Monday, August 31, 2009

Industry Insight: Ali Honarkar

Ali Honarkar, an architect and condominium developer, has been a forceful voice for modern architecture in Washington DC. Ali sat down with DCMud to speak about his projects, the state of architecture, design and, of course, shoe design.

DCMud: Tell us about Division 1

Division 1 was something that me and my partner, Mustafa, started, at UMD, back when we were undergrads, it started as a side job, turned into what it is now. At the time we wanted to have something cutting edge. We were at a very conservative university, kind of the same thing we are doing now professionally, we came together we figured it was better to stick together. We started in '94, doing a lot of interior spaces and restaurants, which is the best way to get your work out there. We always wanted to get more into the residential market. It took us 6, 7 years to do that, but after doing a bunch of restaurants we were able to establish ourselves to get some of the larger, better projects.

DCMud: And you did Lima

Yeah, We’re not doing too many restaurants now. We did some of the more upscale Charlie Chiang's, which is now called Charlie Chiang’s Ping, one is in Shirlington, opened about a year ago, we do about one restaurant a year – by choice. We also did 18th St lounge, Dragonfly, Local 16.

Who or what was your inspiration to become an architect

My family has been in construction for hundreds of years so…

DCMud: Hundreds?

Yeah, back in Iran, where I’m originally from, about 300 years, so its in my blood. The rest of my family went into medicine, I stuck with it. Some of my influence, still, is Thom Mayne, who was an architect from the west coast, with Morphosis. An Austrian firm called coop-Himmelblau, some of the influences in the late 80’s, 90's, when I was in school. What they did - it was at the same time as grunge, it was part of a whole movement, everything was related: art, music, architecture.

DCMud: Why choose DC?

My family moved here, after the revolution. You know, why not DC? I was just having a discussion with another architect, locally, who wasn’t really fond of what we do, in DC.
We’ve always been known have to fight for our clients, for our principals, you know, whether its historic preservation, ANC, etc. We don’t pick a fight, we just feel like there should more be diversity. People always want to label things, ‘this is historic,’ but across the street it's not historic. I think its because we’re such a young nation, we only have a couple hundred years of history. I come from somewhere where there’s thousands of years of history. So the question was asked, ‘why do you have to change DC? Why don’t you go somewhere else?” My answer was, we wanted change. We elected Obama for change, we didn’t ask him to go to another country; change needs to happen here. And we’re not alone, I think DC has great potential. There were a lot of things done, not in a good way, that people label as ‘modern.’ I think people, when they don’t understand, and they see glass, they think, modern architecture, and all architects have to take the blame for that. I like putting our own spin on the city.

How do you label yourself?

True modernist. I don’t pull into a colonial house - I live in the house I designed. It’s a whole lifestyle. Modern is being always on the cutting edge of what’s going on. In DC we are more traditionalist. I have no problem with preservation – its great – but you take a lot, and put something that belonged 200 years ago, that’s what I have an issue with. The thing with traditionalists, they always forget, everything was modern at one time, and it takes time for that to mature, like good wine. When the Victorian era came up, it was a departure, and now it’s protected. You’re starting to see things, not even as far back as Frank Lloyd Wright, 50s, 60s, getting historic.

Any favorite buildings in DC?

My favorite is the original German embassy, built in, I think 1964, that’s my favorite in DC

With the exterior skeleton?

Exactly. Imagine, that was 1964, that’s by far my favorite in DC.

Tell us abo
ut some of your projects – you're working on the Lacey Condominiums right now.

