Inspiration from Roma - Elizabeth Unique Hotel

As architects in Charleston, we are students of history successfully meeting modernity and seek out those moments when homage is paid to historic structures with meaningful renovations for current day functions. During a recent visit to Rome, we found ourselves in one such transformation at the Palazzo Pulieri Ginetti - the Elizabeth Unique Hotel. An ancient palazzo, lush and thoughtful interiors by Studio Marincola Architects, art curated by the nearby Russo Art Gallery - it’s a wonder we ever left. The architects, interior designers, artists and craftspeople involved with this hotel design struck the perfect balance of honoring the historic vessel it inhabits while offering an environment that is somehow bold and restrained at the same time; the details were as powerful as the overarching effect. Bravo, we will be learning from this one for a long time.

Entry lobby. Artist:  Enrico Benetta

Entry lobby. Artist: Enrico Benetta

Monumental stair design was perfection: carrara marble, lighted gold handrails with dark wood guards. Sculpture:  Enrico Benetta

Monumental stair design was perfection: carrara marble, lighted gold handrails with dark wood guards. Sculpture: Enrico Benetta

Manuel Felisi’s  collage anchors the stair landing. [If you know the lighting designer / manufacturer for the light fixtures, please let us know.]

Manuel Felisi’s collage anchors the stair landing. [If you know the lighting designer / manufacturer for the light fixtures, please let us know.]

Edited entry into the room, neutral colors, arches are introduced with gold accents.

Edited entry into the room, neutral colors, arches are introduced with gold accents.

Old meets new: vintage black and white sceneries printed on wall covering adds a nostalgic layer but the execution and composition is quite contemporary.

Old meets new: vintage black and white sceneries printed on wall covering adds a nostalgic layer but the execution and composition is quite contemporary.

Probably the best color of blue we have ever seen was introduced on the wall separating the sleeping area from the utilities. You can see the gold accents better here.

Probably the best color of blue we have ever seen was introduced on the wall separating the sleeping area from the utilities. You can see the gold accents better here.

Giorgio Tentolini’s  wire net artworks. This person is a genius.

Giorgio Tentolini’s wire net artworks. This person is a genius.

“Dandelion” by Enrico Benetta

“Dandelion” by Enrico Benetta

Sketches from Roma

“Traveling - it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.” Battuta

Professor Rodriguez did a very comprehensive job teaching our History of Architecture classes at Virginia Tech back in the day, but nothing compares to standing in front of or inside these architectural giants and studying by drawing. Here are some of the rough travel sketches, mostly exploring scale, form and massing, from our recent trip to Rome.

Our favorite view within the Piazza Del Popolo is of the (seamingly) twin churches Santa Maria di Montesano (left, 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right, 1675-79) with the ancient Egyptian obelisk centered and Via del Corso starting between the churches.

Our favorite view within the Piazza Del Popolo is of the (seamingly) twin churches Santa Maria di Montesano (left, 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (right, 1675-79) with the ancient Egyptian obelisk centered and Via del Corso starting between the churches.

Closer view of the Santa Maria di Montesano in the Piazza del Popolo; not shown is the Italian street performer next to me singing ‘Sweet Dreams’ by the Eurythmics.

Closer view of the Santa Maria di Montesano in the Piazza del Popolo; not shown is the Italian street performer next to me singing ‘Sweet Dreams’ by the Eurythmics.

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There is a church every turn you make in Rome. San Giacomo in Augusta was next to our hotel and after walking past it for days, we finally peeked in…speechless. Decided to draw the floor plan to convey the mass, construction and robustness.

There is a church every turn you make in Rome. San Giacomo in Augusta was next to our hotel and after walking past it for days, we finally peeked in…speechless. Decided to draw the floor plan to convey the mass, construction and robustness.

Interior of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. This sketch was rushed and does not come close to conveying the scale and reverence of this space. May need to sketch this one again.

Interior of Santa Sabina on Aventine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. This sketch was rushed and does not come close to conveying the scale and reverence of this space. May need to sketch this one again.

This gives you an idea of scale of Santa Sabina, if the door was this big.

This gives you an idea of scale of Santa Sabina, if the door was this big.

The Ponte dei Quattro Capi bridge is from 62 BC.

The Ponte dei Quattro Capi bridge is from 62 BC.

