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The Beauty of 5:00am

Growing up, I was never a “runner”. I was the girl who fainted after having to run a mile in PE class. Then, just before my 30th birthday, I was inspired by a little boy named Caleb Nehring to give it a try. Caleb was battling cancer and his dad was getting a group together to run a Webster Groves 4 mile race. 4 miles seemed impossible but in comparison to what their family was enduring, it really was nothing. So, we started training. 10 minutes at a time… many, many walking breaks… and slowly but surely I began to build my endurance and increase my distance.

Unfortunately, Caleb passed away shortly after our training began. Though we were not able to compete in that 4 mile race, I kept running. Caleb became an inspiration that, to this day, continues to drive my passion for running. And, what a gift that has turned out to be!

For the past several years, I have been part of a running group made up of other working moms. Our 5:00am runs are filled with discussions on every topic you could imagine – and they are uninterrupted by children! This time together has allowed us to build really meaningful friendships. We see each other through good times and bad. We yell, complain, laugh, cry, fall down, get back up, challenge and support each other. No topic is off limits. Sometimes, my friend, Kyle, is brave enough to join us. I’m sure he’s been able to garner all sorts of insight into how the female brain works!

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And, yes, I did say 5:00am. The beauty of the 5:00am run is that the children are still asleep. We can quietly slip out of the house without making anyone breakfast, getting anyone dressed, or attending to anyone else’s needs. No one has softball practice or piano lessons at 5:00am. No children are hungry at 5:00am. No chore needs to be done at 5:00am. We often discuss how the “buddy system” is the key to climbing out of bed at such a seemingly unreasonable hour. Knowing your friends will be there waiting and relying on you to show up is a powerful motivator! We run in the freezing cold, in the rain, in the humidity, and sometimes when the weather is just right. We are each exhausted and tired as we drive to the designated meeting spot for the day. The first mile is usually a little rough but then we hit our stride. Experiencing the world as the sun rises, in the peaceful quiet of the early morning, running alongside some of the strongest women I know (and sometimes Kyle) is a truly amazing way to start the day!

Running has become something I need. It keeps me sane. It keeps me grounded. Finding the “zone” is the most amazing feeling in the world. It’s that point when you feel like you could run forever. It’s a feeling of strength, peace, and drive all melded into one over the course of several exhilarating miles. I used to think that running was something that couldn’t be learned – you were either a natural, or, like me, you weren’t. Now with countless 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons and even a marathon on my list of accomplishments, I know running is definitely something that anyone can learn to love. It’s great for the body, great for the soul, and a fantastic way to build amazing friendships.

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Cheers to all of my running buddies and to the beauty of the 5:00am run! And, a special thank you to little Caleb Nehring for being the inspiration for this positive change in my life.

There’s a closeness about people who run together. We become better friends, athletes and better women by the company we keep. – Kristin Armstrong

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Posted by Amy Gilbertson, AIA, Associate & Project Manager

Babies and Books

Two of my very favorite things. If you’ve been around me at all lately…you probably know that I recently had a baby boy. He is the light of my life. I love to read to him, and although right now he would rather try to eat the books, I can’t think of a better way to introduce my passion to my little guy. I decided to blog about my favorite architecturally related children’s books. Maybe it will inspire you or your little ones to be creative, discover your talents, or just enjoy a cute story. Click the book titles for links to purchase.  Many of these can be found at your local AIA Bookstore!

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1. Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

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This is my favorite children’s book. ‘Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower - in only an hour - with nothing but diapers and glue.’ Everyone in Iggy’s life doesn’t appreciate his talents. His teacher tries to dissuade him from his dream, until one day, Iggy saves the day with a clever design. It is a must read, a cute rhyming story, a great gift for anyone with children or expecting one. My favorite page in the book:

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2. Roberto, the Insect Architect by Nina Laden

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When Roberto was little, he didn’t eat his food, he played with it. He daydreamed about becoming an architect, designing towers with his (wood) chips. Roberto was similar to Iggy Peck, his family tried to keep him from following his dreams. But Roberto would not be crushed, he moved to the big city to find work. Unfortunately they told him he was a PEST (har har)! So Roberto used sustainable principles, made the best designs he could from found materials, and shocked the bug world with his ingenuity. Eventually he became the most famous architect in the insect world, and now when little bugs play with their food their parents say “Be creative! Maybe someday you’ll grow up to be just like Roberto!” My favorite page in the book:

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3. Goodnight St. Louis by June Herman and Julie Dubray, Illustrated by Karen Heyse

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This is a twist on the classic ‘Goodnight Moon’. But this one highlights so many of our own gems here in the Lou. My goal is to make sure our little guy gets to visit all of the places in the book. Here is my favorite page:

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4. Draw Me a House by Thibaud Herem

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This is not your average coloring book. This is a clever series of interactive exercises that encourage one to be creative. The simple, engaging graphics prompt you to add a new top on the Chrysler Building, create skylines, give the Sphinx a new nose, design green roofs, and on and on… Here is an example:

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5. If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

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This is an adorable follow up book to “If I Built a Car” (which is just as great!) and I love to read it aloud to my son. Jack has decided that his home is too boring and if he were building a house, it would be waaaaay cool. His bedroom would be atop a 200 ft tower. From it he could slide down into an art room. There is a flying room, a racetrack room, and so much more. My personal favorite is the Kitchen-O-Mat that cooks, serves, and cleans up any yummy food you can imagine. My favorite pages are actually the inside covers, showing Jack’s design session and his final design drawings. ¼” = 7’-0” scale, of course.

