Friday, June 24, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities' Revivals In-Progress

On my short Metro ride this morning,
I noticed in my free Express newspaper
a story entitled "Historic Opportunities:
As prime building lots grow scarce, old
buildings are getting a new look." To
which I say -- "Finally! Welcome to the
Urban Renaissance!!"

The article cites the Car Barn on Capitol Hill,
an 1896 streetcar depot, which once served
as a trolly repair shop and storage area, which has
been converted into two-story condominium
lofts. Former hospitals, warehouses, churches,
and embassies are, also, all being converted
into condos in the Washington, D.C. - area.

The article cites John Michael Vlach, an
American studies professor at George
Washington University who specializes in
North American traditional architecture:
"There is a sense of decor, a sense of rythm of
openings ... an intriguing asymmetry that
you can't get in the suburbs. Most people
used to 8- to 10- foot ceilings think that they
have died and gone to live in a castle."


Two of my favorite historic reuse projects are new
luxury hotels (in which anyone can go and
enjoy a drink in their lobbies, if not stay):
The first is the Ritz-Carlton on the Georgetown
waterfront, which is located in a former historic
incinerator building -- now a luxury hotel more
stylish and edgy than one would at first imagine.

Last Saturday, after enjoying a drink and light
supper with friends (one of whom was 5 years old),
a manager gave me a tour in which he pointed to
the mechanical conveyor system still in place high
above the dining room, and the private dining room,
for 12, carved out of the base of the former
smokestack. The hotel lobby featured artwork by
the likes of the Starn Brothers and David Nash.

Here is the link to images:
Ritz- Carlton of Georgetown, Washington, D.C.


I am even fonder of the Four Seasons's restoration
of Zsigmond Quittner's Budapest 1907 Art Nouveau
masterpiece, the Gresham Palace, named after the
founder of the London Stock Exchange -- the world's
first -- which is located on Roosevelt Place,
overlooking the Danube river and the Buda sky-line.
As a firm believer in eco-tourism, I am also happy
to report that Hungarian environmentalists
successfully saved the one-hundred year old trees,
next to the Palace, that the developers had wanted
to cut down for parking space.

Here is the link to images:
Four Seasons Budapest Hotel


Budapest, where we spent last Christmas, has to have
some of the most beautiful architecture ever imagined,
and constructed, by mankind.


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