All Hail Marilyn Hagerty!!!

13 03 2012

OK, this really isn’t about architecture, or even art, per se; but it is about appreciating what works nicely in your sphere of influence and avoiding the pitfalls of snobbery.

Judy and I are self-proclaimed foodies and are usually very selective about the restaurants, particularly chain-restaurants, that we frequent. We happen to live in a region in which we are within driving distance of some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in existence and enjoy sharing those experiences with family and friends. So, I was intrigued, this morning, when I saw the news clip, on television, about Marilyn Hagerty’s review of the local Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I was equally intrigued when I went online to read the growing number of stories about her and her review; I wondered, out loud, What did she say that was considered gouache or inaccurate?

She said:

“The chicken Alfredo was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.”

“The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.”

“My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.”

“All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.”

Well I, for one, agree with Ms. Hagerty; Judy and I have eaten at our local Olive Garden, many times, and have found the atmosphere, the service, the food, and the value a perfect fit into our busy schedules. One of our favorite items is the lunchtime Unlimited Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks. Yes, as Judy pointed out, the meal is high in sodium and fat but, it is still a tasty and satisfying lunch in a great atmosphere.

Now, having said that, I will go back and qualify our credentials; while we consider ourselves foodies,  we have not eaten in all of the many highly rated restaurants of the world (which food critics have?) nor do either of us carry the credentials of a highly respected food critic (and, that’s also subjective). We do, however,  consider ourselves decent cooks in our own right, eat out (a fair amount), and have friends who own “A” list restaurants; so, take the following with, at least, a grain of really good salt…

Shouldn’t going out to eat, as in art and architecture, be a gestalt experience including atmosphere, service, food quality, service, value?

We have gone out to some highly rated eateries and been profoundly disappointed; and, it was usually based on one of the criteria, above. We  are well aware that many of fine cuisine dishes, that we have enjoyed, are equally loaded in sodium and fats; we have been tortured by rude and slow service; we have had the over-done, poorly presented, freshly prepared specials; and, have paid astronomical prices for those experiences.

We have also gone into many of the national chains in which the managers and staff take great pride in their establishment; they keep it spotlessly clean and fresh; they work hard to insure that each dish is prepared precisely according to its recipe; and we have enjoyed great value in our experience and investment.

We have also lived a spent a fair amount of our lives, in smaller towns and communities where the  new chain is a welcomed addition to the local and limited selections of fast-food (and, I’m not slamming fast-food, you just need that dining experience on occasion).

So, here’s to the Marilyn Hagerty’s of the world and their efforts to provide the right perspectives for their audience; for being unbiased; for understanding gestalt; but, most of all, not being a snob.

One last comment before I close:

Judy and I have been craving KFC, lately, and i may just go out and get a bucket of “finger-licking good” for dinner, tonight!



8 02 2012

This is an update on a project the Hue Architecture has been involved in since late 2007. The project, featured in the rendering below, has had its share of starts and stops but is now scheduled to be completed late Spring of this year.

400 Block of North Market Street in Downtown Wilmington, Delaware

The property, stretching from 4th to 5th Streets and situated on the Easterly side of North Market Street, has a varied history of commerce and habitation. Many of the buildings were a part of the vibrant downtown fabric of Wilmington commerce that was active for 100+ years prior to the urban flight that plagued so many other cities across our country during the mid part of the 20th Century. By the early 1990’s these buildings had become decaying shells of the original glory only to be compounded by the encroachment of a new office building, The Renaissance Center, which started construction in 2005.

The Renaissance Center, Fronting on North King Street, eventually took most of the block, from King to Market, for the office tower and associated parking garage and all that remained of the Market Street side was the corner buildings (in their entirety) and facades (of the balance) as were required by The City of Wilmington in an effort to preserve the historic character of Market Street. While the Renaissance Center developers had plans for rehabilitation of the Market Street side, the property was eventually sold to Preservation Initiatives (our client) and this odyssey began.

Now, fast forward to 2012, and we are quickly approaching the completion of this unique project. As mentioned above, only the 4th and Market and 5th and Market buildings survived in their entirety; the other structures were whittled down to their facades and about 18′ of dilapidated and unsafe structures. These buildings are now being transformed into unique retail boutiques and eating venues on the street levels and creative living spaces above. The images, below, give a quick “perspective” of how the “bookend” structures are evolving and a taste of what’s to come as North Market Street continues to become a jewel in Downtown Wilmington, Delaware. As the project nears completion, I will provide another update with interior images but, for now, enjoy and share this wonderful evolution!

