Thursday, December 3, 2009

House on the Coast, Post #6

(A continuing series of construction progress photos)

There has been a bit of a lull over Thanksgiving, but the first floor is finished. The second floor has been sheathed, and the framers are laying out the second floor walls in the photos below.

Notable Buildings in Syracuse, New York

There are a few...

Syracuse Savings Bank

Syracuse Savings Bank is a textbook example of the High Victorian Gothic, which was a popular commercial style in the 1870s. This was the first major commission for architect James Lyman Silsbee, who  married well, and taught at Syracuse University School of Architecture for a time.

Detail of entrance

Silsbee did not stay in Syracuse too long; he opened offices in Buffalo and Chicago, where he eventually settled. Frank Lloyd Wright got his first job in architecture in Silsbee's Chicago office.

Niagara - Mohawk Power Company Office Building

Detail of ornament

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The November Garden

Even though it is November, there are still things to be had in the garden. I picked these today:

Limes, Oranges and Two Tomatoes

Although the tomatoes are petering out, we still pick one or two a week; the basil has also just about given up for the season. Winter is the time for citrus. There are lots of oranges now; Valencias, which we grow, taste much better than Navels, and make great juice and marmalade. There are almost always limes on the tree; these are Bearss limes, which are bigger and juicier than the small Mexican limes found in most supermarkets, and are yellowish when ripe. There will probably be key lime pie for Thanksgiving.

Other things are beginning to push up while the fall crops are fading: the freesia, gladiolas and arum are coming up now, and will bloom in February or March; the amaryllis is also in leaf, but will die back in the spring and not bloom until August. Roses never go completely dormant, but do not bloom very frequently now, until spring.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recent Vacations 2

We noticed the following signs in while driving through the small towns along route 395. It seems that every town has a sporting goods store with a fish sign. These are older signs, built to suit the particular small business, and are much more interesting and charming than those of national franchise stores appearing everywhere.
Bridgeport, CA: extra points for the guy wire terminating in a fly at the fish's mouth.

 Bishop, CA: a particularly nice composition, with the circle and arrow.

Lone Pine, CA: lots of wear and tear adds to the charm.

Lone Pine, CA: very nice rendering on the fish.

Obviously, the rainbow trout is the official object of the local obsessions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recent Vacations

Owens Valley, route 395 north

The journey is more important than the destination.

In early August, we took a two-night trip driving up route 395 through the Owens Valley, which has some of some of the most beautiful scenery we know. We find it quiet and restorative to wander through the vast and spectacular geology, where people and towns are few and far between, but you are almost never without at gorgeous view.

Sierra Nevada, view from Westgard Pass

Tule elk and Inyo Mountains at sunset

From the Owens Valley, all of the following can be found within a 100-mile radius:
The deepest valley in North America (Owens Valley)
The highest point in the lower 48 states (Mount Whitney)
The lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (Death Valley)
The oldest living things on earth (Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest)
The largest living things on earth (Giant Sequoias)

Volcano cone and Sierra Nevada, Owens Valley

Mono Lake tufa and Sierra Nevada

Tufa at Mono Lake.

White Mountain Peak, view at 11,500 feet

Bristlecone pine, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, White Mountains

Patriarch Grove, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Additional photos from the trip to follow, in the near future.

House on the Coast, Post #5

Joists being set for the first floor:

And first-floor walls go up quickly:

So far, the weather is holding. There was a chance of showers today, but nothing materialized. In the next few days, floor joists for the second floor will be in place

Monday, October 26, 2009

House on the Coast, Post #4

The contractor is wasting no time in moving ahead with framing. This photo was taken on Friday afternoon:

Because this project has a an accelerated construction schedule, the steel contractor had begun fabricating the beams and columns well ahead of time, allowing them to be assembled immediately after the foundation was poured.

Since the last post, waterproofing has been applied to the exterior of the basement walls, visible as the black areas. The majority of the structural steel is in place, providing a large clear space for the garage, seen at the right-rear portion of the house. Most of the remaining area is framed conventionally, in wood. The corrugated steel pans at the right side will support poured-concrete patio areas, and the frames extending above the foundation support a second-floor deck over a large first-floor loggia.

The next major task is to set floor joists and sheathing on the first floor.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

House on the Coast, Post #3

The concrete for the basement retaining walls was poured last week, and when I stopped by the site on Saturday, they had nearly finished stripping the formwork. The notches at the top of the walls are locations where landscape paving meets inset door thresholds; the cantilevered projections on the left side are locations of fireplaces.

It rained a moderate amount last week, but you can't tell by looking at the ground here. We are back into 90-degree weather, and things dry out rapidly. Despite the general aridity, a layer of fog, known as a marine layer, which is common along the coast in the morning, is visible covering the ocean surface in the background.

