Little Sister arrives!

We did it!  We had our second child just 10 days ago: Sawyer Jennifer DeBacker.  Here we are introducing Mark to his little sister.




Sawyer has been an incredible addition to our family and already I can’t imagine life without her. 

I know I haven’t posted much in the past few months.  Life has become ridiculously full and busy, but I still think blogging is a worthwhile pursuit. I hope to

be more consistent with it once we are more settled.  I did want to share one thing (in addition to the baby announcement!) that Dr. Jay showed me this morning.  He has become an avid (and talented) photographer over the last year or so, and has recently started posting more to Flickr.  Today, through Flickr, he found an interview Moby gave to 1883 digital magazine about his blog about L.A. Architecture.  Los Angeles has been on my list to visit for quite a while.  I’ve been to California three times, and only really to Northern California and I know Southern California is like an entirely different country.  Anyway, I just love hearing Moby talk architecture in Los Angeles. He travels quite a bit and has a very interesting take on what he finds to photograph in L.A. 

Gives me the itch to travel there.  But I’ve got enough travel on my plate for the summer.  We move in a few short weeks and even fewer boxes have yet been packed.  I hope to be able to blog, but know I haven’t forgotten about you.  I just have to figure out how to juggle.

Thanks for sticking with me.



Remembering 9/11/01


This morning we paid tribute to some of the victims of the 9/11 attacks by visiting the Pentagon Memorial.

184 people died at this site on the morning of September 11th, 2001.  Some were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and some were working in the Pentagon.  The Memorial, which is located where the crash took place, was designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman of Kaseman Beckman Advanced Strategies and opened September 11, 2008. 




To honor the victims, 184 benches rise from the ground with small, lighted reflecting pools below.  They are arranged from the youngest victim first, Dana Falkenberg (age 3) to the oldest victim, John Yamnicky Sr. (age 71).  Each name is engraved on the bench, and the benches representing those inside the building are situated so that if you are reading the name you are facing the Pentagon.  The benches representing those aboard the plane are arranged so that if you are reading the name you are facing skyward, tracing the path of the plane.



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Visiting the site, I was struck by the sheer breadth of benches.  184 is just a number until you see it all laid out in front of you.  And this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of those affected by the tragedies of that day.  The memorial is a very touching tribute.  It is a serene spot of reflection, with just enough noise from the crunching gravel beneath your feet, planes overhead going to and from National Airport, and just enough tactility amid the benches and their reflecting pools beneath to make you stop and consider those that have gone before you.


On this 10th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, I hope you will be remembering your fellow Americans.

>Looks like we made it




Well, good readers, Mark and I survived the trip down to Richmond last week to tour the Rice house by Richard Neutra.  I’d even go as far as saying we thrived rather than just survived!  I’ll spare you the details of the early morning drive south, other than to say that there was a necessary outfit change just prior to the tour and I am so thankful for a nearby Starbucks– not for its coffee but for the availability of a changing table in the bathroom.  [Side note:  fold-out changing tables in public bathrooms are great, but can we please start demanding that a hook be available nearby to hold the diaper bag?!  Moms- let’s get together on this one.  Just like there should be a hook on the back of every stall door for our purses, there NEEDS to be a hook near the diaper changing area.  I’ll do my part as an architect to lobby for these!]

So, we were able to start the tour rested and fed (and changed!) and that made for a much happier baby.  We also lucked out with two very nice gentlemen who carpooled to the site from the Virginia AIA office with us.  One was a Richmond native who told me lots about the Fan District and surrounding neighborhoods and the other entertained Mark in the back seat.  They didn’t seem to mind squeezing into my tiny vehicle made smaller by the car seat that takes over the back, and one even offered to carry Mark’s diaper bag (though, it is an Orla Kiely bag and what design-minded person wouldn’t want to carry that bag?  Dr. Jay doesn’t even mind carrying it)!