Historic architecture and fabric was the main focus, but finding Richard Meier’s modern  Ara Pacis Museum  was a highlight.

Historic architecture and fabric was the main focus, but finding Richard Meier’s modern Ara Pacis Museum was a highlight.

Crafts + Arts

“Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite -- getting something down.” Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way

Some of our favorite craftspeople and artists who as Julia Cameron would say are “ getting something down.”

KHALIMA LIGHTS, Wadmalaw Island, SC | Copper and Brass Handcrafted Lighting

We came across the talented husband and wife team at Khalima Lights when we were designing the interiors for the new Firefly Distillery building. Handcrafted from copper and raw steel, their fixtures are honest, simple and artful. [Shown below: “Bare Firefly Pendant”, “Waycaster Pendant” and “The Pablo".] Click here for their website.

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JEREMIAH JOSSIM, Savannah, GA | Artist

Jeremiah Jossim’s landscape series, painted on circular canvases, stopped us in our tracks while on a tour of the Savannah College of Art + Design, his alma mater. [Shown below: “Seascape #5”, “Seascape #4” and “Desert #1.”] Click here for his website.

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NIKKI GALAPON, Richmond, VA | Artist

Contemporary and abstract artist, Nikki Galapon is a former architecture school classmate from the Virginia Tech days. Her maps series, our favorite, layers pen and ink sketches and color over vintage maps. [Shown here: Boston and Lower Manhattan] Click here for her website.

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22 years in Charleston | An Ode to Clark + Menefee

Today is Rush and Judy Dixon's "Relocating to Charleston" anniversary and Clark + Menefee (a brilliant but now disbanded architecture firm) is, by and large, to thank. The makings of this inspired chapter of two interns coming to this magnetic city started with a third year assignment at Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies. We were to visit an off-campus piece of architecture, study/sketch/photograph the building's merits and report back to the studio. The Middleton Inn was chosen, which at the time had recently been completed, garnering press and design awards. It was liberating to read how an inn just steps from The Middleton Plantation was boldly modern yet rooted in historic and local contexts. The stucco walls, the chimney pots, the "Charleston Green" paint, wood shutters, the rigor of the floor plan and detailing of the guest rooms are still humbling after all years. 

 

“We saw it as a chance to prove that modernism didn’t have to be strident or out of place, so we took careful pains to have that reflect touches of Charleston tradition,” Clark says.

[from Robert Behre's Post + Courier article in 2011 as the building turned 25 years old.]

That visit securely planted the Charleston seed. Future excursions showed us the charm of the historic city, its cosmopolitan and European soul, and the reality of how an historic city can be relevant in a modern world. Happy Anniversary indeed.

Sketchbook 1.0

An architect's sketchbook is many things: a journal, a safe place to work through a design, a travel companion, basically an extension of our brain that we carry in our hand.  Above all else, it is a way for us to document our thoughts and mental images to a tangible reality.  The presence of technology in every nearly facet of our lives [computer renderings, BIM, emails instead of phone calls, even our grocery list is an app] makes it even more important for us to ground ourselves by putting pen to paper regularly.  Our sketchbooks aren't perfect - there are a lot of scribbles, notes, emerging and discarded design ideas, fingerprints, ink smudges - but perhaps that makes it better. There is a "realness" inside a sketchbook; an intimate look at process or a moment in time. 

This excerpt from the Sketchbook Curator Blog sums it up perfectly.  

"It’s often the physical act of drawing that artists get inspiration from. It’s the openness of a blank page that gives all the freedom for the artist to draw, paint, paste, and damage. It’s those papers bound together that gives perhaps the disconnected, random sketches a sequence, narrative, or an identity as a whole. Sketchbook, either as private or public entity, is a space of freedom and expression for any artist; it is their companion and reflection of their identity."
Stack of sketchbooks in the RDA studio

Stack of sketchbooks in the RDA studio

One of many layout sketches of competition boards circa 1993, Virginia Tech.

One of many layout sketches of competition boards circa 1993, Virginia Tech.

Travel Sketch, Savannah, GA 2008

Travel Sketch, Savannah, GA 2008

Sketching the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC was a reflective way to acknowledge the dark happenings of our city and pay respect. 

Sketching the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC was a reflective way to acknowledge the dark happenings of our city and pay respect.