The next major operation will be setting structural steel, before framing begins.

Evil Parrots! (2)

We new that they were up to no good; this is just the sort of thing that you need to watch out for.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

House on the Coast, Post #2

view from front, left corner of house

Placing of formwork for the basement walls continues. It is possible to see the size shape of the floor plan, now. The basement will house the garage (the location of the garage door is not visible, yet), as well as conditioned space. At the left rear, the break in the wall will be the location of doors which provide a walk-out to the back yard.

There is good weather now, but we are expecting a wetter-than-normal fall and winter, so it is important to get the basement done quickly and avoid having a hole filled with water.

view from front, right corner of house

The excavated area at the lower right will be where the driveway descends.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Each month brings something else into flower or fruition in the garden; October is the time that the pomegranates start to become ripe. At this time of year, the branches are weighed down with fruit to the point that we can't enter the driveway without poms bumping along the roof of the car.

Our tree thrives on neglect, and nonetheless produces mass quantities of large fruit. We can't possibly eat them all ourselves, but we have enough friends to eagerly accept the surplus. Occasionally, a passerby will knock and ask for one, and we are happy to send them away with several.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Evil Parrots!

Often, it is the small, quirky things that make a place special. For me, one charming thing about the city of Orange is that we have flocks of wild parrots. They can often be seen in the morning or afternoon, flying in small groups of up to 20 or so, in the downtown area, particularly in spring and fall. You hear them well before you spot them because they squawk loudly as they fly, and roost noisily together in backyards.

The various fruit trees that are common throughout the city provide them with plenty to eat, and in our neighborhood, they are often seen in walnut, palm and avocado trees, and are particularly fond of the small berries of camphor trees, which are common landscape and street trees here. How they wound up here is uncertain; they certainly are not native, and are endangered in their native areas in Mexico and Central America. For some time they have been the subject of a fair amount of study.

In general, we find parrots amusing because of things like this, and like to ascribe a certain amount of nefarious intent to them, because parrots are intelligent and social, and the seemingly deliberate nature of their behavior makes it seem like they are up to something. We have one or two ornithophobic friends who are sure of it. All in all, though, they are really much less bother than the local crows and mockingbirds (but we are keeping a close eye on them).

(Our sincere apologies to the unfortunate young woman pictured herein)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

House on the Coast, Post #1

This is a custom house project in Orange County, overlooking the ocean. I was working on this house before I was laid off, but I hope to be able to maintain regular updates as the construction progresses.
Reinforcement for the concrete basement slab is in place.

The basement slab has been poured, and forms for the basement walls are being placed. The ocean is visible in the background.


Southern California has been an important center for painting and decorative arts for more than a hundred years, now. Laguna Beach began as something of an artists' colony, and the area served as subject for plein-air landscape painters, as well as a marketplace for artists. The city has many galleries and studios, and hosts several art festivals each year.

The Irvine Museum, housed in an office building near Orange County Airport, is a treasure that seems generally overlooked by the local populace. The museum has an authoritative collection of Southern California Impressionist paintings, but is rarely crowded, even though the admission is free. The museum is small, but the collection is amazing, and presents frequently changing curated shows.

We are fortunate to own a few nice paintings by Michael Situ and W.Jason Situ, who paint in the regional tradition. We purchased these at The Gallery on Glassell and The Exchange Fine Arts Gallery, both in downtown Orange.

Corner of Street
Michael Situ

This happens to be a street corner in downtown Orange, just a few blocks from The Orangerie.

Glorious Tree
Michael Situ

(Probably Laguna Canyon.)

Laguna View
Michael Situ

Michael Situ is very good at capturing atmosphere, color and time of day. This is the Orange County most of us want to believe we live in.

W. Jason Situ

Hazy Day
Michael Situ

I believe that this is Santiago Canyon, just east of here.

I has a unemployment.

This week I was laid off from the firm where I have worked for the past 2-1/2 years. We knew in January that this would be a tough year, but hoped that there would be sufficient work to see us through the end of the year, and that prospects would improve in the beginning of '10. Unfortunately, new projects have been rare, and some existing ones were put on hold. I feel fortunate to have lasted this long, as I have many friends who have been laid off over the last year.

So, now it's time to rewrite the resume, reorganize, and gather things into the portfolio. It is easy to neglect all of the disorganized piles of photos and drawings of projects that accumulate as a matter of course, until they are needed in times like this. I have time enough and incentive to go through them now, though, and The Orangerie will be a convenient place to post some of it in a place that other people can easily visit. (I swear that most of my family has only a vague idea about what I do.)

The Orangerie