AH: Yeah, the Lacey was a great opportunity for us, the client found us from our house around the corner, the W Street residence we did. It’s the largest ground-up building we’ve done. We’ve done a full city block in Silver Spring, with a lot of renovation, but this was the first ground-up. The design, inspiration comes from the client. The history that place has, being right next to the Florida Avenue Grill – the parking lot for the Grill. That started in 1944, just the idea of an African American business in 1944, it was so progressive thinking, we wanted a tribute to Lacey Wilson Sr., and Junior, who bought the place from his dad. It doesn’t mimic anything around it, its not contextual, but we found the best way to pay tribute in the same spirit of what he did in 1944, for us to do in 2009, yeah, we wanted to do something that honored that. We need to be able to educate the developer, its okay to do a little more, it will come back to you. We feel that everyone that’s bought there, they’re paying for it because of the design. We designed in some social issues there – you want the neighbors to be able to engage each other, you don’t just walk in to a long corridor, and go into your own space, and never see anybody. This forces people to know each other – the atrium spaces, the common spaces.

DCMud: So its all about the Social Element

AH: Yeah, absolutely, you engage with your neighbors. Its not for everybody, more of a European feel to it, where people can come right outside and be able to socialize. I think that’s what we do – outdoor spaces push that idea.

Tell me how exterior came about.

It looks like a simple building but there’s a lot more to it. A lot of people use zoning and height restrictions as a way of limiting themselves. We went the other way. We looked at all the guidelines, what could or couldn’t be done, we maxed out everything. I hear that a lot, ‘we had to max out the area, so we couldn’t do much with it.’ We made a lot of double story spaces; that was the idea behind having indoor-outdoor spaces coexisting. The exteriors stairs, we made that into part of the design element; you need the two forms of egress, but it became for us the design showcase, it becomes this whole volume of its own and brings a different dimension to the building.

Lacey has gotten attention inside DC, but also outside DC. What do you attribute that to?

Yeah, I don’t know! (laughs). We designed it to get attention, that’s what you do. We’re not going to write a hit song and apologize, you want it to be played. Actually we’re getting more national than local attention. I’m a little disappointed with the local media, and I think it may be driven by sponsors, this very conservative southern town. You would think the Washington Post, as local media, should know what’s going on around here. We’ve seen the Lacey in New York blogs, LA blogs, and architecture blogs, and I’m always amazed how they find us. But they don’t have to find you here, we’re here, they should know what’s in their back yard. I‘m a little disappointed, not with smaller magazines, but the Washington Post spends so much time covering other things, they should cover more locally.

DCMud: Thinking about next projects, do you have anything new coming up?

We have some commercial projects, one of the projects I’m very excited about is that we’re doing a single-family in Dupont, a great client that really wanted to do green, but for all the right reasons, not cashbacks, but to do the right thing. They’re not even going to live there, it will be a rental initially. We were very excited by that, it’s a small project, but its already been approved by historic preservation. We’ve gotten to learn so much more about alternative heating, cooling, really incorporates everything into 2000 square feet of space. And we have an office building that’s ready for completion in about 4 or 5 months, very exciting, in Silver Spring, its been about 7 years in the works. Its a complicated design, there were a lot of major modifications, to the point that the county didn’t understand it anymore, they just said, ‘alright, just do it.’ We have an existing shell that we’re keeping, and putting a whole new modern building in it. We also have the Drost, a 4 unit condo building, we’re hoping to start in the spring, we’ll see.

If you had an ideal client right now, who would that be, what would they be building?

I’m probably more interested in designing a shoe right now (laughs), that would be the ideal thing, to do something different, we consider ourselves designers not just architects.

A shoe?

A different design challenge.

I didn’t expect that answer

I’m being honest, I’d love to do something along that line.

So green is not cheap, design is not cheap, how do you combine those two goods, and still make it affordable?

Its hard, there are metropolitan cities, like NY would be the first, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, they have that. You put up a building anywhere in New York, they will still line up if its good. I think the DC culture, within the last 10 years has really changed, you see a lot more emphasis, not just on housing, but the restaurants, you see a lot more design, restaurants, bars, we’re getting there slowly but surely. We’re not very good at that, we just do it. There were so many ways to make the Lacy cheaper. But at the end of the day, the architect, the developer, have to be able to look back and be okay with it. The average life of a building is 25-30 years, we’d like to see the building there in a 100 years. Real estate is a long-term thing; we don’t do things for marketing purposes. With the whole green movement, nobody ever uses bad materials on purpose. Another way the AIA is using – you know when the record companies stopped using vinyl because it was no good – the same with the AIA, we achieved it in the Lacey, we’re doing it in a small residential project, you put a good project out there, people will follow.

