Stone Facades

A facade or façade ( /fəˈsɑːd/) is generally one exterior side of a building, usually, but not always, the front. The word comes from the French language, literally meaning “frontage” or “face”.

In architecture, the façade of a building is often the most important from a design standpoint, as it sets the tone for the rest of the building. Many façades are historic, and local zoning regulations or other laws greatly restrict or even forbid their alteration.

When considering stone facades it is important to consider the life cycle cost when comparing to stucco, precast, or other less costly alternatives. While these options may have a lower initial out of pocket cost, the lower maintenance, durability, energy savings and much longer life cycle of natural stone have overall lower life cycle costs.








The 75th Royal Poinciana Festival

Traditions continue to blossom as Coral Gables holds 75th Royal Poinciana Fiesta

The Royal Poinciana Fiesta will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.

The Royal Poinciana tree is Miami-Dade’s official flowering tree. The Royal Poinciana Festival, a four-day event marking the tree’s history in the city, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

What: Royal Poinciana Fiesta – luncheon, art show, and musicale

Where: Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 11:30 a.m., Friday

Tickets are $25 per person. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call Lynda La Rocca at 305-441-8589.

What: Tree Planting

Where: Volunteers will meet at the Coconut Grove Metrorail Station, located at SW 27th Ave. and U.S. 1.

When: 8:30 a.m., Saturday

For more information about the tree planting, call Steve Pearson at 305-233-3619.

What: Trolley Tour

Where: Trolley Tour will take visitors to see Poinciana trees in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. The tour will depart from the Kampong, located at 4013 Douglas Rd., Coconut Grove.

When: Gates will open at 11:30 a.m., tours will depart at 1 p.m., Sunday

Tickets for the tour and entrance to the Kampong are $25 per person. Entrance to the Kampong is $8. Reservations for the tour are required. For more information, or to reserve, call Carol at 305-258-1086.

What: Fiesta

Where: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables

When: 7 p.m., Monday

Admission to the event is free for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden members and $5 for non-members. Reservations are not required.

This year marks the 75th anniversary for the Royal Poinciana Fiesta, known to many as Miami’s oldest festival. It all started with David Fairchild, who is credited for introducing Poinciana trees to the city and held the first Royal Poinciana Festival in 1937 to celebrate the blooming flowering trees.

“I think the tree Poinciana tree is symbolic of tropical Florida,” said Lynda La Rocca, president of the Tropical Flowering Tree Society, which will present the Fiesta. “We’re celebrating the beauty of it and how it brings us into summer.”

The society, a non-profit organization founded in 1988 for flowering tree aficionados, collects, develops and spreads the word about tropical flowering trees like the Royal Poinciana.

Events begin Friday with a luncheon, art show and musicale at the Coral Gables Art Museum.

Starting at 8:30 Saturday morning, volunteers are scheduled to plant flowering trees alongside U.S. 1. TREEmendous Miami, a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance the city’s greenery, is organizing the event. Participants will meet at the Coconut Grove Metrorail Station at Southwest 27th Avenue and U.S. 1. Volunteers are required to be at least 18.

On Sunday, a Trolley Tour will take participants to see blooming Poinciana trees in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Those interested in participating in the tour will meet at the Kampong, Fairchild’s former home in Coconut Grove. The Kampong, 4013 Douglas Rd., will open at 11:30 a.m. Tours will start at 1 p.m.

The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Rd., will host the Fiesta’s final event at 7 p.m. June 4. The evening will commence with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. It will also feature a jazz performance and an art show, featuring paintings from local artists.

College scholarships will be awarded to three female students. One student will be dubbed the Royal Poinciana Queen, and the other two will be crowned as Princesses. Selections are based on school recommendations, an application, essay and a personal interview. Nominations were accepted from both private and public schools.

Many believe Fairchild’s wife Marian Bell Fairchild was known to have planted the one of the oldest Poinciana trees in the city.

Alexander Graham Bell’s youngest daughter, she lived with David in their home in Coconut Grove, known as the Kampong, until their deaths.

During his lifetime, Fairchild also founded the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

The Royal Poinciana, also known as the flamboyant, the flame tree, or the peacock tree, is Miami-Dade County’s official flowering tree.

Larry Schokman, director emeritus of the Kampong, said there are more Royal Poincianas in Miami than in Madagascar, where the trees are originally from. Today, the trees in Madagascar are endangered by deforestation. .

The fiesta’s events “say something about trying to save trees around the world,” La Rocca says.

Proceeds collected from the festival will benefit the scholarships and cover costs for the event.