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6. The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

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I was recently gifted this fantastic book. This is another spinoff of a classic tale, but these three little pigs are no shabby porcine builders. One built his home of glass, one of scraps, and one of stone and concrete. I’ll let you guess who is who. Check out their evening reading material:

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I am a big fan of these six books...and there are hundreds more out there so I will have to restrain myself.  It is never too early to start reading to your children. Even if all they want to do is slobber on the pages…

Posted by Emily Scanlon, RA, LEED AP, Project Architect

Serendipity and the St. Regis Hotel

I was recently invited to Washington D.C. to attend a wedding and reception staged at the St. Regis Hotel, located in the Sixteenth Street Historic District on K Street. Stunned by the beauty of the interior I decided to look into the origin of the building, its history and architect. What followed was an almost unbelievable stream of consciousness-type intersection of serendipitous connections to well-known figures on the World stage, historic happenings and architectural legacy.

First, here are some interior photos:

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Next, here is some history:

The St. Regis originally opened in 1926 as the Carlton Hotel. It was the dream child of Henry Wardman, a successful real estate developer who wished to create a sophisticated establishment that would surpass the very best European luxury hotels of the time. The hotel quickly became popular with Washington’s elite politicians and their families, serving as the residence of Secretary of State Cordell Hull in the 1930’s, a receiving venue for President Truman’s official guests and a place where President Reagan came to get his hair cut by the hotel barber. It was also the hub of the capitol’s social scene where Washington socialite Perle Mesta hosted her celebrated pink-themed galas. Joan Crawford, Jacqueline Onassis, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Cher and countless other luminaries have been loyal guests. Howard Hughes kept a permanent suite at the Carlton during World War Two, which he famously made available at no cost to uniformed servicemen during his absence.

The Great Depression forced a bankrupt Wardman to sell the hotel in 1930 and then it was resold in 1953 to Sheraton Hotels. The Sheraton-Carlton Hotel was closed in 1988 for an extensive $16 million renovation, renamed The St. Regis in 1999, and then renovated again in 2008 to become once again the capitol’s most luxurious hotel.

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Now comes the part about architecture:

The hotel was designed in The Beaux-Arts and Neo-Renaissance style by Wardman’s in-house chief architect, Mihran Mesrobian in 1925. The design of the building closely resembles the Palazzo Farnese with a structure consisting of strong and stylized quoins and a structural base that's rusticated. After the opening in 1926, Mesrobian received an AIA award for excellence and in 1929 another from the Washington Board of Trade. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The architect, Mihran Mesrobian was an Armenian who received an education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ottoman Constantinople. He served as the palace architect for the last Sultan, Mehmed V, renovating much of the royal palaces and properties before being conscripted into the army to serve in World War I. He became a highly decorated officer, serving as a tunneling and fortifications engineer during the Gallipoli Campaign under the direction of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the future first President of the Republic of Turkey. He and his military unit were later captured by the Arab Army during action in Syria, but released through the intercession of T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.

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Mihran Mesrobian

During the War, the Ottomans began what later became known as The Armenian Genocide. In spite of his service to the Sultan, Mesrobian’s Armenian family was deported and never heard from again. With the fall of the Ottomans and the anti-Armenian atmosphere, Mesrobian immigrated to the United States in 1921, becoming a prominent architect in the Washington D.C. area. Much of his architecture was done in the Art-Deco style, but a few of his projects were done in Italian Renaissance and Moderne style, usually incorporating middle-Eastern and Arab motifs and details.

After the success of the Carlton Hotel, Mesrobian and Wardman collaborated on the Hay-Adams Hotel on Lafayette Square in D.C. opening in 1928 and an expansion of the Wardman Park Tower, a 1,500 room residence-hotel in 1929. Now known as Wardman Tower, it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The Hay-Adams Hotel                            The Wardman Tower

In 1931 Mesrobian designed the Dupont Circle Building, located along Connecticut Avenue on Dupont Circle. Originally designed in the Art-Deco style as an apartment building, it was converted to an office building in 1942. The American Institute of Architects’ Guide to the Architecture of Washington DC assesses the Dupont Circle Building's bas-relief ornament as "genius" and judges that in respect of the interplay between ornament and geometry, "it outdoes New York's famous Flatiron Building."

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Dupont Circle Building ca. 1930’s                                  Dupont Circle Building Today

Following World War II, Mesrobian designed numerous apartments and buildings in and around Arlington, Virginia to accommodate the post-War housing boom. All designed in Art-Deco and Moderne styles, 3 more of his projects are listed on the National Register: the Glebe Shopping Center, Calvert Manor Apartments and the Lee Gardens North Apartment Complex. Mesrobian died and was buried in Chevy Chase, Maryland in 1975.

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Calvert Manor Apartments

Posted by John Wilhelm, RA, Project Manager