On to the Neutra house- okay, okay, it’s the Rice house by Neutra.  It was nothing short of spectacular.  First of all, it’s situated on an island.  An ISLAND!  On the James River.  How incredible is that?  We had to cross a bridge specifically built by the Rices for accessing the island.  

Here’s a view of the James from the drive leading up to the house.




It was a gorgeous spring day.  Our tour guide was Bodil Hanneman, Director of the Foundation Board put together to preserve this amazing work of architecture.  She is also a personal friend of the Rice family (Walter Rice has passed away but his wife Inger is still living).  Here is Bodil Hanneman, who is also an architect.


She explained that the Science Museum of Virginia acquired the house back in 1996 when the Rice family donated it.  It is the only house in Richmond built in the International Style.  It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1999.  She has been working hard with a team not only to determine how best to proceed with renovations and repairs but also to help raise money for the cause.  She mentioned that one of the contractors told her that if they hadn’t intervened when they did, the house would have surely fallen within five years because it was in such a state of disrepair.  There was extensive water damage due to the poor drainage of the flat roofs. 

There were workers on the roof laying new waterproofing on the day of our tour.039

See the River out there?  I must mention that all these shots were taken by me while I had Mark on my other arm, so they are not my best work but I certainly tried to capture some details.  I don’t think there were any artificial light sources on at the time of our tour, so you can see how well this house receives daylight.


All of the fireplaces were double-sided, this one to both the interior and exterior.


This fireplace in the living area doubled with a fireplace in the master bedroom.  That’s a cork floor, by the way.



Most of the furniture was built-in, a total work of design by Neutra.  He was known for getting to know his clients really well, and was said to want to “be in love” with them before he worked for them.  Apparently he spent a week with the Rices before he took on the design of their home.  He was reportedly not thrilled to be working in Richmond but was quite taken with the site available to him and that was one thing that swayed him.

Here are a few more interior shots.


One side of the master closet which lead to the bathroom.  There were matching bathroom/closet sequences from the master bedroom, and the bathrooms each had sunken tubs.



Here’s a shot in the dining area with the marble wall which extends from the interior to the exterior.


See the glass?


Mark absolutely loved that wall.


He couldn’t stop touching it and got upset when I finally pulled him away.  It was Georgia marble.  What can I say, the boy has really good taste.

Some shots of the pool:



Here are some of the stairs leading to it:



You are not mistaken- that is a very treacherous pathway leading to the pool.  And though there will eventually be a railing along that rooftop balcony, there wasn’t one originally!


I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this tour.  Having learned about houses like this all through school, I didn’t think I’d be able to see a Neutra house unless I took a trip to California.  Having one so close in Virginia is incredible and it makes me so happy that there is such an effort to preserve it.  I came away from this experience certain that Neutra was a true master of the plan.  Each space was so carefully thought out and developed.  It was by no means an enormous house, but Neutra made the most of every square foot and it of course felt more spacious because of all the glass and the fact that there was so much indoor/outdoor living.  That part may have made more sense in California, where Neutra was used to working.  Nonetheless, I have a wonderful memory of the day, as a mother and as an architect.

One last photo for you.  I won’t do this often, but I have to share this with you.

Mark charming our tour guide:


Actually, I think he was charmed by all the zippers on her jacket, and maybe you had to be there, but it was a hilarious way to end the tour.

>It’s all a front


Mark and I had an errand to run last Friday so we left my comfort zone of Old Town and headed into the zoo that is Arlington.  Okay, actually it wasn’t that bad.  We returned unscathed and even managed to spot this oddity:

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A construction zone… but look a little closer around the back:

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What happened to the rest of the church?

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Luckily the construction workers didn’t mind me snapping some photos with my phone.  I’m not sure why this intrigued me so much, but I’m curious as to what they’ll be building as an appendage to this church front.  I couldn’t really get close enough to read the sign as to what the project might be and the architects/engineers/construction companies working on it (I had Mark in his carrier on my front, so I couldn’t exactly sneak past the bulldozers for a closer look).  I guess I’ll have to brave Arlington again in a few months to check on the progress!