Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kirkin' o' the Tartan

Quite the cultural gamut today as we visited the First Presbyterian Church for the Kirkin' o' the Tartan and thence to Beth Shalom Synagogue for Bubbie's Brisket and Bakery.  A great display of unabashedly garish plaids with the skirl of bagpipes.  And the knishes were great.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


I was in Washington, D.C. back in September and made the following sketches:

The Old Patent Office, now the National Portrait Gallery, was designed by fellow Carolinian Robert Mills and completed in 1842.  One of my favorite buildings in the Federal City, it's almost an abstraction of classicism with its severe Doric details.  I ate in a restaurant across the street and above the International Spy Museum and caught the South facade as the sun was setting.  Each block of the honey-colored masonry is a different hue, giving a blockiness that adds to the severity.    

Union Station

Waiting for the Metro.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Living in Cola

A few weekends ago our neighborhood park hosted a film and tribute to one of our famous neighbors.  Stanley Donen grew up a block from the park and went on to direct several memorable movies with Gene Kelly, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn.  Singin' in the Rain was shown on an inflatable screen.  About 200 people from all over town gathered on the lawn to watch.  I thought my kids wouldn't get into the dated film, but they loved it.  They particularly enjoyed Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh."

I work across the street from St. Peter's Cathedral in Columbia and took my lunch to the courtyard there to sketch.

Friday, August 8, 2014


This week we celebrated my daughter's 4th birthday.  Incredible how time hurls by.  I came across a few sketches I did on that hurried day four years ago.  We were so fortunate to have the care we did, and to have an uncomplicated delivery.  The first sketch below shows the complicated equipment needed for such a normal birth.  The caregivers made it look effortless, as they came and went, but it was still an amazing thing.

Waiting and looking out the window:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Villa Savoye, sort of . . .

My kids gave me a Lego set of the Villa Savoye for Father's Day this year.  I had seen this series of Architectural Legos at conferences and in trade journals, but they were too pricey and kind of gimmicky.  A gift is another thing altogether, though.  This was an excuse to get back into Legos with my kids.  Not shown are Merida's castle from Brave and various Chima vehicles and forts.

Below is the nearly finished model.  This thing is crazy cool.  You really have to walk yourself through the building.  My daughter once again pointed out my poor use of color.

As an architectural grad student I visited the real thing just outside of Paris.  I recall not wanting to sketch any views that had been overly documented, a rationale I regret today.  That left the more utilitarian spaces, and so I sketched the entry lavatory off of the garage (left) and the kitchen (right). Letters from Le Corbusier's clients on display when I visited complain of how uninhabitable the place was.  Drafty and leaky, the Savoyes ultimately abandoned the "machine for living" a few short years after it was completed in 1931.  Seas of ink have been spilled over this building.  It remains today an amazing piece of sculpture and a museum for the architect's Five Points of Architecture.

July 4th, 2014

July 4th at the beach

All five siblings with spouses and children, our parents, and more cousins in two houses.  Wonderful to see all the young cousins growing up together.  Somehow I snatched a few minutes to do the below sketches.  My sketchbook spent most of its time in the hands of my daughter and her cousins, and their contributions to it deserve their own post.  Forthcoming . . . 

 An over-sized chess set was a hit.

 From the upstairs porch of the Floramay I.

Creeping in to the right of the below image is my daughter's impression of Hurricane Arthur, just passed through the day before. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More from Kenya '99

Mount Kenya

In July we headed to Mount Kenya, driving from Nairobi at 5,450 feet above sea level and then over fairly flat terrain.  We didn't gain much altitude until we reached the base of the mountain.

Our first night was spent at Old Camp Moses, 11,155 feet above sea level. (two scenes below)

The second night we stayed at Shipton's Camp (13,898 feet).

We woke up well before sunrise on July 4th to begin our scramble up Point Lenana (16,355 feet), the highest peak.  We reached the peak and rested on ice-covered rocks just as the sun rose over a blanket of clouds.  While we watched, the clouds burned away to reveal the valley and plains below.  It was a breathtaking site, no doubt, and a great spot to celebrate the 4th.

After our scramble to the peak we hiked down the west side of the mountain through the Teleki Valley along the Naro Maru Route and to MacKinder Camp (13,780 feet).

The below sketch was done soon after we arrived at MacKinder Lodge.  I showed it to one of the guides who commented on the disorder of our packs and boots and how he would've arranged them more carefully.

Our last stop was at the Summit View Pub near the Naro Maru Youth Hostel, where we waited for our van.  The hostel was an old brick farmhouse from the British colonial period.  Stories of the Mau Mau rebellion and its final days when the rebels sought refuge in the forest around the mountain made us consider the poverty and crippling kleptocracy under which Kenya strains and from which we were so heavily insulated.