Any other architect out there in DC you really like?

There are two guys are doing some great things, I guess they’re not really local. Sure, there are a lot of good architects here, many great single family residential architects. But I look to somebody like Jonathan Segal, Sebastian Mariscal, both San Diego architects, they inspire me. About 10 years ago he started, these guys also develop, so they practice what they preach. Its easy to design a $4m house, there’s not much risk. When you play with your own money, there's so much more risk. Developers are risk takers, when somebody has the guts to do that, its not just a business. If you put your name on it and try to sell it, that’s a whole new level.

There aren’t a lot of architect-developers in DC.

The way we look at ourselves, its not just the business, there are a lot of people that practice the business of architecture, but its different when you own it.

No one local that you like?

[Bill] Bonstra does some good work, but, some I don’t like. Take the Lincoln Condominiums in my neighborhood. Its brutal; it’s a big, stucco building, it represents nothing. I would rather stand for something. As an architect, you’re not sworn in, but you’ve got to give back to the community. I think Eric Colbert designed that, I wouldn’t have. Just don’t take the project. If you do and that's what you deliver, then you have to admit you’re in the business of architecture. You could be making shirts at that point. We get clients that come in and want to do certain things, and sometimes you just say ‘no thank you’, that’s not what we do. You can’t take every project. Especially at that scale – 10, 12 story buildings. You’re taking a big chunk of the block. It’s a crime to not care what you do, when it has such an effect on the city.

What do you see as the future of architecture in DC?

I’m always hopeful. When I was going to school there was not a lot of things you could walk up to and see; if you liked modern, you had to go to another city. But with the good, comes the bad, but I’d still take that, the diversity. Its art, you put it out there, its art, you just put it out there and let people decide.

How do you compare DC regionally?

Well if you compare us to Wilmington, Delaware, we’re good. New York, well, there’s only one New York. But I’m hopeful. There are a lot of restrictions in DC. What upsets me is that we lose a lot of our talent, because there’s so many restrictions in DC. Some good talent starts here, then move to the west coast, or New York, so we’re pushing a lot of our talent out.

Height restrictions and historic preservation?

It’s partly that, but, no offense to attorneys, you do any work in DC, forget the ANC and historic preservation, but every other neighbor is an attorney. Its great to have pride in where you live, but people feel like they get to claim it, we see that all the time, we always feel like we don’t want to deal with it any more, but then we get a good client, who wants to do something different, and we say, okay, lets do this again. Its not historic preservation, I think its more the people in the neighborhoods that want to stop the process.

Do you think the height limits are a good thing?

I like them; I think you are most creative when you are challenged. DC is my favorite city, and you have New York for that. London, Paris, the scale is completely different, most European cities are like that. I like the height restriction where it is, we should just be a little more creative. We have suburbs to balance stuff out.

Speaking of the process in DC, how would you change it if you could?

If you go through third party review, it still has to go through DCRA at some point, it’s a little frustrating. I don’t see what the point is. Zoning, public space, transportation, should go through DCRA. But as far as electrical, mechanical and plumbing, I don’t see why it has to go back through the city. Third party review should be quicker, the process is very time consuming.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see that shoe. I'm thinking extreme platform with architectural openweave metal base construction, tinted flex-titanium sole with bamboo fiber upper materials in a veggie dyed spa seagrass hue with ankle strap and open toe, circa 1974 but with an eco bent. Cost per square inch?
Love your work, buildingwise.

Anonymous said...

very upity, not everyone needs to be on the cuttng edge, to be respected.
We might want to design for people that have pets or kids, or actual lives.
People have different needs and likes.
You shiny, pretentous people kill me, with you arrogance
A succesful project is one that meets all of its reqirement, including being profitable.
Every project can't be a legacy project.

Anonymous said...

