Florida Solar, Vote “NO!” on Amendment 1, 2016

We are working on a home in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s been an extremely interesting and complicated process. From approvals to design, there have been surprises at every turn.

solar-panels

The building will house our client’s extensive art collection and meet the demands for air quality, temperature and humidity required by public museums. The site runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the intercostal waterway-so the conditions are challenging. It is certainly not your average residential project.

Working with NY Engineers we have designed a high performance HVAC system to manage the indoor air quality, temperature, and humidity. We have also sought expert advice from glazing consultants to select the best high performance glass to make the building as energy efficient as possible. Large over hangs also shield the building during the hottest times of the day to reduce solar heat gain.

solar_array

But all of that is only part of our strategy to get the project to net zero—or in other words, to produce the same of amount of energy the house consumes. It’s a large home, with some 30,000 square feet of conditioned space. So to bring the project to zero, photovoltaics are planned to be the hero of the story.

You may have heard that it is not possible for solar to replace fossil fuels, but technology is moving us closer every day—even on such a large building. Because of the large expanse of roof area on the residence, we are able to have an array of panels substantial enough to produce roughly the same amount of energy the house consumes. It is really amazing—but there is a catch: Solar panels only make electricity when the sun is shining. The approach most home owners take to achieve Net Zero is to produce more energy than can be consumed during daylight hours. The energy leftover is transferred back to the grid for neighbors and businesses to use—ultimately reducing the amount of fossil fuel burned.

This is called net metering. The excess power is sold back to the grid and the homeowner would receive a credit. At night, when the panels are not generating power, the owners use their credits to buy power from the grid.

It’s a wonderful system—especially on hot summer days when the electrical grids are taxed the most by high consumption due to air conditioning.

The problem: just this year, the state of Florida passed a law to allow “net metering”. But nearly as soon as the law was passed, big energy companies started fighting this law and have since proposed a constitutional amendment to prevent people from net metering. This is outrageous. It discourages people from using solar and turning sunshine into clean, renewable energy.

See the link to the ballot measure: https://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Right_to_Solar_Energy_Choice_Initiative,_Amendment_1_(2016)

It is worded in a very confusing manner—intentionally, I surmise. Voting “yes” would appear to give Floridians the right to choose and operate solar panels on their homes. But in reality a “yes” vote is to eliminate net metering. Companies like Duke Power, Florida Power and Light and Koch Industries want Floridians to vote “Yes.” The reason is that a “Yes” vote ends the ability of electricity customers to feed excess solar energy onto the grids. The Big Power industry does not want individuals to make their own power as it will reduce their market share. Vote “NO” to defeat this measure and allow individuals to make solar power and share it with the grid.

Florida is one of the best states in the country for producing solar power due to the number of consistent days of sunshine. It’s also one of the most vulnerable states facing rising oceans. A vote “NO” will promote the use of solar power in Florida—a necessary move for our country.

To take action, click on this link: http://www.flsolarchoice.org/

Reflecting on Our Mirrors

Well, it’s been a year since the mirrors debuted at the Aspen Art Museum’s annual summer benefit. And it seemed time to pause and think about our experiment in creating these objects.

Since the AAM 2015 benefit, the mirrors have traveled to the Fog Fair in San Francisco with Salon 94, Hong Kong for Art Basel, and most recently London, for a photoshoot with Wallpaper Magazine.

It’s been quite a journey—for the mirrors—oh the places they’ve seen! And the faces the mirrors have peered back at!

To pull the curtain back, the idea for the project sprung out of watching our fellow humans in museums and art fairs, and also seeing Facebook and Instagram posts of museums and art fairs. A constant theme seemed to emerge: a shiny work of art is as a good as bathroom mirror. Click. Selfie made. Then post selfie and somewhere at the bottom of the post hashtag the name of the artist—to show cultural awareness. Check.

11899526_1481638978832177_1816890207_n

DSC_0807-771x1024

Facebook

Our mirrors masquerade as art, and also as mirrors—and not the best mirrors, for inevitably when you look into them, you’ll end up seeing up a nostril, are seeing the lighting in the ceiling above you. On the positive side, for those who like deals, due to the kaleidoscope effect, the viewer will sometimes see slices of your own likeness five times instead of just once! Imagine, five times the enjoyment of seeing oneself!

What is it about our society that likes to see ourselves reflected—particularly in art? Or is this really anything new at all? Ask yourself. And please, if you have the opportunity, look at our mirrors and see what you see.

image7

Suzanne

Dolly

image4

AFAM: An Unpopular Perspective

The final fate of the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) in New York has been in the headlines again. Just last week, MoMA began demolition of the AFAM’s heralded, heavy bronze façade. Many voices, both professional and public, have decried MoMA’s decision and actions, but I for one support their move. Here’s why:

The smaller museum was already a compromised, tight space when it was entirely its own entity. It is not possible to make narrow cramped spaces work with the program of the large gallery spaces MoMA needs, unless you’re a magician.

Was the AFAM really so good that it deserved to be saved? I just don’t see the merit in saving it for its own sake.

