Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington

While I prepare a series of lengthier posts I wanted to share with you an astonishing new book that has recently been released, The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington.
I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to a media preview of the book as well as a tour of the residence by the authors as well as the Ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott, and his wife Susie.  I pass this famous structure by one of my favorite architects, Edwin Lutyens, weekly but had never been behind the iron gates. Needless to say it was a thrill!
I wanted to wet your appetite with these gorgeous photographs from the book by photographer Eric Sander before sharing with you my own detail snapshots and information about this extraordinary house in later posts.
The main stair-hall has a very 'on trend' gallery of stunning prints from the UK Government Art Collection. Far from a new decorating device however, these gallery walls are a contemporary interpretation of the print rooms interiors that were popular in British country houses from as early as the 1750s.
So much to take in; the railing, the stone stair, gallery wall. The 118 framed prints feature portraits, country houses, botanical specimens, animals, views of London, cathedrals, churches, castles, as well as images relating to the embassy itself.
Built as an embassy in 1930 (unlike most current embassies in this city) this is naturally the perfect party house. The main floor is 1/2 circulation space with the other public areas consisting of a grand ballroom, seen above, a drawing room and a dining room.
 Every room is picture perfect, even the private study of the ambassador above.
 The last public room is of course the garden. I look forward to sharing much about this as well.
My favorite room, and probably the most stunning stair I have ever seen, was the private stair up to the 2nd floor where the ambassador's apartment and guest rooms are housed.
The book contains many more inspirational images that won't disappoint: definitely add this tome to your design library! Stay tuned for more details of the British Embassy.
All photos courtesy of Eric Sanders from The Architecture of Diplomacy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Oak Hill Cemetery: a city respite

Spring in Washington is a glorious thing but how does one enjoy it when our parks and streets are flooded with tourists? One of the best places to experience the season's flowers away from the crowds is Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown along Rock Creek.
With unfortunate limited hours this ancient cemetery is as pretty as nearby Rock Creek Park if not better. Flowering trees and flowers are in abundance along the steep terrain.
Established by an act of Congress in 1849 the cemetery is home to many notable names which fill history books.
As any long time reader of this blog will know I've always loved old cemeteries as examples of mature gardens and have blogged about many (Allegheny Cemetery and Egyptian Avenue are 2 examples). This one ranks up there among the most charming that I've visited.
 I love this mausoleum in the form of a stately Greek temple atop one hill.
The older tombstones have so much more character than the granite blocks one uses mostly today.
The hand chiseled calligraphy on most is astounding in this age of machine-age engraving. It's interesting to see how the different stones have aged over time: marble, granite, sandstone, etc.
 My favorites tend towards the simple tombstones such as this scroll (is it morbid to have a favorite?).
If you can find the time in your schedule to align with the cemeteries open hours I highly suggest a visit! Information on the Oak Hill Cemetery website.