Friday, February 29, 2008

Upcoming: The Adamson Gallery Announces...

The Sartorialist

March 15th - April 26th, 2008

Opening Reception:
Saturday, March 15th
6:30 - 8:30 pm

Adamson Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of prints by Scott Schuman (bio), who is better known by the moniker The Sartorialist, the name of his astoundingly popular street fashion blog. Schuman is one of TIME magazine's 100 most important design influencers, and contributor to (the official website of VOGUE magazine), GQ, Italian VOGUE, and other fashion periodicals. The images in this exhibition were originally taken by Schuman for his blog, but are now reproduced as digital prints. Displayed in a gallery setting, contextually reconfigured from fashion documentary into fine art, Schuman's striking images are evocative of the street photography of Diane Arbus or Lisette Model.

Schuman's goal as The Sartorialist, launched in 2005, is to "shoot people who execute their style really well." He states "I thought I could shoot people on the street the way designers looked at people, and get and give inspiration to lots of people in the process." In just over two years, he has become one of the most popular style bloggers on the internet, drawing thousands of daily visitors to his site who leave hundreds of comments for each image. In addition, Schuman's work has been profiled in WWD, British, French, Italian, Greek, Brazilian, Korean and Spanish VOGUE, Esquire, and others.

Schuman has a rare talent for seeking out interesting-appearing individuals, of every age, shape, and size, and capturing them in well-composed and striking photographs. His images take full advantage of their subjects and their surroundings, emphasizing contrasts and complements in color, texture, light, and shadow. Because of these qualities, Sartorialist photographs often look as if they could be high-fashion photographs, but this is juxtaposed with a certain democracy of the everyday; a sense that anyone can be stylish, arresting, or elegant. This contrast is underscored by other interesting tensions: the images are of the moment, yet timeless, the subjects are the audience, and vice-versa, Schuman's photographs both inspire, and are inspired by, high fashion. The appeal of the Sartorialist is in this balance between the everyday and the extraordinary.

Scott Schuman was born in Indianapolis in 1968 and has a background in fashion marketing and costume construction. Prior to The Sartorialist, he worked in apparel sales and marketing for designers such as Valentino, Helmut Lang, Gaultier, and Peter Som. Apart from The Sartorialist, he has a monthly column in GQ magazine, and photographs street fashion worldwide for He recently opened his first solo exhibition of photographs at Danziger Projects in New York.

1515 fourteenth street nw
washington dc / 20005

hours of operation:
tuesday - saturday
10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Modernism In Your Neighborhood

Architecture that speaks of it's time should be of high value to any place, and it usually is. Architecture that speaks of it's time, and is added on to, can be viewed as a difficult situation. The default answer to adding on to an existing historic structure is to blend in the new construction as seamlessly as possible. I find this being detrimental to the original building, almost a diluting of its importance and historical significance. When the new part is designed to stand as a piece of it's own time, utilizing modern materials, technology, and today's living standards, it not only becomes a very dynamic architecture on it's own merit, but also solidifies the historical significance of the original by not mimicking it or applying faux-replication. This example is one that has been done in the best possible way. It is important to be visibly unique from the existing, yet it is just as crucial to be sympathetic and contextual. The original corner Victorian townhouse is a wonderful example of architecture from the late 19th century, early 20th century. It stands on a very solid base, anchoring it to the block, while the upper floors become more light and punctured with fenestration. The base gives way to a series of cutbacks along the facade to expose angled bays and to created shadow lines and depth. The masonry banding is very horizontal, in juxtaposition to the more vertical elements of the towers and the chimneys. In a certain manner, the new addition can be perceived as another vertical tower. The base is more massive in masonry construction that contains a more simplified cut-out detail relating to the front entry of the original. The second and third levels are clad in a more light paneling material, which picks up on the color of the patina of the original copper detailing and slate roof. These levels create more of a vertical movement with the larger glass openings and the abstraction of a third chimney stack. The original masonry banding between the floors is further abstracted by making a more volumetric and dimensional banding which wraps around the corner and continues along the side elevation. When around to the rear alley elevation, the "lighter" clad exterior massing seems to collide with a more "massive" brick volume, which is of similar proportions to the neighboring rears of the other townhouses. The interplay between the massing, materiality, and surface articulation give this addition a very modern interpretation of the existing historic townhouse. The new architecture is very bold, but in a way that does not take away from the original or compete with it. Both of the architectures relate to each other and strengthen each others significance in the visual timetable of the changing city.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Within the last month or so in Washington , DC along with other America urban hubs, there have been sightings of the Smart. To be more descriptive, the Smart Fortwo. Once only available to Europe and Canada, this insect like mode of transport is an ideal and hip way to traverse the urban maze. The original design concept, a collaboration between Daimler-Benz and Swatch, was inteneded for the convenience of a car but one that could navigate cities with tight streets and little parking. London, Paris, and Rome are a few of the places where you could hop into a Smart and manage to travel through centuries old streets and actually fit into an almost non-existant parking spot. With the recent boom in city living within the United States, smaller and more economic modes of transportation have become a more popular method of travel compared to large SUV's and sedans. Modern styling along with egronomic and vibrant interiors make the Fortwo a fun and fuel sipping answer to the sophisticated urbanite on the go. If you spot a Smart in your neighborhood, let us know! For those of us thinking spring, the Fortwo also comes in a cabriolet!
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New Art @ Vastu

