Tag Archives: architecture

Architectural Masterpiece on Post-It Notes

Although I certainly appreciate how far my boy has come in his artistic endeavors since the episode, earlier this summer, now known as “Offspring of Lightning and Pure Darkness,” something rather NQR about these architectural sketches remains, be it the choice of media (Post-It Notes? — come on, kid!) or the presumption of fabulous wealth certainly necessary to fulfill this lovely dream of a house, either personally or on behalf of a rather childish and bourgeois clientele if, in his mind, he has designed this home for some third party rather than for himeself.  As such, I’ll share these sketches and give my ballpark for the associated costs (though I’m no home contractor myself!), not as a way to crush his dreams but more with the mind to preserve these little images, someday to show them to him when and if he does ever build a home of his own.

First, the overview (found under the work-light of his bunkbed desk, left here exactly in situ):

What rich client wouldn’t want to see the creativity here, the artiste’s obviously taking oreintal inspiration from the trivet tile from a Moroccan souq and the cartouche of the architect’s own name, made sentimentally in 4th grade art?

Next, a slightly closer view of the work-in-progress, here focusing on the kitchen — to include vintage ‘egg chairs’ along with a marble countertop, plus a supplementary sketch, ala Frank Lloyd Wright, for the patterning of tilework — yielding up in rough estimate a very preliminary construction cost of perhaps $80,000.  Second floor layout seems to allude pleasantly to the shape of a coffee-mug, perhaps in the artiste’s thinking a way to ‘welcome the day’ with Folger’s in his cup.

Sketch of the kitchen, along with some very rough initial ‘thoughts’ on the layout of the second floor.

Next, the indoor pool with a ballpark construction cost-estimate of $200,000, including the slide from the master bedroom.

Indoor pool, with slide coming from bedroom closet (see bedroom diagram below).

Next the master bedroom, with slide to the indoor waterpool coming out of the closet, estimate for cost:  $40,000?

Bedroom: interesting features include woodwork behind bed (in the closet?) sliding doors that lead to a ‘padio,’ window overlooking indoor pool.

Next, the connection between the two levels of the house.  Looks like there is a hallway and at least one set of stairs.  Hard to assign a cost to this segment of the house, but since it must be built we can arbitrarily say, maybe, $10,000?  If the roof of the pool, shown here, is glassed-in or decorative, then maybe another $30,000 should be added.

Concept is unclear in this sketch, presumably will be thrashed out in more detail in the final blueprint.

An alternate, more costly version, including a curving stair, probably runs closer to $25,000.

Another (competing?) concept for the stairs between the two levels of the house, this one more expensive and showing some antebellum influences. Architect’s shorthand for “Bird’s I” amusing. . .

Next, the rather boxy but efficient layout of the complete first floor.  Discounting the cost of the kitchen and the pool (which were figured above) the remainder of this probably comes to another $250,000 in construction and design costs.

Complete diagram for first level of the house: tennis/basketball court, pool, kitchen, and a rather open-concept living area testify to the owner’s enthusiasm for Sport.

Finally, and blurrily (whether it was laughter on the part of the photographer or sudden furtiveness at the sound of approaching steps outside the architect’s door, I can offer no valid excuse for taking such a poor photo) the living room.  Given its rather empty and square construction, this one portion of the building project probably does not require a separate cost estimate, although I strongly suspect that a large flatscreen TV is intended to remedy the architect’s childhood bitterness at always having owned the smallest and oldest TV on the block.

The least ‘clear’ of the early sketches for this building project, a close-up on the quadrant of the lower-level designated to serve as ‘living room.’

TOTAL COST ESTIMATE FOR CONSTRUCTION:  $355,000 – $500,000 depending on improvements to the lot, municiple fees, etc.



The National Symbol of Oman

While Oman’s true national symbol is the khanjar, a wickedly curved knife in a gilt silver scabbard still worn on formal occasions (equivalent of a black-tie dinner for us in the West), a close second might be the Incense Burner.  The Frankincense trade originated in southern Oman, Salalah Governate, and therefore, in almost any local market the smell of burning incense quickly overwhelms a visitor whose palate is unaccustomed to such a fug.

Three-storey incense burner at Riyam Park. If lit it might serve as a nice emergency lighthouse for shipping in the Gulf of Oman.