What a sad, narrow view of the world you must have. Because someone want to create art and be different and challenge themselves that makes them "shiny" and "pretentious?"

I'm thankful there are people out there who care and are passionate about what they do. There is too much status quo in the world.

Thank you Ali, for not taking the easy way out that most developer's do. There are people who get it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2, you say people have different needs and likes, then define what all things should be by your own specific standards. Some of us like architectural art!

If success is defined by instantaneous profitability, that makes almost every iconic artist, writer and composer in history failures. Division 1's buildings have been profitable... just because the Lacey hit the market at a bad time doesn't mean it isn't a fabulous piece of architecture.

Take your pets, kids and hate and go to the 'burbs. And learn to spell while you're there.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you ever been in the Lacey? The place looks like an insane asylum. There is definitely something different about it but it does not fit into the neighborhood at all. A place like this should be on Ocean Drive in South Beach. Each unit almost has a museum type feel. You do not feel like you are in a “home”. The place is not selling well at all because it is very expensive, ridiculously so. You got to see this place inside before you judge it, which I have. But even if you think it is cool and different, I just cannot imagine the type of person that would want to call any of those units “home”.

Anonymous said...

You need to open your mind a bit. Different strokes for different folks. The Lacey is not where I would want to live, but I still think it is beautiful. Granted it would look better not leaning on the FLA Grill! :) I think he explains why it is more expensive in the interview.

Rocio Gonzalez on Sep 3, 2009, 2:08:00 PM said...

what does "home" mean?
it depends on a person's experiences. I like whitewashed walls, sparse furniture, open and airy spaces.
You probably think "home" means colored walls, cluttered furniture with knick-knacks and your old grandpa's recliner.
Please, don't assume a "homey" feeling means the same aesthetic for everybody...
Bravo to Ali, great work and words!

Anonymous said...

The shoe won't have a high heel, for sure. It would get stuck in the floor grates he puts everywhere. Too much for such a designer, I guess, to think of those mundane details. Talking about details, the Lacey is quite put together, with total disregard for such details as backsplashes and privacy, not to talk of the Peeping Tom paradise in the back of the building. Maybe those were lowly considerations not worth of the time of the architect.
Modern architecture doesn't have to be so soulless and dry. Unless the architect is soulless, dry, arrogant, and an all around snob. This is a place which is great to house a few anal retentive design-star-wanabes or those to subscribe to I-love-this-architect cult who will not even leave a tooth brush on sight.
His arrogance leads him to believe that the experience of the three hundred years his family has been in the business is accumulative and dwell exclusively on him... the typical "you know, the USA is such a young country and I had to come here to teach you how things are done". Of course that the influences of these three hundred years of knowledge are nowhere to be seen in that building. Good thing he didn't go into medicine, though.
The architect forgot he was designing an apartment building, a multifamily dwelling. He instead designed an office building subdivided in art galleries, fitted with nice Snaidero kitchens and Bertazzoni stoves, by far the only features that ooze good design in the edifice, they were designed "by others".
The so called social element is ridiculous. Those are catwalks which are not very confortable to become the scenario of any human mingling, and they offer views inside the apartments. The "designer" seems to have a beef with landscaping and greenery in general. One can't tell he is not versed in entertaining, because it's difficult to climb those narrow spiral stairs in the top floor apartments with a cocktail in hand. Design is all about style, and this building has none.

Anonymous said...

"Home" means a place you would want to live. Of course this is different for each person. But like I said, walk into the building and take a look into the actual units and then tell me if you would ever want to live there. You can call this "art" but the purpose of it is for people to want to purchase as a dwelling. That is the end result of whether or not the place is successful. And based on that, it is failing miserably. And that whole social aspect is begging! If people want to be social they will be, don't force it. Make a lounge and all the social people can go hang out there. Check out the prices of the units. I don't care what Ali's explanation is. You can get so much more for your money. This is not New York. Like I said, this building belongs in South Beach. And I'm not a hater because I too like Ali am from Iran.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the modernists is that they generally don't like to acknowledge context. Ali even said it: the Lacey is not contextual. Even you like the design on its own merits, it does not fit into the neighborhood in terms of its massing, materials, etc.. I dont think every building has to match every other building in terms of style and design, but it should at least acknowledge and respect its neighbors in some meaningful way. The modernists want every building to stand on its own -- a monument to themselves. IMHO, the best architects are more humble and appreciate that the city is all about how buildings and spaces work together to create a sense of place.