“We are trying to make Miami the flowering tree capital of the world,” Schokman said. “We want to beautify Miami and enhance our city.”

Other sponsors include the Coral Gables Garden Club and the Coral Gables Music Club.





Rising Price of Faith in France’s Shrinking Parishes: French Limestone

GESTÉ, France — The soaring steeple, airy flying buttresses and steep slate roof of the 19th-century parish church that dominates this town in western France is — like many other village churches in France — scheduled for demolition, a victim of its size, its condition and, ultimately, municipal budget concerns.


The New York Times

Villages like Gesté are struggling over churches’ upkeep.

Although the church, dedicated to St. Peter, is arguably the sole architectural jewel in this town of 2,400 people, the town has decided to tear it down and replace it with a new one that will be far cheaper to keep up.

Erected in stages to accommodate 900 people, the formidable stone building has stood sadly empty since 2006. Completing the picture of dereliction, it is surrounded by a wire fence to protect visitors from the very real threat of crumbling stonework.

“Because of its size and complexity it will always be costly to maintain,” said Jean-Pierre Léger, 61, a retired engineer who is Gesté’s part-time mayor. “It is a victim of its considerable size. It is too big.”

The mayor and the town council voted, 17 to 16, two years ago to demolish the church, saying it would cost $4.4 million to renovate, against $1.9 million to demolish it and erect a new one.

But many of Mr. Léger’s townsfolk fiercely disagree, arguing that the town has overstated the cost of the restoration work.

“We reject their cost estimates,” said Alain Durand, 50, a mason and metalworker who is treasurer of a movement to preserve the church. “It’s very political; if they tear down and rebuild, it’s only to fight unemployment.”

The struggle is not unique to Gesté. Across France, villages are being forced to ask hard questions about their churches, many of them deteriorating, as the number of parishioners and priests dwindles and the cost of upkeep mounts.

Béatrice de Andia, the founder and president of the Religious Heritage Observatory, in Paris, estimates that there are about 90,000 church buildings in France, of which about 17,000 are under government protection for their historic or architectural value, giving France the greatest density of religious buildings of any European country. About 10 percent of the protected churches are in perilous condition, she says, because of a lack of government financing for their preservation, as are a far larger percentage of the remaining churches.

“The Church may be eternal, but not the churches,” said Ms. de Andia, a retired government cultural official who founded the observatory in 2006 to raise awareness of the parlous state of the country’s religious heritage. “In the past, these buildings were sacred, but today there is no sense of the sacred.”

In St. Georges des Gardes, not far from here, the 19th-century church of St. Joseph was torn down in 2006; earlier, in nearby Le Fief-Sauvin, the church was razed and replaced.

Occasionally, townspeople opposing demolition have prevailed: in Arc sur Tille, near Dijon in the east of France, the 19th-century parish church remains standing after bitter protests.

The struggle over the future of village churches coincides with a national debate on the issue of French identity, which is taking place against the backdrop of large numbers of Muslim immigrants. And it is complicated by a 1907 measure — when anticlerical government leaders were trying to rein in the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church in France — that made all the country’s churches and cathedrals the property of local governments.

In other countries, notably England and Italy, disused houses of worship have been converted into homes, stores or museums. In France, there is an emotional resistance to the practice, though in Dijon, an abandoned church now serves as a theater, and in Alsace, also in the east, former synagogues now serve as museums.

Gesté’s neo-Gothic church was completed in 1870 on the ruins of a 16th-century church that was destroyed in the French Revolution. Deeply Catholic Anjou, where Gesté lies, resisted the revolution, and its church buildings suffered when the resistance was suppressed.

As French identity becomes increasingly secular, some see the crumbling of village churches as a symbol of crumbling faith.

The Rev. Pierre Pouplard, 69, pastor of Gesté’s parish church, disagrees. “I see no connection,” he said. “People cling to their church here. Church attendance here is very strong.”

Yet Father Pouplard spoke in the rectory of a neighboring town, which is also part of his parish. For the last 12 years he has been responsible for four village churches, in addition to Gesté, because of a dwindling number of priests. France counts only 9,000 priests today, compared with 40,000 in 1940. He supports the destruction of the church in Gesté and its replacement.

“There is the emotional attachment; all the people of Gesté are attached to their church,” he said. “A majority would have preferred to keep it.” But he accepts the mayor’s budgetary arithmetic, and points to the example of Fief-Sauvin, where 15 years ago a modern church replaced a crumbling 19th-century building.

The debate over the future of the church has split the town into two camps. Had Father Pouplard supported the restoration of the church, Mr. Durand says, a majority would have followed him. “It’s a question of taste,” he said. But in the last local elections, in 2008, when the future of the church was the main issue, a slight majority supported Mr. Léger and his majority on the town council.