As part of the national effort to enshrine the Incence Burner, several years ago the Muscat Governate erected a giant white statue of a burner on a headland between Old Muscat and Mutrah, in the vicinity of Riyam Park.  When visitors first drive past this monument, heads turn.  Is it a spaceship?  Modern art?  A relic of some misguided brutalist 70’s architectural campaign?  It’s weird, sure, but soon it blends into the background, a part of Muscat, a landmark useful for navigating around town, with people saying stuff like:  “You know where the Incense Burner is?” rather than “Near Riyam Park.”

One might think this is weird, sure, Not Quite Right, certainly.  But we should remember that an Omani is likely to find our kitschy American fascination with something like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or a huge statue of a spoon and cherry equally odd.

Small Town 9-11 Memorial


I believe this is a relic of the World Trade Center, transplanted into this Pennsylvania field.

Just across the border from where my family and I now live in New Jersey, the community of Newtown, PA, has put together a Garden of Reflection in memory of 9-11.  In need of some reflection, I visited it today.  While this was not the town where the plane crashed in the Pennsylvania farmfield, many people from the area were directly affected and the names of the 17 from Bucks’ County form the central ring of this stark, zenlike memorial.  In fact, one notable aspect of the Garden is its situation in the middle of rolling Dutch-Amish countryside just as if it had been the farmfield crash-site.  Then, more subtly, as a visitor strolls the grounds, a second architectural/artistic element reveals itself: a series of earthen berms radiating from the memorial like shockwaves.  It sends a definite message of one-pointedness and focus, perhaps an attempt to recapture some of the feeling of unity and (rage-inspired?) patriotism that overflowed, Pearl Harbor-style, the first few days and weeks and months after this tragedy.

While I found the clean lines and stainless-steal-and-glass construction somewhat contradictory (a stretch to say NQR) when compared to the chaos and dust and flame and utter destruction of the event itself, the place offers a certain quiet that is useful, if not a perfect metaphor.  Beyond this cleanliness and precision, or in addition to it, what I found more important and far more movingly human were the trinkets and tokens placed around the names of the victims.  They are the real cause for reflection:  lives chipped and chiseled and changed in ways unpredictably strange and sad, people left to live on without loved ones.

The names of all 2996 people killed immediately during the 9-11 attacks.

Due to these spontaneous, individualized additions and accretions, the memorial, despite its depersonalized design, personalizes the attack of 9-11 and sets the uncaring brutality of steel, concrete, and modern machines (like jetliners) in forceful opposition to the universal issues of human suffering that touch everyone regardless of nation, creed or religion.

Placard for one the seventeen Bucks' County residents. The antiseptic cleanliness of its construction contrasts remarkably with the dangling, improvised crucifix.

House of the Lock

As I sit, alone, in Israel on the last of this year’s many travels in the Middle East I am reminded of one of the better, funnier remarks my sons made during our travels.  Wesley, my eldest — after finishing one of the many long visits I forced him to endure at some ruin or archeological site — said:  “Just because something is old doesn’t make it interesting.”

I like ruins.  And I like museums.  Correspondingly, my wife and children have been taken to many, many such places during this year of our travels.  They just didn’t want to see more of what they consider ‘the same’ in Israel (while I’m eagerly anticipating a packed itinerary:  Jersusalem, Golan Heights, Nazareth, Masada, etc, etc, over the next couple of days).

So, here is a short entry about a true ‘pile of old rocks’ . . . the Bait al-Qufl, or ‘House of the Lock’ which is a structure unique to the Musandum Penninsula (the little isolated rocky headline belonging to Oman which juts out toward Iran and nearly cuts the Arabian Sea from the Indian Ocean).  It seems the villagers in this remote area would leave their homes for the entire summer, taking their flocks up into the cooler mountains.  To avoid carrying all their earthly possessions up the steep Musandum slopes, they devised small stone storage houses with ingenious, hidden, stone-locking doors.  They then packed all their valuables up in the rooms, sealed them, and went on holiday in the hills until the summer heat grew tolerable again.

All that remain of these houses are a few foundations, a few piles of stones.

I allowed my boys to sit in the air-conditioned car while I scampered through the ruins, snapping a few photos.  Personally, I feel it it’s Not Quite Right of my children to be prejudiced against old things just because they are old. (The ‘old‘ remark felt a little personal, perhaps).  But, I have to admit that this barren-looking photo makes a pretty strong argument in their favor.

Two 'Houses of the Lock' near Khasab, Oman.