Looking for a fun way to chase away the winter blues? Might we recommend a little art?

We've gotten word of a new art exhibit opening today at Vastu.

Ricardo Zapata’s first official entrée into the art scene began as an experiment. While testing different camera settings during a recent trip to Europe, he stumbled upon this body work, which explores European icons through a hazy veil.

Thomas Drymon says that the greatest challenge an artist faces is to be true to his instincts, his notion of what beauty is, and then to communicate those feelings through his work. His paintings which are an homage to abstract expressionism are an effort to do just that.

Vastu home furnishings + art gallery
When: Feb 20 – April 15, 2008

For more events, please check out the 'Upcoming Events' to the right.
If you have an event that you'd like us to consider, please let us know!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fenty Selects Developer for Poplar Point, Courts DC United

Clark Realty Capital has been selected to develop Poplar Point. Mayor Fenty is expected to formally announce the selection today at a press conference in Anacostia. Clark was one of three short-listed finalists, beating out Archstone Smith - Madison Marguette and Forest City.

The winning proposal is broken into five distinct pieces: The Point, The IEC, The Preserve, The Metro Soccer District, and The Village at Poplar Point. The Point features a waterfront hotel and conference center, retail and restaurant promenade, offices, and mixed-income multifamily housing. The IEC, or International Environmental Center features a research campus, and is anchored by a proposed National Hall of the Environment. Featured prominently in Clark's proposal (above), the museum as rendered is a plagiarized, albeit poorly reinterpreted version of Santiago Calatrava's breathtaking Tenerife Opera House (perhaps suggesting Clark's desire to woo a starchitect?). The Preserve bills itself as a 'Waterfront Version of New York's Central Park" (which may have Olmsted and Vaux turning over in their graves) and will feature nature trails, walking and biking trails, wetland preservations, recreated marshlands, and recreation fields. The Metro Soccer District contains the existing Anacostia Metro Station, and provides land for the construction of a MLS Soccer stadium, which Fenty has expressed a renewed interest in supporting, in spite of recent news that the DC United has begun considering a move to Maryland. In addition, the MSD will feature high-density office and residential buildings, and an innovative, two block wide 'deck' which will span 295 (perhaps one of the more commendable components to help reconnect this area to Historic Anacostia). The Village at Poplar Point will feature residential development, public marinas, and a new pre-K through 12th grade school. According to a news release on the Washington Business Journal website, the entire developed Poplar Point site is expected to provide 1.5 million square feet of offices, 3,200 residential units, 405,000 square feet of retail, 224,000 square feet of hotels, and 70 acres of park land.

The earliest construction may commence is 2010. Certainly in the meantime there will come changes and further development to the proposal. Whether or not DC City Officials are successful in their persuasion of the DC United to remain in the city will have a significant impact on the plan. And hopefully local residents and groups which currently utilize the area and adjacent river will have an opportunity to voice their concerns.

While the accepted proposal does thoughtfully address a number of interests, and provides a generous mix of retail, residential, office, recreational, and tourist-oriented elements, there are a few questions that the development raises. For example, the proposed location of the MLS Soccer stadium places it away from the waterfront hotel with its adjacent retail & restaurant promenade, and awkwardly close to the decidedly more residential sector (one can begin to visualize the throngs of people traversing The Preserve before and after a soccer game); likewise, the National Hall of the Environment's proximity to the more commercial sector too seems like a miscue. These are certainly issues which will be addressed as progress moves forward. It's an ambitious proposal, and I am excited to see this level of investment on one of our greatest assets, our waterfronts. Only time will tell if this potential is fully realized.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Making a Scene

Seamless integration. In a project this is something most aspire to. But there are certainly times that being too well incorporated into the surroundings can be a detriment. Take for instance the case of the mid-block office building. It is all too often the case that such buildings are so well integrated into the urban fabric that they are easily missed...passed by in our hurried progress. This is even compounded when the architecture is, well, nondescript, as was certainly the case at 1110 Vermont prior to a recent renovation. I admit that I myself had walked down this stretch of Vermont Avenue many times on my way to and from the McPherson Square metro when I first started working in the city, taking note of little more than the traffic in and out of the building's parking garage. It's a difficult program. How do you get people to take notice of an existing, blasé building?

