Residential architecture is taking some new and interesting turns thanks to increased energy consciousness and a post-Modernist movement. There have always been architects who didn't care what was "in" and who listened to their clients' needs, but lately more clients than ever seem eager to seek new directions, especially toward energy-conscious design.
The biggest single source of work for most architects these days is remodeling and renovating homes, with most involving building a small addition or reshaping spaces. Much Washington architectural design revolves around residences that pay homage to the past, careful planning for energy-conscious design solutions, and the reshaping of yesterday's homes for today's needs.
Locally, the post-Modernist impact can be seen in the work of younger architects, such as John Rust of Rust, Orling & Neale in Alexandria, who has fashioned a contemporary bungalow complete with cut shingles in the Victorian style.
Rust combines a nod to the past with attention to the future in his 1,300-square-foot home perched on a ravine. From the street side, the house appears to be one story high and blends in well with other houses in the neighborhood. Its small peaked roofs, the screened-in porch and the cut shingle work give the impression of a simple turn-of-the century bungalow.
Rust designed a passive solar home on what most would consider an unbuildable lot. The wood structure rests on a series of steel pilings stuck about 25 feet into the earth. It boasts a cathedral-ceiling living room, a small utilitarian kitchen, a dining alcove and even a small deck with a hot tub.
Downstairs are a large bath and two spacious bedrooms with large closets. The house is superinsulated with foam and has a massive solar collector along one wall.
Energy consciousness was not the sole motivation for Gene and Shannon Wilburn when they went to Bethesda architect Thomas Manion and asked him to build them a "berm" house on their 52-acre estate in Frederick. The home, set into a hillside so that three sides are buried, will not only be largely self-sufficient in terms of energy, but its design demonstrates respect for the landscape.
"When you drive through the clearing to the site," says Shannon Wilburn, "you can see how horrible it would be to stick a traditional home on the land -- it just doesn't belong." The couple plans to ride their horses on the rooftops and build gliders in the garage.
Probably the most challenging task an architect faces is trying to redesign someone else's work. In the case of the Robert and Bernice Carkhuff home in McLean, the challenge was particularly difficult because the house grew with the whims of a rather eccentric florist who built it himself out of local stones and leftover building supplies. Pimmit Run, as it was called by its former owner, is located on two and one-half acres.
The new owners asked architect Susan Woodward Notkins to redesign the house for their needs, creating four entertainment and living spaces, each somewhat self-sufficient. Then, the couple's visitors, business associates and five sons could come and go with ease, and the art of making a stone shack into a home could begin.
In redesigning the home, the architect cleverly restructured it and included impressive additions.