Anonymous said...

Now this is getting interesting! Great viewpoints.
I've been in the Lacey a few times and I love the look of it. Maybe not the most practical living space for everyone but I also don't like little ticky-tack drywall boxes like the ones you find in so many new condos.
The Lacey is for minimalists. I have too much junk to be living in a glass walled space, but I wish I could.
Peeping Tom paradise? It looks like the back of every other condo project to me.
The building is well constructed and good construction is expensive. All buildings aren't equal when it comes to that.
As for the shoe, maybe a wedge?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not always a fan of modernist, I sometimes (not always) prefer something that draws on history. But there's truth to innovating at the same time. As for the Lacey being contextual, the project most certainly is not, but what would that mean in that neighborhood? The architecture on that street is junk, was he supposed to build junk to match? There is nothing there to copy, its the best place for something unconventional. And I have to say that I love most (not all) of the interior spaces I have seen in that building.

Chuck on Sep 4, 2009, 7:23:00 PM said...

i don't tend to think of ali as modern or contemporary. i can't shoehorn him into those extremely broad catagories. he's above that. beyond that. he's an anomaly. completely ahead of the DC pack of similarly-minded architects of DC.

Anonymous said...

The article introduces Mr. Honarkar as an architect. So why can't I find Ali Honarkar on the list of licensed architects that the DC Board of Architecture and Interior Design provides for the public to confirm licensees on their website ( Is he licensed? If so he can use the title architect and DCmud can refer to him as an architect. If not, it's misrepresntation and bad reporting--the former a potential violation of law.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, please go to the building and write all over the walls "Ali is God", don't stop the ridiculous praising in a blog comment, go for the wall, go!

Anonymous said...

I live in New Canaan, CT...home of Phillip Johnson's glass house. I'm sure when it was built, many small minded people detested the modern ideas which were way ahead of it's time. Now people from all over the world come to my small town to visit this historic site. It's incredible how anyone can think of the Lacey and/or the architect as "snobbish" or misplaced etc. Maybe DC needs to stay within it's parameters and stay boring and dull...some of the people who for some reason call the architect a "snob" or other names may need to look at themselves in the mirror and realize it's themselves that's the problem. Envy in any industry is such an ugly expressed in some of the clowns trying to detract from the cool new structures being offered around DC by this architect and others who are trying push the envelope.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Philip Johnson copied shamelessly the Dr Fansworth house by Mies Van der Rohe. In this instace, he was as original as the architect who designed the Lacey. Please don't insult people by trying to present this exercise as anything "original".
Cool looking, yes. Good multi-dwelling building, no.

Anonymous said...

other than yourself, who used the world "original"...that you have put it in quotations? "cool" should be in quotations as it was the word used in my prior post. The parallels draw upon in my light analogy was based on the premise of new modernism in architeturally conservative surroundings (which was the purpose of the phillip johnson comment), not necessarily in their originality per se. The only "insult" here seems to be yours...ulitmately architecture is an art - some like it, some don''s not black and white as some posts here are inferring.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: so defensive and so exacting. I can see you in an architectural office with your little red pencil permanently sharped. You're hired to write my comments, from now on!

Anonymous said...