Taking up the challenge was Studios Architecture, who, in addition to making several minimal, yet thoughtful gestures on the building facade, further recognized the need to create a street presence. To that end, Studios enlisted MY Studio, a multidisciplinary art and design studio, to create an interactive audio/video installation. The result is a truly eye-catching, if not mesmerizing, assembly of high-tech displays and a field of sound resonating rods. Bearing the title
LowResHiFi, the installation is broken into what the designer/artist refers to as the Sound Grove, a field of tall, stainless steel poles with lighted discs which emit sounds when touched by passersby, and the Light Stream, which are composed of a series of screens with 'pixel' lights which display the building's address and other information, and in certain cases project the image of the pedestrian traffic both in- and outside the building, thanks to the aid of strategically located cameras. True this interactive installation makes quite an impact on the otherwise unremarkable streetscape and helps to create a street presence for the building. But more than that it represents the dynamic nature of the city, creating unique urban moments through the ever changing displays, constantly recreating itself in response to its environment. The life of the city is revealed in impromptu street performances created by a passing crowd.

There is a commendable level of collaboration visible in the thoughtful incorporation of the installation within the architecture and interiors. This is the seamless integration that is so pleasant in a well-tailored space. The lobby boasts warm woods and stainless steel elements which combine beautifully with the installation, creating a modern, high-tech, refined aesthetic. The reception desk with its fiber optic lit glass apron does just enough to be visually interesting without competing with the two interior interactive displays. The installation, in turn, is placed in such a way that it becomes part of the architecture.

A thoughtful economy of gestures is also present on the renovated facade, where, rather than choosing to fully reface the building facade, which seems to be the prevailing response for aging downtown buildings (standby for a future post on this craze), the architects made strategic adaptations to the facade. Responding to the existing grid of windows, Studios quilted bands of new glass curtainwall, asymmetrically locating a vertical band to one side of the facade to mark the building 's entry, and placing a second horizontal band along the full length of the facade at the top floor. This upper band is thickened at the south end of the building, and topped with a brise soleil, which acts to restore balance to the facade. A continuous awning and storefront help to define the newly enlivened pedestrian zone.

The incorporation of public art into the streetscapes of DC is something that truly makes our urban experiences unique. It adds further dimension to our urban environments and helps to distinguish one block from another. How much more inspiring and memorable K Street Canyon might be with thoughtful insertions such as this. At a time when many downtown building owners seem to be taking steps to freshen and enliven the look of their buildings and attract new tenants, we hope that some might take note of this fine example and follow suit.

DC Note: Some of you might notice this locale from the article about us in December's DC Modern Luxury magazine. When asked for a location in the city which we felt was architecturally interesting and represented our interests, we selected this work, both because of the interdisciplinary collaboration of art, architecture, and design, but also because of the way that the installation speaks to the dynamic nature of the city itself.
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Monday, February 4, 2008

Modernism In Your Neighborhood

Public alleys are ususally a topic for discussions revolving around negative issues. Parking, trash, rodent infestations and crime are a few things that come to mind when the word is referenced. If you are a person who loves getting to know your city on it's most personal terms by exploring these areas, you will know that public alleys also offer a few glimpses of some really great modern architecture. Most of this modernism is hidden behind historical streetfronts. I really appreciate the preservation of the historic aspects of these places on the streetfront, while integrating a more modern approach to the new pieces added along the rear. One such situation is the new stairwell addition to the rear of the German Marshall Fund building on the corner of New Hampshire and R Streets. The main building is a beautiful example of a pre-war Italian palazzo. The rear of the building is smashed into an awkward lot along with several other buildings. From the alley entrance, the new stairwell is visable from the street. It is obviously modern, but it mixes in politely with the other existing historic buildings in scale and with its "lightness". Louvers add a delicate and dynamic layer to the elevation. They are a functional piece of ornamentation, by shading the glass facade. While this example is not the most innovative or groundbreaking design, its simplicity and clarity add to the texture and layers of the urban alley. Modernism might not be obvious in your neighborhood, but take a look around back and you might be surprised at what you can discover.
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