Posts Tagged ‘RISD’

the coolest house on the planet

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Bursting with pride today! Not for myself but a friend. A smart, ridiculously talented young architect by the name of Benjamin Garcia Saxe, whose personal project just made him the winner in the house category of the 2010 World Architecture Festival. That’s world, people. Winner of the whole freaking world!

Take a look at the magical creation he crafted for his mother in Costa Rica in his spare time. All photos by Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via…

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

All that and much more to enjoy here — read what inspired him, it really gives the project a lovely human spirit. According to yesterday’s announcement

The jury immediately sensed that this project, designed  by Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architect, was a potential winner, and were left in no doubt after the architect’s presentation.

Yay! Ben got his Master of Architecture at RISD in 2007. We know him because we entrusted his beautiful and equally talented wife Erika with our most valuable possession: Bix. She took great care of him from the age of 8 months to 3 years at our home and theirs. After Ben graduated, they moved to London where Erika pursued dance and Ben went to work doing great things for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, I’m sure.

The last time we saw them, Ben gave us this amazing plywood sculpture for Bix…

bix’s sculpture via

bix’s sculpture via

We love that piece and will treasure it forever! I’ll be sure to post a photo of it in Bix’s room, where it lives.

Congratulations again, Benji. I hope you and Erika are sipping champagne tonite!

garden bones: the design

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Our yard yearns to be a garden. Sadly, it’s more like a ski jump. Without walls to tame the slope, nothing can get planted and the yard is basically unusable. The hardscaping really is the skeleton for any landscaping to come. Here’s the down-and-dirty decision-making for retaining walls.

What to build them out of?

We briefly entertained the idea of replacing our rotting timber retaining walls with stone. True to New England, yes…

traditional stone wall |

traditional stone wall |

But not in keeping with the style of the house. And because of the height we need, we’d still require concrete and rebar and whatnot to keep them from toppling over.

We talked to contractors about keyed block…

keyed block retaining wall |

keyed block retaining wall |

Absolutely the fastest, easiest, cheapest alternative. You see keyed block used in Lowe’s and Home Depot parking lots — a lot. Maybe that’s why it’s just not for us.

Those two choices eliminated, we took a closer look at what we have to work with. Both retaining walls actually touch the house’s concrete foundation… they’re kind of an extension of the house out into the landscape. When you think of it that way, it just makes sense to go with concrete as the wall material. Easy choice.

How should they look?

We want to echo a few design details from the house to tie the walls in visually…

angled walls

Angle. We want the driveway wall to pick up on the walls of our front steps.

wall detail

Beveled edges. We want this detail everywhere.

We want to build some function into the concrete walls — why not, right? In front, that means wood storage. Out back, small tool storage. We also wanted easy access to the yard from the front, which means adding steps…

step detail

Any new concrete steps need to look like the original ones.

Who’s perfect to help?

In the hunt for help on the interior remodel, I was lucky to come across Markus Berger, president of Inside Out Design and assistant professor of interior architecture at RISD. He’s daring. Talented. Loves our funky house. Understands our passion for modern. Great reasons for him to work with us on plans for the inside — and outside, on the retaining walls. Naomi Clare is his able assistant. Love her.

Both walls are well over 4′ tall. In Providence, that means you need an engineer to cover structural requirements and get your project approved by the city. Markus hooked us up with Erik Anders Nelson — an extremely clever engineer working at Structures Workshop, also an adjunct professor at RISD.

Got plans?

Heck yeah, we got plans! I’ll cut to the chase, since we’re playing catch-up anyway… Click the images to biggify.

Design for the front wall:

front retaining wall | Inside Out Design

Design for the back wall:

back retaining wal | Inside Out Design

Engineering plans:

engineering detail, both walls

engineering plan, back wall details

Actual walls up next! Bear with me, we’re almost caught up.

a note about irving

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The house was buried in the Providence Craigslist real estate postings under the standard fare of colonials, capes and Victorians. I remember pulling up to the house for the first time. After more than 30 disappointing property viewings, we’d finally found it: our bold, sunny modern.

The real estate agent told us the house was built by a Rhode Island School of Design architecture school grad student — a woman no less. We liked the sound of that. But a trip to the city records revealed that  the architect of our house was actually a well-seasoned New England native by the name of Irving B. Haynes. A little online sleuthing told us more… and then we really got psyched.

Born in Waterville, Maine, in 1927, Irving became an architect, a long-time RISD professor, historic preservationist, jazz musician and an accomplished painter. He was a busy, busy man that Irving. His art would look completely at home in this house.

Just a few of my favorites from his website, which you should really visit if you’re into this kind of thing:


1969 | Untitled, watercolor on paper 15"x20"


1974 | Untitled, watercolor on paper 18"x24"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 14"x17"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


1988 | Untitled, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


1998 | Johnny's Boogie, acrylic on paper 44"x30"


2003 | Blue Roof, acrylic on paper 30"x22"


2004 | Well-Braced, acrylic on paper 14"x17"

Writer Joe Leduc in the art journal Big, Red and Shiny shares this bit of history about Irving:

Born in Maine, Haynes came to Rhode Island in 1948 as a transfer student to RISD from Colby College.  After earning degrees in painting and architecture, he spent the 1950s working for a variety of architectural firms by day and playing jazz by nights in area nightclubs. By 1968… Haynes had his own architectural practice, Haynes and Associates, in Providence. Another career began in 1973, when he started teaching Foundation Studies at his alma mater, assuming an Assistant Professorship in 1980.  Haynes’ association with RISD would continue, as he retired from architectural practice in 1990 to concentrate on painting and teaching, becoming a Full Professor in 1997 before retiring in 2005.

There’s not a ton of information online about Irving. Someday I may make a trip to the RISD Library to see what else I can find out. In the meantime, here are a few more links for anyone who stumbles across this post and is so inclined:

  • A writeup of the man and his art for a posthumous show of his work in 2005 at RISD’s Industrial Design Department Gallery in the Brown Daily Herald.

Thank you, Irving, for designing a house we absolutely love. We promise to keep any updates true to the spirit of the house. And put some Brubeck on the turntable every now and then.

baby pictures

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

minty 1972, corner view

The average cost of a house in the U.S. in 1972: $27,550. Roughly what you’d pay today for a Chevy Impala fully loaded, if you actually wanted such a thing. I’ll take the house, please. What it cost in 1972 to have the fairly modest modern above designed and built with the help of a local architect in Providence… no idea. But it’s now ours! And we love it.

Click the images for big-ification.

minty 1972, back view

Here’s the background we’ve been able to dig up on our home since we dragged our very first moving box inside in January of 2008…

minty 1972, front view

Designed and built: The blueprints say May 1971. Construction was completed in 1972.

Original owner: Kathleen McBride. Wanted a house she could share with her aging parents — they got the downstairs with an efficiency kitchen and bath, she got the upstairs with its own kitchen and bath.

Architect: Irving B. Haynes, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design in 1951. He returned there to teach from ’73 to ’05. Started Haynes and Associates in 1968, which became Haynes, deBoer and Associates. Irving passed on in ’05. The architecture firm, still active (but no website?!), was nice enough to share photos of the construction — sweet! — as well as blueprints. BLUEPRINTS! That’s like striking gold.

And now, a few snaps of our house in its infancy… awwwwwwwww.

construction, looking down the hill

construction, the front

construction, downstairs

construction, progress on the front

construction, second floor added

construction, looking out entry from top of stairs
upstairs, looking out big window

view of deck

looking up at deck

view of front, almost finished

view of front from top of the hill