Corner of 4th and Market Before, Proposed, and Progress

5th and Market Before, Proposed, and Progress

Back in the Saddle???

6 02 2012

In the immortal word of one of my childhood heroes, Gene Autry:

I’m back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again…

Rockin’ to and fro
Back in the saddle again
I go my way
Back in the saddle again…

I seem to run in spurts, on this blogging thing, but I am going to give it another go…I’m going to start out by simply posting one of my poems as I cogitate a more substantial piece on architecture (I’m getting the soapbox back out).

I’ve always heard that many great artists and writers have muses that provide them with inspiration. I too have a muse and you all have heard me speak of her often, as she is the keeper of my heart and soul, my dear Judy. Yes, she provides me with much inspiration but, she also helps me to maintain a great perspective on life and not get to tangled in the daily minutia that can drag many of us down; basically, she keeps me honest with myself.

I must have sensed, early on, the importance of her influence on my life as I wrote the following poem shortly before our decision to spend “Forever” together. It’s kind of nice to dust some of these off…

For Judy:


Elusive muse,

Teasing my want

       With amazing radiance

              And wonder.

Beckon me to forever…


Inquisitive muse,

Stirring my introspection

       With innate curiosity

              And query.

Beckon me to forever…


Inspirational muse,

Heralding my awakening

       With soulful thought

              And possibility.

Beckon me to forever…


Eternal muse,

harmonizing my feelings

       with playful insight

              and balance.

Accompany me to forever!!!

To My Hero…

8 11 2011

I was running a few errands, this morning, and the Enrique Iglesias  song, Hero, began to play on the radio. I was, of course, tapping my foot to the melody and enjoying the beautiful fall day in Judy’s wonderful little convertible and it hit me…

…This is a beautiful song meant for a beautiful person and that beautiful person, to me, is Judy…

Without going to great analytical lengths and pontificating, I just want to say that Judy is my Hero; Judy did save my soul; Judy does take my breath away.

Enjoy the lyrics, enjoy the music video below!


let me be your hero
Would you dance
if I asked you to dance?
Would you run
and never look back?
Would you cry
if you saw me crying?
And would you save my soul, tonight?

Would you tremble
if I touched your lips?
Would you laugh?
Oh please tell me this.
Now would you die
for the one you loved?
Hold me in your arms, tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain.
I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.

Would you swear
that you’ll always be mine?
Or would you lie?
would you run and hide?
Am I in too deep?
Have I lost my mind?
I don’t care…
You’re here tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain.
I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.

Oh, I just want to hold you.
I just want to hold you.
Am I in too deep?
Have I lost my mind?
I don’t care…
You’re here tonight.

I can be your hero, baby.
I can kiss away the pain.
I will stand by your forever.
You can take my breath away.

I can be your hero.
I can kiss away the pain.
And I will stand by you forever.
You can take my breath away.
You can take my breath away.

I can be your hero.

Architectural Music

8 11 2011

Judy and I have a great system, I cook and she reads the local paper to me as I cook; she gets a wonderful meal (usually) and I stay current on news and events (usually). About two weeks ago, as I created another culinary feast, Judy read a story describing a number of Halloween events scheduled around Salem County. While many events were the same old traditional haunted houses, costume contests, hayrides, mazes, etc. one, in particular, caught our eye, that being organ recital entitled, Tunes from the Crypt. As Judy reminded me, we had wanted to attend this event for the past two years but always had a conflict and, while this year appeared to be no different, we still snipped the article and left it on the counter for future reference.

Fast forward to the Monday before Halloween in which a little  (very little) cleaning of the kitchen caused the article regarding Tunes from the Crypt to again surfaced. This time I was the orator and noticed that the event was being held at the St. Johns Episcopal Church in Salem; this instantly reinvigorated my interest as this was one of the gorgeous, historic buildings in downtown Salem that I had wanted to get a peak inside. So, while attendance was still not assured, we now had the incentive of an intriguing organ recital inside of what appeared to be a wonderful architectural treasure…we were not to be disappointed on either account.

Fortunately, as the Friday of the event unfolded, everything fell into place; we scramble around and were able to hit the trash dump, stop by the barn, feed all of the four-legged children, get our Halloween float buttoned up (see pics on the Churchtown Veterinary facebook page), and get our Saturday’s (WPBA) tabling event set up…whew…So, at precisely 5:50, that evening, Judy and I made our way up one of the side aisles of a truly gorgeous church to enjoy, what was soon, truly mystical organ music in an equally intoxicating space.

