Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A very colorful space

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of touring the Organization of American States original headquarters with the ICA. Now, I've had a love affair with this building since early college when I had a (45 page!) term paper I wrote on the building, designed by Paul Cret and finished in 1910; so you can imagine how excited I was to actually take a tour (I had never been inside). Rather than jump in with the main building, however, I'll start small with an auxiliary building I had never noticed behind the main structure that started life as the house for the director of the organization.
Located behind the main building at 18th and Virginia Avenues, NW, it's hard to imagine anyone living here in noisy tourist central (other than at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue across the street of course!). Remember though, when it was built, the national mall and the monuments mostly did not exist. Instead, a canal, warehouses, random farmhouses and marshland were its' neighbors. It really was the edge of town.
What struck me first about the house were the small porportions. Look at the guard in the front doorway -that is SHORT! This is a private space. Immediately inside is the staircase: graceful but purely residential. The house was turned into an art museum for the organization a number of years ago. The exterior loggia on the rear of the house, which faces the Pan American building creating a courtyard, was enclosed to provide security and also extra display and entertaining space.
Imagine this space being open to the lovely courtyard and pool; This is a LOVELY room. Much like the adjacent Pan American building, Cret and his staff designed all of the tile work and ornament found throughout. In Beaux arts design, the most detail is found in the most important space and the spaces leading up to it become more ornate as you progress. Therefore, the exterior of the house remains very plain out of heirarchy to the main building.However, within the house itself, this exterior room was treated as a special space: a destination. It makes sense, who wouldn't want to spend time here; breakfast, lunch and dinner!
I love the contrast between the natural terracotta and the turquoise glazing. All of the figures in the decoration reflect the union of North and South American design.
I love the grillwork on the doors back into the house. These details are where Beaux Arts style thrives in my opinion.
The tilework doesn't stop at the loggia, the guardrail down to the pool off the rear terrace also features some amazing detail.
Even the bronze benches designed for the space reflect the Mayan motif's found throughout. Everything is part of an integrated design, no detail was forgotten.I will be showing more of my pictures from the main building next week, stay tuned; it will blow your socks off!

14 comments:

La Maison Fou said...

Incredible architectural detailing and what enticing colors in the tile work, just so nice and vintage. They sure do not make tile like that these days.....
So very chic!
L.

Scott Waterman said...

Love that! Thanks for posting!

David Toms said...

Those tiles are simply amazing. I am in love with this place. Such an middle eastern/aztec influence

Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful!

Eric H said...

This is a great post! This place is so cool. I love all the random details like the little hog's head over the back door and how all those blue tiles are different shapes and sizes so it's not a grid. It's surprising that staircase is so stark in comparison.

I can't wait to see the rest!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Oh, that tiled space, oh, those tiles. Absolutely dreamy.

katiedid said...

That tile work is amazing! You are so lucky to have such a treasure trove of architecture in your back yard!

Thomas at My Porch said...

I can't believe I have never noticed this before. I really need to get out more.

Woody said...

I'm looking forward another of your serials! This is a beautiful building--can't wait for more!

sandrajonas.com said...

What a happy place, the colours are too fabulous! You really do have it all right in your city. What must the maim building look like? I can't wait!

red ticking said...

great post as always... and i love the profile fantastic...

Style Court said...

Spectacular combination of turquoise and terra cotta. The blue-green tiles have such depth. And those expansive windows!

Kerry said...

Great post! There are so many places in my hometown that I didn't know about.
I thought the tile work was very Gaudi-esque.

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I love the blue tiles and the fact that they are irregular! Can't wait to see more!