I visited AFAM when it first opened with my mother who loves all things crafted by hand. I recall thinking the confined spaces, colors, details, lighting, and materials had little if not nothing to do with the wonderful artifacts displayed in the museum. There was a skylight that spilled light down through the center, but all in the context of some early 2000’s aesthetic, and certainly not adequately. Movement through the building was awkward, and the design did not have the delicacy of the things that were inside it. The massive facade, which I thought was sculpturally beautiful, was a contrast to the collection, but not the kind of contrast that helps one appreciate the difference between unlike things. The building didn’t reflect the spirit of American folk art in any way. I think that was unfortunate, and ultimately it’s downfall. The façade-a beautiful architectural element on it’s own (and monument to the designers) was so severe it stifled the collection.


AFAM_02

Also, the façade was an obviously expensive gesture and that, too, didn’t strike the right note with the humble nature of the treasures within. In short, it felt like a bunker or a bank, and that’s exactly the opposite experience appropriate. The end result was the museum’s purpose could not be fulfilled.


folk-art-1.jpg.662x0_q100_crop-scale

But there’s another aspect to this debacle that concerns me, and it has to do with the architects involved. Years ago, there was a panel discussion regarding what to do with the Huntington Hartford Museum on Columbus Circle, designed by Edward Durrell Stone and whether or not to landmark it with Landmarks Preservation. Billie Tsien spoke up and talked about what could be done to it in terms of additions or insertions and was very much in favor of completely altering the building—in my opinion almost as though interviewing for the position. She expressed little concern or appreciation for Stone’s design. We all saw what became of the iconic Hartford Museum, re-skinned to match its corporate neighbor, and made unrecognizable from its original design. Now I find it ironic that Ms. Tsien is one of the loudest voices when her AFAM was threatened with destruction. Todd Williams and Billie Tsien designed a Brutalist building for AFAM; it didn’t function very well, and like the Hartford Museum, it, too, became obsolete. Perhaps if the building had been truly inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of the collection within, the public would have swelled and decried its demise. Perhaps if the building were designed so that people could visit it and be inspired to craft…


Clem-2-Columbus-Circle-Edward-Durell-Stone
columbus-large

So I’m left wondering: Is the phrase “location, location, location…” always in the best interest of a small institution? The AFAM moved to be next door to MoMA hoping for visitors by adjacency. They hired a big name architect to give them a “product”. What they got was near bankruptcy, and nearly de-acquisitioning of the entire collection to the Smithsonian and no museum at all.

Palm Beach Modern

The Sun and Surf in Palm Beach.  Designed by Eugene Lawrence, it provides a striking contrast to the more traditional neighboring styles.

The Sun and Surf in Palm Beach. Designed by Eugene Lawrence, it provides a striking contrast to the more traditional neighboring styles.

We were recently commissioned to design a contemporary house in Palm Beach, a community well known for its Mediterranean style architecture – less known for its once celebrated modernist works. Although many examples were built throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including work by Edward Durrell Stone, they seldom make an appearance in books about the history of Palm Beach architecture.

Distinctive, pencil-thin columns define 400 South Ocean Boulevard, designed by Edward Durell Stone in the late 1950s.

Distinctive, pencil-thin columns define 400 South Ocean Boulevard, designed by Edward Durell Stone in the late 1950s.

Part of our process in designing a contemporary house is to research the modern tradition within the region so that our work respects its heritage while presenting a fresh iteration. In this case, we studied Palm Beach modernism.  Unfortunately, as conservative values and traditional styles took hold in the early nineteen-eighties, the value of modernism declined and the majority of these buildings were demolished.

La Ronda, an estate designed by Architect John Volk in 1969, was demolished in 2003

La Ronda, an estate designed by Architect John Volk in 1969, was demolished in 2003

During its heyday in the mid-20th century, Palm Beach modernism was a lively juxtaposition to the ubiquitous terra cotta tiled roofs and stucco walls.  Even Maurice Fatio, the Swiss born architect who became a legend for his Mediterranean Style homes, adopted a streamline sensibility to serve his client’s growing appetite for modernism.  In 1936 he produced one of the most elegant and earliest examples of Palm Beach modern design – The Reef, an 18,000 square foot beachfront estate.  Today it remains as one of the few, perhaps only, well preserved modern homes in Palm Beach.

An example of streamlined modern: The Reef by Maurice Fatio in 1936

An example of streamlined modern: The Reef by Maurice Fatio in 1936

However, the majority of modern homes have been demolished or poorly remodeled and we were left wondering how to imagine Palm Beach modern in its day.   We searched for remnants from the era. Leafing through local magazines from the 1950s and 60s, at the Society of the Four Arts Library, we discovered that Palm Beach had welcomed various waves of experimentation, imported styles, and mid-century modernism.

One Royal Palm Way Condominium, designed by Architect Howard Chilton

One Royal Palm Way Condominium, designed by Architect Howard Chilton

One image we collected catches an elegant couple emerging from a gleaming Rolls Royce.  It’s the early 1960s. They stand, impeccably dressed, against a background of steel mullions, concrete columns and flared capitols. Paper lanterns hang from an undulating roof edge and sway in the evening breeze.  The scene conveys “worldly elegance” and the ease of 1960’s modernity.  Sadly, this part of the fabled Colony Hotel was long ago demolished.

