PATRICIA Moore likes to tell about the time that her husband, architect Arthur Cotton Moore was, as usual, working late in their living room with its huge glass wall overlooking the pool and patio. He sketched out a problem in design, drawing on a ratty old foam board on his knees, a cigar and a glass of Scotch by his side.
Downstairs in the dining room, she and a house guest saw a man coming over the garden wall of the house. They called the police, who came with bright lights and loud noises and carted off the intruder. After it was all over, Moore, who had finished with his design, came down to join them.
Patricia Moore recalled: "We said, 'Why didn't you come down for the excitement?' Arthur asked, 'What? What?' He'd been concentrating so hard on his work, he didn't even notice the commotion."
Arthur Cotton Moore has reason to concentrate. When he rides about the city in the beat-up, aged car his office uses, chauffered by a college student, he sees his name on construction signs on major buildings all over Georgetown and Washington. Since 1976, he has been responsible for more than a billion dollars of office buildings alone.
Moore's ability to design exciting, sometimes spectacular architecture, has won him many architectural awards. But his ability to work with developers to produce commercial and residential buildings that profitably sell and rent quickly, gains for him the supreme accolade for an architect--most of his designs are actually built. Today, when so many architects' work never gets off paper, this is the crucial factor.
"Nothing is architecture until it's built," Moore said.
"He's not interested in just the drawing on paper," said his wife. He wants the design built, he wants it to live. We are lucky, we've never had a turkey, all our buildings are leased as soon as they're finished.
"He's fortunate. He only does what he wants to do. He doesn't have to take a job if he doesn't like a client."
Currently, Moore is the architect for these designs, some yet on paper, others underway:
The controversial $154-million Georgetown waterfront development, recently the subject of an extraordinary hearing process before Carol Thompson, the mayor's historic preservation agent. She is expected to decide any day whether the project can go forward;
The $16 million renovation of the Old Post Office building, to be finished next spring;
The $46 million restoration of the Library of Congress;
Capitol House, probably the largest rental housing project in the city with 500 units of moderate income housing and office space at Fourth and K streets;
The $10.5-million Tyson III at Tyson's Corners;
And 20-odd other multimillion-dollar projects in the District of Columbia and elsewhere.
The earlier completed local projects which made his name include:
Canal Square in Georgetown, a 19th-century warehouse, was rebuilt in 1970 at a cost of $2.5 million. The lively office and retail space has a spectacular courtyard.form jump living page 2 FORM, From Page 1
Madeira School building, an early solar-heated building.
The Cairo Hotel, an 1894 building, the tallest privately owned building in town, was remodeled for $2.7 million from a derelict building to a profitable condominum.
The Foundry, along the C&O Canal in Georgetown, included an old foundry building inside a big new construction in the design development phase by Moore who also designed the lobbies and the commercial areas.
Moore's designs, called inevitably "Moorish architecture" by some, are of two types. When his buildings have to live with older structures, he borrows devices from the historic structures: towers, bay windows, half moon windows, brick color to make them seem more at home. Where the buildings stand more apart his work is rather futuristic, with a strong bow to 1920's science fiction illustrations.
Moore, in his mid-40s, is a tall, big man, though he keeps the extra pounds off his middle by running every morning and then diving into the pool. He has dark hair and a friendly face. He talks in a quiet, unassuming way. At the recent hearing, though often hard pressed, he managed to keep his voice under control, though admittedly it had an edge to it when he said, "I don't practice Federal architecture," to a tormenter who thought his design was too modern.
Moore talked in the conference room of his office recently with the cardboard model for the Georgetown Waterfront on the conference table and another set of planes rolled up and stuck in an Eero Saarinen chair. A secretary brought in a glass of instant lemonade. He seems to enjoy standing up to talk, perhaps because he often makes presentations of his work to prospective clients and boards like the Fine Arts Commission. Standing, his height gives him an advantage over lesser mortals.
He works in his own building, an interesting conversion of a garage on a quiet Georgetown street, within walking distance of the Moore home and a block off M Street. Slanted glass tops an exposed brick wall in his conference room. That summer day the hot morning summer sun filled the room.
