Author Archives: Christine Scharrer

About Christine Scharrer

Seattle Architect, student of the world.

Modernist Architect Natalie de Blois, 1921-2013


Pepsi Cola Headquarters, New York – Image from Architectural Record

I was saddened to learn today of the death of natalie de Blois, an architect who spent her career designing some of the best modernist buildings of the era for SOM.

She was also the founding organizer of the Chicago Women in Architecture group, and an architectural educator. Her legacy is amazing, yet often not acknowledged. A fantastic interview with her from 2004 is here.

Terrace Plaza Hotel Restaurant- Image from

 I promise my next post will not be an obit!

Oscar Niemeyer, RIP

Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum. Image from


The world lost a legend this week, with the passing of Oscar Neimeyer. He had an incredibly long career and life, he was 104 years old. He has left a legacy of amazing, sculptural and beautiful building in Brazil, and his work at the UN in New York City with Le Corbusier brought his iconic style to the United States.

Unitied Nations Headquarters. Image from americasouthandnorth blog













His work is curvaceous and he often commented that he was inspired by the female form.  No further comment on that, other than the work is both timeless and futuristic- and the curves are  beautiful.

Centro Niemeyer, Spain. Image from



The Oscar Niemeyer Museum. Image from leblogmedemoiselle


Facade Friday! – Democracy Edition

Here are some buildings that are very governmental.

The Washington Governor’s Mansion – by Russell and Babcock
US Capitol, Benjamine Latrobe image from
Washington State Capitol Building by Wilder and White

Apparently, Governmental, up until very recently, meant “neo-colonial” or “Greek revival”.

So what makes a building civic, or “democratic” in a more modern vernacular? Here are some newer examples:

Seattle City Hall by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson – image from BUILDblog
US Courthouse and Federal Building, Las Vegas by Mehrdad Yazdani. Image by Peter Aaron
Bronx county Hall of Justice, Rafael vinoly Architects image from






What do these newer examples have in common? A “civic” scale, a prominent front porch or plaza element, and an urban presence that is welcoming – like a front door to the government.

Lebbeus Woods, RIP

Lebbeus Woods – his work and his writings – were an early inspiration for me. I think my whole class at K-State was a little Lebbeus-crazy, in part due to his visit to K-State in conjunction with his inclusion in our Architectural Journal Oz.

He passed away this week at the age of 72, early I think for someone who had so much creativity and inspiration left to offer.  His crazy world of ideas will be missed.

Image from

Facade Friday!

Life can be brutal. Architecture can be brutal, and then we call it “Brutalism”.

The most famous example of Brutalism is the Boston City Hall by Paul Rudolph:

Image from
image from Slow Painting Blog

Some examples are quite fantastic – brutal, but also playful:

Image from
Image from

Say what you will about Brutalism, but one thing is clear – a brutal facade is a deep, chunky, and visually interesting facade!

Image from
Image from


Facade Friday!

Image from Treehugger

A theme to many of these Facade Friday! posts that I see emerging is that I am drawn to facades that are screen-like in nature. I also am very intrigued by facades that are active and use non-traditional materials and/or traditional materials in a new manner. The facade of the Carabanchel Housing project by Foreign Office Architects (I know, great name!) incorporates all of these qualities.

The facade is made up of folding screens made of bamboo. They create privately screened in decks for the units when closed; a view to the outside world when open. The interior effect is really lovely:


The bamboo is a sustainable material, and the screening also helps to keep the building cool. The bamboo screens actually act as louvers, letting breezes through while keeping solar gain out. The participatory aspect of this facade is also great. I love how the proportions of the facade will change daily based on who has their screens open and who has left them closed.
Plus, the screens when opened add an additional layer of texture and chunkiness to the facade. The overall effect is very nice.
Images from NoticiaArquitectura

Forest Fire Friday

A love of buildings and making them has shaped my life and my career, but in the end they are only as good as the people who use them and love them. A place is no good if it contains no love from it’s inhabitants.

The Flying W Ranch is a place from my youth. Since 1953 they’ve hosted chuckwagon dinners with the songs of the Flying W Wranglers. On Tuesday, the ranch burned to the ground, a casualty of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

The architecture of the ranch, well, that I can barely remember. But the essense of  the place, and the memory of what was created there, is distinct in my mind. The place was alive with good times and an authentic western atmosphere. I am very sad for this loss, though the family has promised to rebuild.

Images from, The Gazette Telegraph, and The Flying W Ranch Website