Historically Green

September 9, 2009

As an architect, I approach any renovation or alteration to historic properties with deep respect for the occupants, designers and builders before me. The fact that historical buildings still exist and are useful is a testimony to their design and construction.   Maintaining and improving these building is the ‘greenest’ construction option - when our work makes or keeps them viable and useful, we aren’t creating waste through demolition, and we aren’t using valuable resources and energy to create a replacement. Most of all, it connects us to our past.

Our family vacation this year was to one of my favorite places, New York’s Hudson River Valley, where there are some of the finest homes in America dating from the early settlers in the 17th century, to the estates of the landed gentry of the 18th century, to the summer mansions of the 19th century moguls of industry. My husband and I have great memories of traveling through the area in years past, sauntering around these historic properties and enjoying the buildings and their histories.  This year was different, with an 8 year old and 4 year old in tow, we had to make concessions to visit the houses: one of us would visit a property while the other would hang out with the kids or watch a movie with them in the car. I was lucky and got to spend the time span of a whole movie on the grounds of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park.

When visiting grand homes, I love to check out the ‘back-of-the-house’ areas – the kitchen, servant’s quarters, carriage houses, garden buildings. In these areas, I feel more able to see how life was lived on the property, and I am often struck by the attention to detail and craftsmanship found in even the most unimportant of spaces. The Vanderbilt Mansion and grounds have great examples of this type of construction.

These photos are of one of the carriage houses – intricately carved details and masonry are glorious:

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These photos are of one of several small garden structures in the formal gardens:

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It is true that these ultra-wealthy owners could do what they wanted and it was easy for them to spare no expense. But being in these spaces and seeing their beauty, I appreciate that the money was well spent, and that the craftsmen building these masterpieces walked away proud of their creations. 

GreenBridge Architects was honored to be the architect for a renovation and addition to a Newburyport home constructed in 1630.  These last photos are of the just completed project (construction by Henry Becker Construction):

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It was wonderful to see our clients moved in and using the much-improved spaces. The older parts of the home have been restored and freshened-up with careful improvements, and the addition and renovated newer sections of the home work seamlessly with the antique home and with our client’s modern lifestyles. This 17th century home now has a gracious entry foyer, a master bath, a chef’s kitchen, and is super-insulated with energy efficient mechanical systems. We hope that our ‘green’ piece of the home’s history will ensure that it is valued and cared-for for at least another two or three centuries!  If you would like more information on this project or would like to discuss an upcoming project, contact me at juli@greenbridgearchitects.com.

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