The room usually has a model on the table and a colored rendering, along with piles of sketches and photographic slides. Moore, unlike many architects, draws his own renderings. He likes to do it and does it well. His drawings often accompany the articles he writes for professional architecture publications.
"I believe in some of what is called Post Modern architecture, using architectural elements from the past," Moore said. "Though it's not revolutionary. It is a correct enlargement of the architect's choices. I think we lost something when we removed all embellishments from architecture. The preservation movement has helped make ornament respectable. Where we can afford it, enrichment is good design."
Hugh Newell Jacobsen, another of the capital's top architects, paid Moore the best compliment from one competitor to another: "I wish I had designed as much of my town as he has."
Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery and chairman of the Fine Arts Commission which passes on architecture that affects the historic streetline of the city, said he is "very high on Arthur. I admire him for his work, his personality and his articulate presentations.
"Some people had trouble when he was doing rather art moderne, world's-fair type designs. But he's come back himself and changed some of those. He's so imaginative, sometimes he gets carried away. I think working within the framework of a historic building helps keep him in focus.
"I especially liked the way on the Foundry building he was able to pull back from the canal to create a space. You see people all the time there with guitars. The commission worked with him through several designs to make it fit. He used several tricks to lower the roofline."
Few of Moore's critics are willing to do so publicly, though he has received a certain amount of anonymous harassing. Moore, admittedly, was very annoyed a few years ago when an out-of-town architect criticized some drawings of his in a catalogue for an art exhibition. "He really got a vendetta going," said a person who wouldn't be quoted. The same person, a high official, added, "There were lots of phone calls and heavy pressure over this Georgetown waterfront plan, too. But that wasn't Moore himself."
Charles Atherton, Fine Arts Commission secretary, has seen a great deal of Moore as he has brought his plans to be approved by the commission. Even though Atherton, as do the majority of the commissioners, strongly opposes the Moore plan for the Georgetown waterfront, he has high regard for Moore himself.
"I think his imagination and handling of forms are first rate. No doubt that he, Jacobson and Hartman/Cox are the leading architects locally. His work on occasion is too dramatic for some taste. I'm sure his new 2100 F Street apartments won't read as background architecture to the neighbors. It's glass and red granite, very assertive. But the commission liked it and approved it.
"Unlike many architects, he's not too proud to work with developers. I think that's good. It means more of his buildings get built. He's also one of the few architects who knows how to write. And what he writes makes sense."
(Moore is currently working on a book, "The Architecture of the Absurd.")
Katharine Sullivan, the Georgetown neighborhood advisory commissioner, is not as fond of Moore. "Nothing personal, but I don't think his architectural design for the waterfront is compatible with Georgetown. It looks to me far too much like Bauhaus. I tend to go along with Tom Wolfe's feelings against Bauhaus. I can't imagine anyone with a fishing rod walking along the waterfront by Moore's building."
Moore replies, "Some of the opposition to the plan wants theme-park architecture. Mystic Village. Disneyland. One suggested we build a psuedo tobacco warehouse."
On the other hand, he believes strongly in favor of city associations. "I've worked with 12 of them, including the neighbors of the Rockefeller estate. I started out working with the Georgetown citizens, but then they sued and the lawyer says I can't talk to them. The best way is to have the citizens sit down and say what their concerns are, to work with the developers. The trouble with the Georgetown group is they have opted for all or nothing. They should have worked to influence what was built.
Moore is concerned about architects today. "So many are off in a corner sucking their thumb after being slapped in the market place. Exercises like the books and exhibits, 'Late Entries in the Chicago Tribune Competition' and 'Houses without Clients ' don't reflect the realities of clients and problems. Too many in our profession are doing jokes, prat falls, academic exercises. Finally, they give up and go into teaching.
"Too many architects are doing work for nothing. It's a cutthroat situation. One developer had five architects working on plans for nothing. When he asked us to be the sixth, we said 'what part of the building will we own?' We told him to pay the other architects for their time and choose one. He picked us."