The original German Embassy building is iconic and still very fresh. It's the most precisely crafted exterior in DC. My German Embassy neighbor (in Kalorama) reveals that it badly needs new HVAC. Shouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

To whom the ‘upity, not everyone needs to be cutting edge… pretentious’ (notice spelling correction) comment might concern, you kill me, as you have very poor standards of what qualifies as successful. Obviously people have different likes and dislikes, and there are many variations of ‘cutting edge’ design that fit multiple lifestyles. In no way did Division 1 profess to be the sole proprietor of a one-size-fits-all architecture, but rather that designers have an ethical obligation to improve the built environment. Once one takes this oath as an architect (or designer of the public realm if they are not licsenced as one person points out), they pledge to be a servant of the public good, not public tastes, capital, etc. And while every project cannot be a ‘legacy project,’ which I agree with, does this presuppose that we should lower our expectations? Of course not!

In regards to the Insane Asylum comment, I have been inside the Lacey, and it is quite a stunning space. One enters into a four-storied atrium drowned in light with walls of rich wood. I’m not sure what insane asylum you might be referring to, but sign me up. I hope you are not speaking from experience, but if so, I will take a second look at my position on the Lacey… If the units are not selling, I would imagine that it has more to do with the current state of banks and financing, and little to do with a lack of sophisticated and forward thinking people whom have a higher standard of living that might desire to live there. This is just a hunch, but I must applaud those who have chosen to challenge the status quo by investing in such work, so that more work of this standard might prosper in DC. Sincerely, I am mostly indebted to them for supporting such public works.

In regards to the backsplashes, again I have been in the Lacey, and there are backsplashes. However, they are not your normal home depot variety, but rather the entire wall between the top of the counters and the bottom of the cabinets is a backsplash. Who would have thought? I’m also not certain of the peeping tom scenario, because as far as I could tell, the occupied units all have blinds. I believe most glass windows, given that they are glass, and often face streets, can be seen through, hence blinds — not a novel idea as a means of attaining privacy, yet the option, yes that is the option, to have an apartment full of light and openness to the outside world when desired is not a bad idea.

In regards to the grating, I am o.k. with the fact that a heel or two might get stuck, although no one actually has to walk on the stair, since it is an option to move through the building that offers an experince.

In regards to modern architecture being cold, soulless, and like art galleries I will only comment for brevity that it is a worn-out and naïve position to take on such issues.

In regards to contextualism, the Lacey is creating a new context. Think about it!

Anonymous said...

What a nice exercise in arrogance.... you must know how to write the word uppity, even when you show ignorance of it at your turn at the keyboard.
The condescencion to all commenters is appalling, for what I infere that you are:
a- the architect
b- one of his standard bearers
c- one of the people who adhere to his cult of personality
d- somebody with time in your hands or in need to write a justificatory essay to what is an overblown design exercise
e- somebody who thinks to lowly of the rest of us
f- somebody who doesn't realize that a full wall backsplash should not and does not shoot into space as an incomplete fin
g- or an inveterate sneaker weaerer who is uncomfortable around women with high heels because they look taller, therefore, they should go barefoot to be able to enjoy the exterior of the building -I thought that it was a social something, as mentioned by the architect in the interview.
As per his license, I just really don't care.
An architectural license doesn't invest a designer of any particular talents, and it's perfectly legitimate not to have one, by choice. Talent in design is not just limited to those who are licensed. Of course, talent in design is a grace that very few people have, and it's something that everyone is free to evaluate and appreciate or not.
Blinds, that's kind of cheap treatment, isn't it? Very home-depot, to use your own description.
As per the Lacey creating a context, well I understand that you would like to be self congratulatory if your are the architect, just don't forget that Ceaucescu and Stalin created
"urban contextualism" as well. Just less sterile that this one that is being proposed.
Maybe you're not out of luck and you can still buy one of the overpriced units. By the lenght of your comment it seems that you are convinced that the building is really great and that the architect is a great artiste. See you in twenty years, so we can sit together and read the long chapter in the history of architecture dedicated to this influential designer. Let me turn my sarcasm off, so your ego-lava lamp doesn't burn!

Anonymous said...

Per your comments, you have really said nothing of any substance, particularly if you were attempting to make a case either for or against the design. The criticisms on the design were mostly subjective, or just flat out wrong. I am fine with criticism, but only when it is backed by facts. In response to your inferences:

a- no
b- no
c- no
d- no
e- no
f- (I have no idea what you are talking about in this comment)
g- no

You were wrong on all accounts.