Mr. Durand shows a visitor the plans of a contemporary church built nearby with a circular ground plan that he says will resemble Gesté’s new church.

“It’s for entertainment, it’s a music hall,” he said dismissively. “You could put a sign on it saying, ‘Groceries.’ ”

Profile Of Lew French- A Stone Artisan

Artist Lew French works with stone. People pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for his sculptures, landscape designs and functional pieces such as fireplaces and retaining walls. Lew French lives and works on Martha’s Vineyard.

In the courtyard of a house on Martha’s Vineyard, water pours out of a basin, down two levels and into a narrow channel that runs into a small rectangular pond. The entire courtyard is made of stone – carefully positioned stones shape the fountain, stacked stones create the walls, and the floor is a mosaic of flat weathered stones. Cinnamon ferns, thyme and Irish mosses grow in the corners. Artist Lew French designed and built the courtyard.

Lew French: “It’s a calm peaceful place out here, it’s mostly in the shade which is kind of neat . . . It’s a sweet place, it’s a very serene place.”

Lew French has created hundreds of courtyards like these for clients on Martha’s Vineyard. He grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota, and started a construction company right out of high school. His company worked on lots of projects, but he was drawn to working with stone. Now he’s 47 and has lived in Oak’s Bluff for twenty years, working as a full time mason and artist.

Lew French: “Stone draws you in visually, and this is what happened to me when I was young. And that’s why I do stonework. There’s something there that pulled me in.It’s taken me all these years to figure out what those qualities are and why it is that way.”

The Vineyard is a natural place to work with stone. Hundred year-old low stone rubble walls snake across the island. French says his technique, dry stacking, is similar to the one used to build the old walls. In a dry-stacked wall, the stones are laid one on top of each other without mortar, held in place by gravity. However, French’s walls and dry-stacked mosaics have none of the gaps or disjointed pieces found in old stone walls. His stones fit tightly together, each fitting seamlessly into the ones around it. French’s technique also goes beyond simple stacking.

Lew French: “It should always be powerful, it should always be beautiful the first time you see it, but it should be that way even if you’ve seen it a hundred times. You should say oh wow, I never noticed that, I never saw how that really worked together. By jutting out boulders out of a normal retaining wall, you’re creating benches, you’re creating visual breaks in the wall, you’re adding dimension, you’re adding texture to those things.”

French’s walls are made up of many different sizes of stone, placed together to create a varied and beautiful whole. In one wall, long flat pieces of granite are abutted by laundry-basket sized stones stacked in a pattern, then smaller stones the size of melons and apples, and finally the wall ends with a huge boulder the size and shape of a Volkswagen Beetle. The effect is soothing and harmonious. The stones themselves are heavy, but the variation and pattern French uses in his work gives it a kind of light, restful energy.

Lew French: “I see my work as being more feminine, you know, the lines are softer, there’s more shape to it, there’s more movement. A lot of stonework that I see is it’s like clumsy and it has this heaviness to it, this boxiness, and I see that as being more like this, masculine kind of shape. And I find that overpowering. You go in a room and that heavy stonework kind of thing, I get a sense of this oppressive kind of thing when I see that. I like to think I don’t see that with my work,”

The stones French uses are usually not shaped or altered in any way. As he builds a wall, he searches for just the right stone to fit in his designs, a process that can take months. He finds or buys stones and stores them in a rented a field. Some of the stones have been waiting in the field for twenty years, in order to fit into a perfect pattern. Occasionally, the stones French uses are almost right, but not exactly. Then, he uses a hand-held chisel to knock off imperfections or extra thickness.

Lew French: “I try not to alter the face of the stone, so the shape that you see is basically the shape that it is. . . but there might be one little knob or one little point that I’d take off so I would chisel that point off. Sometimes the stone would be too thick to fit into the wall, so some of the back might have to come off. And that’s where the chiseling comes in. Sometimes you have to do a lot of chiseling to get it to the right thickness. But none of the chisel marks or none of the broken part of the stone would actually be visible.”

“So, like with this stone, this stone is too thick of a stone, so what I would want to do is (sound of chiseling). There’s a certain technique that if you do it right you can just snap the edge of the stone off. Like with this, it’s on the second blow, the first one just kind of loosens it – that was not it – there it is, right there.”

Suddenly the grayish white stone is splattered with blood.

Lew French: “And, every once in a while you hit your hand. I just drove the chisel through and hit my hand with the stone. Lots of times I go home with bloody fingers.”

