Chairs and Company, behind its glass wall, is shaped roughly like a funnel to suck you in, willy-nilly, from M Street. Terraset Elementary School in Reston is burrowed into the hillside to provide cavelike security and warmth. Madeira School's science building has a roof of solar collectors contrasted with wood walls.
A studio for a stained-glassmaker has a huge north-facing window for his easel. A house wraps around a hill, and in the center is a great castle hall. An addition to a small brick house adds an apartment for a grandparent, an artist's studio, a breakfast room and more livingroom space.
These are the six projects that have won their architects 1977 Honors Awards from the Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The Northern Virginia chapter is to be congratulated for giving the awards to buildings of a human scale. There isn't an office building in the lot. Instead, half of the awards went to houses - individual, detached, custom houses, a category considered an endangered species. The store project certainly was not a grandiose project, nor were the two school buildings.
Furthermore, the two larger buildings received additional citations for saving energy, an architectural necessity of today often ignored by honor juries.
Chairs and Company's store measures only 900 square feet, so the problem was how to display the maximum number of chairs and at the same time draw people into the store.
The solution, by architect Thomas L. Kerns of Swaney Kerns, was to make the store into a funnel. Arched plywood panels, with radical platforms sandwiched between, support four layers of chairs. Each chair is, so to speak, enthroned. Even if you prefer sofas or floor pillows, it's hard not to be pulled in. Since the storefront is wall-to-wall glass, the handsome logo on the back wall, framed by the arches, also serves as the store's sign. The owner of the store also headquarters next door, selling office design, desks as well as chairs, displayed in a remarkable bridge suspension system.
Terraset Elementary School was designed in the middle of the oil crisis, so the problem was to build an energy-efficient school for 990 students.
The solution, by architect Douglas N. Carter of Davis, Smith and Carter Inc. of Reston, was so old as to be new - back to cave construction. The top of the hill was removed, and a reinforced concrete structure poured in. Then the top of the knoll was put back, almost in its original land contours. The earth layer in magnificent insulation, and serves as a playground as well.
The building uses high-efficiency solar collectors plus a heat reclamation system to save 75 per cent of the expected energy costs. Contractor E.H. Glover built the school for the Fairfax County Public Schools System.
The Madeira School science building was also planned to save fossil fuels, by using solar heat. The solution by architect Arthur Cotton Moore is a steeply sloping roof which is also a solar collector. The resulting high-pitched ceiling serves to house the ductwork. The rest of the building is faced with wood to contrast with the black glass of the collector.
The building incorporates a greenhouse in one of the sharp corners. The site's natural circulation pattern is incorporated in sheltered paths made by the roof's overhang. Comercial Industrial Construction, Inc. was the builder for Madeira School. James Madison Cutts was structural engineer; Flack & Kurtz, mechancial and electrical engineers.
The Don Harris Jr. family wanted a house that would separate for public and private areas, and parents and children. The solution, also by architect Moore, is a modern hillside castle, a white curving sculpture that makes walking into the central hall an experience of high drama. The contractor was Graham James Jr.
Rowan and Peggy Le Compte had unusual problems. Le Compte is a stained-glass artist, working on a mammoth project for the National Cathedral. He needed a high window to use as an easel, plus layout space. Architect James W. Ritter has provided it all, with temporary living quarters and storage. The solution is a cross between a quonset-hut shape and an A-frame, with remarkable cathedral-like windows to serve the artist. The contractor was R.G. Enterprises.
Dr. and Mrs. William Kaufman wanted to add more space plus a considerable amount of light to a rather ordinary brick house. Architect Thomas Kerns (also the designer of Chairs and Company) designed an addition with a split facade of two different shapes to serve two purposes. One end has a steeply sloping glass roof to serve a single room, the other end is a square-box shape to provide room for a second story. The remodeling cost was $50,000. The contractor was Designcraft.
No building is perfect. In the Chairs and Company shop, it isn't easy to hoist chairs down to try their sitability. The Harris house's white sculptural quality is not enhanced by the oil droplets from the constant plane traffic. One wonders how children can learn anything if they can't stare out the window all the time, not always possible in Terraset. The geometry of Madeira School is rather complicated for those who never got beyond triangles having three sides. And in the Le Compte and Kaufman houses, one wonders how they pay for their air conditioning with all that glass.
But these are carping noises. The six AIA award winners are pleasant, cheerful, people-sized buildings, and the world is better for them. The judges, Charles Lamb of Baltimore; Thomas Hayes Jr. of Southern Pines, N.C., and Fred Foote of Philadelphia, all know a good building when they see it.