor living space and permit windows and doors to be left open for constant access to island breezes and the sound of birds, rustling trees, and crashing waves,” the article states.

The article also spotlights a small co-housing unit in Carrboro, NC, by architect Giles Blunden, and an oceanfront home in Florida’s Upper Matecumbe Key by Jersey Devil Design/Build for their passive cooling systems.

Griggs Lawrence calls passive cooling “a fast-growing trend that’s not likely to go away soon.” To read the entire article, go to www.motherearthnews.com/natural-home-living/cool-without-ac-3-homes-in-the-south-prove-it-can-be-done.aspx.

For more information on Whitney Powers, AIA, and to see more of her sustainable residential designs, visit www.studioa-architecture.com.

About Whitney Powers, AIA:

Whitney Powers, AIA, LEED AP, founded Studio A, Inc. in downtown Charleston, SC, in 1989, as a full-service architectural firm that proposes that the responsibility of architecture is to cultivate a language of form that promotes a sustainable culture and landscape, and that touches the emotions of delight, surprise and wonder. From cutting-edge contemporary architecture to the preservation and restoration of historic homes, structures and sites, Studio A is committed to an interactive relationship between the natural and built environments, conservation of energy and natural resources, and an appreciation for a “sense of place” where living, working and playing are connected with the specific idiosyncrasies of culture, climate and natural landscape where they take place. For more information visit www.studioa-architecture.com.