The Colony

Looking at the surviving example below – a series of sculpted sunshade screens add rhythm to the gracefully contoured building. The condominium, designed by Howard Chilton in the late 1960s, stands to this day as a mid-century gem.  Even 43 years after completion, the screens impart a lively, eye-catching quality.  Recently, the building’s owners wanted to permanently remove the screens to facilitate window replacement, but the Palm Beach Architectural Review Commission rejected the proposal siting the need to preserve the few remaining works of modern architecture.  That’s good news because it’s by looking back on historic examples like these that our future vision for a Palm Beach residence has been enlivened by its modern legacy.

Screens create character and shading for 389 South Lake Drive, designed by Howard Chilton

Screens create character and shading for 389 South Lake Drive, designed by Howard Chilton

Whisper Raum

WR_1
For Stone Fox Architects' debut blog, we explore the inspiration and genesis of Chris and David's particularly special creation… namely, the Whisper Raum. Donated to the December 2013 Winter Auction benefitting the Aspen Art Museum (AAM), Whisper Raum is a free-standing, six-foot-tall object d'art. Designed to accommodate two seated adults, the almost-emerald green, multi-angled volume is hinged along one side to permit entry and exit via a handsome, handcrafted leather strap.

Here is their discussion:

Q: What was your inspiration for Whisper Raum?

Chris: In a world where everything is being watched and monitored, how do we get away from it all, even if only for a moment? I wanted to create that space.

David: I see the Whisper Raum as a place for telling a story, perhaps a secret. It was to be a private retreat, offering a way of disconnecting from the surroundings.

Q: Where does the name for this piece come from?

David: "Raum" is the German word for space. I was in Germany for a while, attended the University of Stuttgart, and worked as an intern for HOK. I wanted our creation to have an air of curiosity, even a bit of
mystery. So Whisper Raum is a play and contrast of both familiar and unknown words.

Chris: "Whisper" seemed obvious from the start, as it's an enclosed space, one where you enter to have an offline, quiet conversation. I wanted people to think about how they might use such a place.

WR_4

Q: You mentioned a recent trip to London, specifically visiting the Sir John Soane Museum and about seeing – entirely by chance – the remarkable Cheapside Hoard. How did the museum and the jewels affect
you?

Chris: Sir John Soane wore many hats in his lifetime as an architect, designer, and art collector. The result is evident in the museum; his three town homes all combined where one can walk through a large
opening only to end up in a very small, very intimate space filled with fascinating details. I liked that sense of intrigue, delight and playfulness.


soane-6

David: On that same trip, we happened upon the Cheapside Hoard Exhibition at the Museum of London, which included a giant emerald with a carved-out space where a watch was inserted. This emerald contained the unexpected. And that's what we wanted Whisper Raum to be and do: to fascinate and to surprise. To see the Hoard, one often had to use a magnifying glass and in doing so one could witness an other-worldly detachment. All of these elements came together for the Whisper Raum.

CheapsideHoarde9cheapside-hoard
Q: Clearly, this was custom-fabrication. What went into making the Whisper Raum?

David: We turned to Aucapina Cabinets, an oldschool crafting shop in Queens run by three brothers from Ecuador, whom we've used before on very special projects. They have a 10,000 square-foot facility with a staff of 30 and do the best-quality work. It took six weeks.

39

Chris: We had to figure out how it would be built, materially. To create that contrast and surprise we spoke of earlier, we wanted the exterior to be high gloss, while the interior would be plush and seductive. The shell is made of quarter-inch MDF covered in many layers of hand-finished lacquer. You'll notice the green is deliberately just a little bit off. People question the hue, and our answer is: "it's the right color." It reminds me of what Frank Lloyd Wright said to a client about a color decision; "You'll learn to like it," [laughing].

David: The inside is clad in meticulously cut American walnut; each piece has its own unique shape. The two seats are covered in green mohair velvet. A classic 1960's Italian wall sconce and a cut crystal Czechoslovakian decanter and glass set are the only ornaments within. Finally, there is a two-way mirror, which permits a view outside but only the faintest glimpse of the interior when the sconce is on.Chris: The wall sconce is somewhat reminiscent of a brooch that a fashionable lady from the 1960s might have worn. It reminds me of the jewelry show we saw in London. The result is a subdued world, a place you can share secrets or gossip, and to feel close to another person. We love it.

52

Q: So, what is the experience?

Chris: People ask us, "What does it do?" The answer is, "Nothing." It's what you do when you're inside that defines the function of the Whisper Raum. It's like a telephone booth for a private conversation, only that the other person is there, with you.

David: In this ultra-tech era, one might expect hidden speakers inside, or a plug-in to the internet. But we didn't want that; in fact, it's just the opposite. Take a moment… retreat, relax, contemplate, but at the same time enjoy a bit of whimsy.

931336_l