As we sat, awaiting commencement of the concert, my senses started drinking in the sights, sounds, and feelings of this architectural treasure. The vaulted ceiling, with its beautiful tongued and grooved finish was gorgeous; the stained glass windows were magnificent; the alter and choir apse were incredible spaces; and the organ chamber was phenomenal. According to facts gleaned from St. John’s website, this wonderful structure was dedicated  on February 8, 1838 and is a blend of Norman and Gothic styles which is common of the period. In 1880, a partner of noted architect Frank Furness, George Hewitt designed an enlargement and and renovations, as well as a new Chapel in 1883.

And then, at precisely 6pm, the lights dimmed and our host for the evening, Dr. James Turk, introduced the program and  organ recitalist for the evening. For the next 50 minutes, Dr. Turk and the organist/artist, Joanne Koerber Owen, charmed us with a program that could only be described as enchanting. The creations of Bach, Schumann, Bedell, Alain, and Gigout filled the great sanctuary with a sense of awe; a sensation of combining great music with equally great architecture.

So, today, I offer thanks to all of the sponsors, planners, and patrons of this incredible event . As a matter of fact, there are many upcoming events and concerts scheduled; I would encourage any and all to go to the websites of The Salem County Chamber of Commerce of The Salem County Cultural and Heritage Commission for a complete listing.

And, as I have reported in previous blogs, the arts are definitely flourishing in Salem County, New Jersey!

Mom is NOT an Interior Decorator…

27 10 2011

Or, is She???

Judy and I took a little business trip (OK, she took the business part of it), a couple of weeks ago, and found ourselves in Amarillo, Texas on the return-home leg. The trip, to Amarillo, was planned because that is where this architect was born, raised, partially trained, and (most importantly) where my 82 year-old mother resides. Because we could only stay a couple of days, we spent the time visiting with Mom in her modest little apartment located within a senior living complex near downtown.

Late, during the first afternoon and while Mom took a little nap, Judy leaned over and said, “I really like the way Mom has decorated her apartment”. Of course my first reaction (because I’m such a good son), was to chuckle and say, “You’ve got to be joking”; but I could tell, by her expression, that she was very serious and it caused me to look around to reassess my perspective.

As I said, Mom’s apartment is modest but I still felt compelled (as the naysayer) to look deeper to understand the cause and effect of what Judy found to be so interesting. As a little background, Mom’s apartment is in an older, historic building that was constructed, as an apartment complex, in 1927. The once high-ceiling-ed  units now have suspended ceilings to conceal electrical and mechanical upgrades (as well as insulation) so it made it easy to determine that her apartment is approximately 800 sq. ft., a perfect area for a one-bedroom/ one-bath home. As with all of the rental units, the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. of Mom’s apartment home are of a neutral palette to provide a canvas for the occupant(s) to create “Home”. Another important feature is that the bedroom/bathroom/closet compose only one-third of the space while the living/ dining kitchen fill the balance in an open floor plan that creates a warm, inviting living and entertaining space.

But, that’s the tale-of-the-tape, the nuts & bolts, the blank canvas…what had Mom really done with the space to make it Home?

The first thing that you need to know about Mom is that she LOVES garage sales, she always has; I have early memories of early weekend rounds to see what others might be “getting rid of”. I laughed at this for years but was now compelled to look at the items that dotted the walls and filled her shelves. Mom had taken an eclectic, elegant approach to decoration but, not only was there restraint in quantity, there was also an eye toward combinations and juxtapositions of style; perhaps accidental, perhaps with a keen eye…hhhmmmmmmm…I examined family photo groupings (in various frame styles), classical wall sconces and brackets, and a tripartite mirror (adorned with artificial ivy) on the walls. I also took notice of nicely upholstered furniture, and mix of coffee and end tables, and and assortment of antique-style lamps. Mom had even strategically placed colorful, light-reflecting nick-knacks on the wonderful, deep window sills. The thing was, it was not over done but, tastefully “put together”.

OK, now I was in trouble…I liked it.

During this process of critique, Mom joined us for another round of visiting, reminiscing, etc. and I asked, “where did all of this ‘stuff’ come from”. Her reply (and to no surprise), “well, garage sales, of course”; she then proceeded to give me a quick rundown of many of the items and mentioned pricing that was a low a $0.50 but, seldom exceeding $20.00. She also pointed out a few cherished pieces of furniture that had been purchased when I was a child (made in the days of American made, high-quality).