Despite the blood, French keeps working. He says occasionally wounding himself comes with the job.

French sometimes uses single, special stones as stand-alone sculptures. He calls one piece the mother-and-daughter stones, a gift to his friend’s three-year-old daughter. Two thin, waist-high stones are placed inches from each other. They were found miles apart, but their curves mirror each other as if they were split from the same rock. French says there’s a spiritual quality to stone.

Lew French I find it interesting that people will almost like confide in me that they have this thing with stone, they go to the beach, they pick up stones, or they are out in the field they pick up a stone, it is like we have this secret thing with stone. I think it is a lot deeper than that, I think there is this real connection. There’s something about stone that is powerful, it seems to have this energy or purpose where it has this emanation of power, almost.

The stones French finds lying in fields become even more powerful when they part of his designs. French moves, stacks and arranges stones in a way that make beautiful patterns that delight and calm the soul.

Broadcast September 8, 2005

Emily Zeugner reports for the Cape and Islands NPR stations.

A coffee table book of French’s work photographed by Vineyard photographer Alison Shaw has just been released.


Plant Show and Sale Presented by the South Florida Cactus and Succulent Society

When: Friday, May 25, 2012 – Sunday, May 27, 2012

from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

The Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale will bring together experts and enthusiasts alike to display, discuss and sell the most drought tolerant plants of all. What better time than now to invest in cacti and succulents as water conservation becomes a global issue? Join Fairchild and the South Florida Cactus and Succulent Society for this special show and sale and get started on your own arid garden today.

Admission: Free for Fairchild Members and children 5 and under.

Non-members: $25 for adults, $18 for seniors 65 and up and $12 for children 6-17.

Eco-discount: If you walk, ride your bike or take public transportation to Fairchild, receive $5 off admission for adults and $2 off admission for children. Members, remember to bring your Rewards Card to earn your gift passes!

Military Discount: We are pleased to offer active military personnel free admission. In addition, admission for spouses is $20 and children $10. Please present Military IDs.


The stone industry takes being “green” extremely seriously. Natural stone is Mother Nature’s original green building material. It is neither bonded together by petroleum based resins nor created in a factory. Natural stone flooring and countertops will not need to be replaced for a long time, are 100% recyclable, do not emit VOCs into your home and can be cleaned with Ph-neutral dish detergent. After all, what can be greener than a product that comes directly from the earth?

You will learn how to use stone to support a green building design project. Stone’s position as a green building material and in the green building community are backed by comprehensive research. Competing materials often claim to be green. But, stone’s enduring life cycle, ease of care and maintenance and durability make it an excellent choice for your project.

A sustainable or green building is the outcome of a design process which focuses on increasing the efficiency of resource use — energy, water, and materials — while reducing a building’s impact on human health and the environment during its life cycle; through better site selection, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and eventual disposal or removal.

Enduring Life Cycle
Natural stone stands up to weathering and time better than any other building material, natural or manmade. This has been proven through the ages. The Egyptian pyramids, the Parthenon or any ancient city offer lessons that demonstrate natural stone is the most sustainable building material available.

When choosing to install a stone floor, countertop, wall cladding, etc. you are making a decision to use a product that will last for at least 100 years in many cases and certainly for the life of the building in most.

No other building material is as recyclable as natural stone. Nearly 100% of stone from deconstructed projects is recyclable and able to be used on other projects, or crushed for use as roadbeds, etc.

Zero VOC Emission
Research conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Clean Products found that natural stone does not directly emit any VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Stone may source VOCs from adhesives and applied sealants, however, low- and no-VOC options are available.

Water Recycling
Domestic stone fabricators like Larry’s Cap Rock & Stone utilize a water filtration system for their waste water. However, many companies are also on the cutting edge of an exciting new closed loop water recycling system. These closed loop systems recycle 100% of water used in the fabrication of natural stone, dramatically lowering water consumption.

Heat Island Affect
Many light-colored varieties of natural stone such as Keystone, Hemingway, Oolite have been shown to lower a building’s or site’s “heat island” through their ability to reflect heat. Heat island refers to the concept of a building raising the average temperature of the area surrounding a building and site.

Regional Material
A major tenet within the green building rating systems is that of supporting “local” products and businesses. Regionally manufactured and extracted materials reduce environmental impacts by reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses during transportation, while supporting local economies. Fortunately for environmentally conscious consumers, there are stone quarry sites within 500 miles of nearly any building site in the United States and Canada. Larry’s quarries and fabricates 4 limestones that qualify for LEED points.