In continuing with your heel hang-up, which is rather absurd in the greater schema of things, I would just like to briefly point out that women have shoes other than heels, so it will only be there choice if they go barefoot. It is a bit grotesque how you see women in either heels or barefoot, and nothing else. Many women where flats, sneakers, sandals, boots, etc…

I also think the tradeoff of having a completely open and transparent stair tread that enhances the experience of moving through the stairs, which is quite a riveting experience (I admit that this is subjective) It is great that a building affords an opportunity to have something as novel as this as an alternative for those who might seek something beyond the proto-typical banal stairway. As such, it seems a fair tradeoff (the heel of a shoe), not to mention how it enhances the aesthetic qualities of the building as a whole. Without getting to hung-up on y the hang-up, the design of space should not be subordinate to the heel, unless perhaps it is a public space in which occupants have no choice but to move through, but again this is not a rule.

So once again you are wrong.

In regards to the license comment, I agree.

In regards to the blinds, touché…

However, no home-depot blind will work for these since they are not home-depot windows. But in all seriousness any window is going to generally face outwards into the public realm, and this always poses an issue of privacy. If you take a closer look at the lacey, and I hope you are not peeping when you do this or wearing heels for that matter, the areas of glass that might be problematic (for you) in this have been treated with a translucent film as to afford privacy while still allowing light to filter into the space. There is a degree of exposure that one might feel in living in such a space, but this probably has more to do with conditioning based on what most are used too — including myself (I just want to be sure that you are not taking this as an elitist comment). However, we should not be so rigid, for if this were the case, our ancestors would have never broke free from their caves.

Anonymous said...

In regards to your Stalin comment, not only are you wrong, but disgusting and tasteless in your choice to draw out such a parallel.

In regards to some historical facts, Stalin was adamantly against modern design, and promoted an architecture of social realism. He felt that modernism was threatening to his oppressive regime, and many of the great Russian architects of that time were forced to leave, which resulted in the great wealth of their ideas (and this goes for Germany as well, but the story is a little different) migrating to the United States. Interesting how that worked out…

In regards to over-priced, again you are wrong.

All buildings are not created equal, and hence their value cannot purely be determined by square foot. This has been part of the problem, which has resulted in much mediocre architecture, and a deception in the measure of architectural value. Most often architects and developers primary goal is to increase their profit margins. This profit is measured within the limits of square foot values. This only creates a negative feedback loop in which the quality of buildings tend to go down and profits keep getting marginalized by competition to compete within the price-point. This building is refusing to be a part of this cycle, and hence is a form of resistance, which is generally the measure of good architecture.

Finally, yes, the building is great, and I am happy to celebrate this fact. I love Washington, DC and it thrills me that this type of architecture is being realized even in the most difficult of times. It makes me optimistic that architecture might be taken seriously once again. This building will stand the test of time is undoubtedly one of the best in DC!

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see that you have taken time off from attending The Town Hall meeting to make such long pointless comments. You are obsessed with this Building. A- You can’t effort it because you’re unemployed [again]. B- Division One did not think much of your resume. Get over it and go back to making your negative Obama posters in your Eric Colbert designed condo.

Anonymous said...

Female here. Heel-wearing, also, if it makes a difference (which it doesn't).

The Lacey is beautiful, not just in the elegant material palette (backsplash included) or for reasons purely formal; the atrium, circulation paths, lighting scheme, entry, etc. are all parts to a sharply conceived and well-constructed package. It is impressive to visit, and very satisfying to live in.

In light of the rather useless comments and brash commentary, I respect and celebrate Ali's work (and the man) even more. His struggle and perseverance to carve the niche for good design and better living is one that not many of us architects choose to take on.

Anonymous said...