Moore explained how he works. "A guy comes in and says 'I want to do a project. I set the major architecture statement. I do small sketches, ask for cardboard models. My staff develops the model forms. I refine the plan. They do the elevations. All along the way, I take suggestions, I encourage that. But we don't work by committee. The ultimate decision has to be one person. The conceptions are all mine.
"But I pay a great deal of attention to the client's needs. I don't do clientless architecture. The largest part of my work is with commercial developers. His principle need is to get the permit and make money. I don't believe the architect should fight the marketplace. I believe in working in the marketplace. But I attempt to invest in the buildings what I can conceive of beauty and artfulness."
Moore has designed only four houses, all of them with spectacular spiral staircases, one of them the charming house he and his wife live in on a Georgetown cul de sac. The lot was considered unbuildable, but that's the sort of statement a good architect likes to dispute. "I'd like to do more houses," Moore said. "Even though we lose money on them. But I think I prefer public architecture. When you do a house, once it's finished the people shut the door. It's hard to show people through. I like to show off my buildings."
Moore is a pleasant, agreeable, though often harassed man, who nevertheless, has managed with the help of his wife, to strip his life of what she calls s--- work. "He transcends trivia," she said. His whole life revolves around work, seven days a week, sometimes more hours than are in a day. "He does all his design work at home nights until 11 and on weekends. Often he's working on three or four projects at a time. He doesn't mind. Creation for him is sort of a existential experience. He gets a real high from it. It's an admirable thing to love what one does, to be devoted to something other than yourself. When he works I usually work too, at the office or the house.
"In the office, he spends most of his time going around, checking on the status of the work on each architect's board. He has a trick memory, he can remember the catalogue number of light fixtures, for instance."
He doesn't buy his Scotch or wine, the office orders it by the case. Most other household purchases are made in bulk. The housekeeper does the grocery shopping and has supper waiting in the evening. The filling station on the corner takes their ancient car through the inspection lane.
They shop for clothes twice a year in catalogues. "He kept the suits he wore to St. Alban's for years," said Patricia Moore. "Our housekeeper, Betty Bonilla, buys his underclothes."
Unlike some architects, he's not compulsively orderly. "His office is truly awful," said his wife. Once you get something in it, you can't get it out. Only one secretary can find anything. He's the same way at home. He just drops his clothes on the floor when he takes them off at night."
Patricia Moore manages everything in the office that isn't architecture. She does an exceptional job of public relations for her husband. She also hires the architects whose numbers vary depending on the amount of work. Currently there are 33 architects, including five associates and two junior associates. A receptionist, two secretaries and two "gofors" complete the office.
"The most important question I ask in a job interview," said Patricia Moore, is "do you love architecture. When Arthur set up his office and hired the first architect, the man said, 'You know now you have five more dependents, my mother, my wife and me and our two children.' It scared Arthur to death."
He and Patricia Moore were married in 1968. She was a television producer before they were married. She's tall too, thin and quite handsome. She's witty and once said, over lunch at the Jefferson Hotel, "I think the reason for our longevity is never being bored and always being funny. He's interested in anything except country music. At this point, I could use a little more boredom."
He had been married before. Gregory, 19, his only son, from his first marriage, is a brilliant student of physics at Princeton.
Moore's father was a professor at the Naval Academy, who later edited an armed forces newspaper. He died of a heart attack when he was 51.
Moore graduated with both an A.B. cum laude and a master's degree in architecture from Princeton, after attending St. Alban's School for Boys here.
When Moore was in school, he worked for the big Skidmore Owings & Merrill architecture firm in New York. In Washington he worked for Satterlee & Smith, and Chloethiel Woodard Smith & Associates in Washington before opening his own firm in July 1965.
"As a boy I had done paintings and drawings, but I went to Princeton," said Moore, "intending to be a Foreign Service officer. In my freshman year I took a course in preliminary architectural drawing. What hooked me was the idea of making your drawings come to life. I find great excitement in actually seeing my squiggles on paper built.
"The only true award in architecture is when hundreds of people make your buildings real."