Needless to say, I was impressed. I had often wondered about the roots of my design sensitivities and had always considered it a fluke of nature and even wondered if I had been mixed, at birth, having been taken from a family of artists, architects, and designers; again…..hmmmmmm. Of course, I know now, I came by my talents naturally and I have my Mom to thank. So……


The other lesson…One does not have to gold-plate a space, there are many great finds in garage sales, second-hand stores, junk shops, etc. Another great place, for unique pieces, is Habitat for Humanity ReStores (of which I am personally involved). And, yet another lesson, take a chance and try different things…perhaps, you too, have an inner, artistic side and can simply, economically turn your living space into a warm and wonderful home…just like Mom!

“If You Build It,…

4 10 2011

…he will come”  Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

The quote, above, is one of  the more famous of one of my all-time favorite movies. The movie, Field of Dreams, was released in April, 1989; a month later, I graduated, with my Masters of Architecture, in May, 1989. Being a Kevin Costner fan, I viewed the film, as soon  as it was available, and instantly added it to my favorites list. Because I’m a fan of the movie, I often think of many of the scenes and also many of the lines; lately, the line above, continues to replay in my mind. And, like many connected with the building industry, I’ve also bastardized the line the line to reflect a philosophy of the last twenty years to say:

“If you build it, ‘they’ will come.”

It seems as though everyone got caught up in this philosophy ; I’ve heard the line repeated often, I’ve repeated it often, and it seemed as though (as in the movie) nothing could be more true.

In connecting some of these dots, I have been reflecting, lately, on the last twenty-plus years, and am amazed at the course of events that I have witnessed; sure there was a blip or two that caused a little worry but, it always seemed to be a temporary bump and everything moved along at exponential speed. As I mentioned earlier, I re-entered the building industry in mid-1989 and immediately played into this growth phenomenon; it seemed as though we couldn’t keep up with the design and construction opportunities that were being presented. As I said, there were slow points, but our design firm was inundated with new industrial and commercial projects including office buildings, retail dealerships, shopping centers, schools, medical facilities, apartment and condominium complexes, restaurants, hotels, factories, warehouses, etc.; at the same time, residential developers were  on a similar building binge creating development after development across the American landscape. Thing were great and, to compound this blizzard of activity moreover, the banks and other lenders, seemed to be throwing money at anyone who could put together a semi-plausible deal. And, all along, that famous (bastardized) line, If you build it, ‘they’ will come”, continued to be repeated and, unfortunately, believed. As a matter of fact, this reminds me of another famous exchange in Field of Dreams:

John Kinsella: Is this heaven?
Ray Kinsella: It’s Iowa.
John Kinsella: Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.
Ray Kinsella: Is there a heaven?
John Kinsella: Oh yeah. It’s the place where dreams come true.
Ray Kinsella: Maybe this is heaven.

You can probably imagine the twist but, to assist, it wasn’t Iowa, it was an explosion of expansionism and we all thought it was heaven.

As I said earlier, I too got caught up in the frenzy; repeated the line often, and saw no end to the wave we were all riding. I believed, so strongly, that I started my little firm in 2006, knowing that I would also take the world by storm and, no doubt, get rich in the process. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid, believed all of those around me,starting churning out a few nice projects, and started planning my empire. Unfortunately, dawn broke on 2007 and, though I couldn’t imagine it at the time, my charging locomotive derailed in such dramatic fashion that I still wince (and shed a few tears) when  I look back on the cataclysm; as quickly as I grew, I fell. Just as unfortunate, many of my contemporaries in the building industry also collapsed into obscurity; as a matter of fact, many throughout corporate America have also faltered and we have found ourselves in a great recession (I still refuse to use the term, depression).

Through this evolution of the last few years, many of us have been humbled and many of us have lost everything (some more than everything). Many of us are still trying to re-build ourselves and, though some have become pessimistic, many of us still believe in the power of positive thinking and are looking at ways to re-invent ourselves. It is not going to be easy, the road back up will be long, rough, and fraught with pitfalls; but, you know what, we are the products and caretakers of the greatest nation on earth, have the power to stare this adversity in the face, and come out on top.

And, while we must learn from these valuable lessons and not repeat our mistakes (or phraseology), I still believe, “If you build it, ‘they’ come.”.  I’m also going to wax a little philosophic and suggest that we can repeat the past, within reason, and will offer one last quote from one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams.” (use a little imagination to add or change a word or two):

Terence Mann: Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past[…]And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces[…]America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again[…]it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh[…] people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

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