Below, Guides and other patrons of the Summit View Pub


Monday, June 9, 2014

My Old School

Davidson College

Back to dear ol' Alma Mater for our 15th college reunion.  I had a chance to sketch a few familiar scenes.

Chambers Building

Built in 1929 to replace A.J. Davis' original Chambers Building of 1855.  The Greek Cross drum, Diocletian windows and stepped dome borrow heavily from McKim Meade and White's Low Library at Columbia University of 1895.  The McKissick Building at the Universitry of South Carolina was built about ten years after Chambers and contains several identical exterior elements, including the shrouded maidens flanking the shield with the college seal.  Since my time this building has been thoroughly renovated, bereft of the battered wooden double hung windows and their rattling counterweights so easily thrown open when you'd hole-up in a classroom to cram for an exam.  Nary a chalkboard in sight these days.  All Smart Boards and carpeted rooms with tiered seating.

Oak Row

These wonderful slate-roofed rows were the original dormitories in the nineteenth century and today house state-of-the-art recording and rehearsal spaces for music majors, or at least they did when I was a student. Cunningham Fine Arts Building peaks out to the right and up the hill.  Neither were my typical haunts, but they present an idyllic scene and it was a great spot to sit.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Africa: Kikuyu & Mombasa, Summer of 1999

My first sketchbook.

In the summer of '99, after graduating from college, I went to Kenya with five classmates to work at a mission hospital in Kikuyu, near Nairobi.  Before I left, a friend gave me a large black sketchbook.

We brought donated medical supplies with us, shadowed physicians during rounds and procedures, and helped with clerical work around the hospital.  We were there for six weeks and were able to travel around the country, as well.

The Green House, a prefab metal clad structure brought over by Scottish Presbyterians around 1910, was the men's residence where three friends and I stayed.

Guard's house behind the Green House

Inside the Green House.

Porch of the Green House.

Van ride back from our photo safari in the Masai Mara and Serengeti.

In mid June we took a train from Nairobi to Mombasa on the coast.  On the 14-hour trip I read The Man-eaters of Tsavo.  Written in the Victorian era, it tells the story of lion attacks on the worker camps during the rail's construction.

We stayed in a beachfront resort in Mombasa for a few days.  Most of the tourists were European, and of them most were German.

Camels for hire, and an ever-present and watchful policeman.

Entrepreneurs on the beach.  Men selling everything from boat-rides to photographs and trinkets.  Anyone of them could speak a handful of languages, and would try them out on you until they got it right.  German was usually their first try, and English came in second or third.  I showed this sketch to a few of them, and they appreciated the policeman with his back turned.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sun Valley, Idaho

We went skiing a few weeks ago in Sun Valley Idaho.  It was the first time on an airplane for our kids and their three cousins.  Our group was six adults and five kids in all.

On the plane

Reading on the balcony overlooking Dollar Mountain.

From the lodge at Dollar Mountain

The Roundhouse Restaurant with Ann Harriott.  We sneaked away for a day of skiing on our own.

Movie night

Ernest Hemingway monument near the Sun Valley Inn.  Sun Valley and nearby Ketchum were his last haunts.  The area has a fascinating history of pop culture from the 1930s through the 1960s.  Hemingway was a big draw.  Seems the old guy really cashed in on the commercial endorsements out here.  Ketchum was his last home, and he ended his own life there in 1961.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Around the kitchen table

Quick sketches of our family at home.  

A way to make them sit still for a few minutes.  This was back in January, and I was still putting 2013 on everything.

My record of somehow getting out of doing the dishes.

Games on the floor at Mimi's (my mom).

Sketches of activity back on Christmas morning.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

School Days

What I did during other people's presentations in architecture school ('03-'07):

Matt's review

Mike's review

Doug & Nick                                                                   Will Cannady (glasses) & visiting jurors

Wendy's review


 Andy Todd

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lunchtime sketches in Columbia, SC

The South Carolina Statehouse is a great place to take a lunch.  The monuments on the grounds show a complicated history.  Civil War generals memorialized next to Civil Rights activists:

Wade Hampton on horseback with the African American monument in the background, to the right of the Statehouse.

Ben Tillman's statue is at the far right.  Several groups have called for its removal. 

The Koger Center for the Performing Arts (right) is one of my favorite buildings, designed in the late 80s by local firm GMK.  To the left is the new Darla Moore School of Business under construction.  It was designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects (his website opens with a pretty cool clip of him sketching) with our firm as engineers.

Favorite lunch spot near our office, Drip on Main Street.