To the hater:
I’m curious… are you an architect/designer?
If you are then I will address this as a separate issue.
To be fair, I will admit that I am trained as an architect (not licensed).
Again I do not ask whether you are a designer, or not, to be condescending in any way (as you seem to infer from anything that challenges your views, or more specifically anything that is presented as fact, or even yet more specifically anything that might have required some basic education within the realm of design) but I ask in an attempt to gain insight through the lens in which you are making your inferences.
I am glad that you bring many of these issues up so that they may be dispelled in a public forum. I’m sure that you are not the only one that holds similar views to the ones that you have set forth, and I am grateful that we might have the opportunity to rightfully sort out the facts.
If the Lacey is bad architecture, what might you suggest is good? To be fair I would stay within the realm of condominiums in DC.
Please do not give up yet… perhaps I may have something to learn.
By the way, what is an ego-lava lamp?

t pakravan said...

Did not expect to see such heated debate over the design of a multifamily home unit! Healthcare reform maybe but this comment page is starting to remind me too much of politics and town hall meetings!

I also live in New Canaan amongst many different styles of homes and wouldn't want it any other way.
Traditional and modern. On the SAME STREET.....Imagine!

I love diversity and have always loved neighborhoods where opposites dwell quite contentedly together. Dallas is my hometown and the residential and commercial architecture there can be strikingly of the things I loved about living there.

Criticism is good but sometimes things should just be taken as they are. Desgin like art is subjective. There should be no dissing, hatred or MY view is better....just creativity and what the "artist" presents. Take it or leave it. No one is forcing you to take it home or live in it.

I happen to admire any home or product if it is thoughtfully designed and well constructed and I can appreciate that not everyone creates the same product or environment. (Thank goodness)

And of course most designers/architects/artists are very passionate about what they create and the style they most admire and emulate...I do not think one could spend years working on a project and NOT feel passionate about it.....frankly I would not want to hire anyone that did not feel passionate about it.

Vive la difference!
Peace out...

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the hater accusing people of arrogance has suddenly disappeared. Interesting that when the facts are laid bare before him that he runs and hides, or perhaps he is too arrogant to respond! However, not surprising. It is the one thing that makes me weary of such forums — that people such as this can spew all the contaminated non-sense they want, and then scour away. Sad!

I am glad to see that architecture is the source of debate, however I am disappointed in both the breadth and depth (no one in particular is to blame for this). It should be taken seriously, as well as healthcare, but this is not an either/or. It has been taken seriously and is a general measure of the pinnacles of civilization. I am not sure that our current state of architecture could attest to the image of a civilization that American’s generally hold to be true, and this fact might be worth thinking about.

Things should never be left as they are. Left as they are, they atrophy and die. Criticism is to a large degree what separates architecture from being mere building. Criticism drew out the distinction between architect and builder, hence the discipline of architecture. However, a distinction must be made between criticism for its own sake (disparaging, condemnatory, accusatory, or negative criticism) and constructive criticism (analytical, interpretive, expository), which seeks to attain a deeper understanding of the world around us through the act of being critical, and giving this understanding expression visa vie architecture.

Architecture as an art has been the subject of debate since the birth of architecture over 2000 years ago with Vitruvius (the first to put forth a ‘complete’ written theory of architecture). While for some architecture is the mother art, for others architecture should only be concerned with building. However, even if we were to accept that architecture is an art, it is too often the case that one assumes that the building (art object) comes into existence in a flash of divine inspiration. The image of the architect who ‘draws’ a ‘picture’ of a building in a moment of creative genius, which is then handed over to contractors, and engineers, to execute is a common trope. It is a romantic image, but could not be farther from the truth. Rather architecture like art is a creative process, and good architecture not only requires passion, but endless bouts of criticality in which a work slowly unfolds and reveals itself. Good architecture, or art, is always inherently critical (criticality alone does not assure good architecture, but is also a product of talent).

Anonymous said...

Love staying at The Lacey with a family member/owner! It's spacious, great neighborhood and walking area. Despite the large windows, which makes it feel larger, privacy is great. Kitchens are top notch - including generous backsplash. Naysayers must be some poor rejected souls that get a kick out of bashing great projects.

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