For more information about the sustainability of stone refer to the Marble Institute of America & the National Stone Council. In addition LCRS has a CEU class accredited by the state of Florida covering this subject extensively.

10 Signs Miami’s Economy Is On The Upswing

10 signs Miami-Dade’s economy is on the upswing



Miami-Dade is coming out of this troubling period far more quickly than anyone might have imagined. When the bubble burst in 2007 and 2008, Miami had more than 37,000 new condos, most in downtown and most empty. Today, the occupancy rate in downtown condos is 94 percent.

In large part, we can thank our geography, climate and our undeniable cool.

In case you doubt, here are 10 Signs that Miami’s economy is on the upswing, courtesy of The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine, created by Miami Herald economy writer Douglas Hanks.

• Unemployment IS dropping.

Twenty-eight straight months of job growth have brought Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate to 10 percent, down from this recession’s high 12.6 percent in April 2010. New figures out Friday will determine whether the trend continues.

• Businesses are starting up.

Miami-Dade’s count of 87,000 business establishments is down just 1 percent from the peak set just before the recession began. In early 2009, the number of businesses was about 9 percent lower than it is now.

• Housing prices are on an upswing. has declared that Miami-Dade real estate prices have hit bottom. reports the county’s medium home price is up 15.1 percent for April 2012 over April 2011. The median price is now $275,000.

• Pop-tops — second story additions to existing one-story homes — are back in Coral Gables.

Home construction that was back-burnered during the downturn is warming up. April 2012 saw an increase of 17 percent in the number of remodeling permits issued by the city of Coral Gables over April 2011.

• New wheels are on the road.

Increased traffic is a good sign. AutoNation, the country’s largest auto sales retailer, reported sales of new vehicles rose 10 percent in its Florida dealerships in the first quarter

In Coral Gables, the usual parade of Bentleys, Maseratis, Audis and Mercedes has been joined by the $230,000 McLaren, sold at The Collection.

Other consumer sales also remain strong; through February, taxable sales in Miami-Dade county were up 10 percent over the same period in 2011

• We’ve off our diets.

County restaurant tax collections are coming in above $1 million a month. That’s 15 percent above where we were before the recession began.

Though we are seeing some of the usual end-of-season restaurant closings, some of the nation’s hottest chefs are about to open as well. For details, see Saturday’s Miami Herald

• The cranes are migrating south again

Super-luxury condo towers are rising in Sunny Isles, Williams Island, Miami Beach and Mary Brickell Village.

Rental high-rises are also back with projects on the books from Armando Codina, Adler Group and Jorge Perez

The $1 billion Swire project, Brickell CitiCentre, is due to break ground at the end of June

• The snowbirds are coming back as well, both from down south and up north.

In the past 12 months we hosted more than 13.6 million overnight visitors.

Miami-Dade’s hotel industry returned record tax collections last year, and 2012 is so far running about 16 percent above pre-bust collections. Hotel taxes were up about 10 percent in March in Miami-Dade over the prior year.

Miami-Dade’s revenue-per-available-room figure set a new March record in 2012: $177.24 versus $177.16 in 2008. It’s one of the highest in the nation.

• We’re cruising.

Miami has cemented its status as cruise capital of the world.

In 2012, PortMiami is likely to top its 2011 total of more than 4 million passengers, thanks to the addition of the three lines new to the port — Disney, MSC and Regent Seven Seas — and new ships from Carnival, Celebrity and Oceania.

Cargo movements also were up 7 percent in 2011.

• We CAN get there from here.

We’re averaging 1,288 international flights this quarter at MIA, one more than JFK — proof once again that New York really is just a Miami suburb.

This column was excerpted from a May 17, 2012, speech by Miami Herald Business Editor Jane Wooldridge to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.

Are you Green Tech?

In the storm that is Facebook’s IPO, I paused to take note of the way the social network has transformed the way we live now.

Is Facebook worth the $100 billion or so its pending IPO suggests it is? Who knows? But one thing we can all be certain about is how the social network has radically changed people’s behavior and expectations online in the eight short years since it wasn’t more than sparkle in the eye of its founder(s). Those changes have had the monumental impact of facilitating the formation of entirely new industries and dramatically shifting the way brands market themselves online including the green industry and the allied stone industry.

There are things we do online today, that we take so much for granted that we forget that some of them didn’t exist even as recently as 2 years ago. And yet all of these things are not only commonplace today, they are the presumed paradigms. To operate any differently would seem downright odd.
If past is prologue, I am confident Facebook will continue to innovate in the years to come, thereby continuing to transform how individuals and businesses interact online and creating a whole new set of economic opportunities. Whether that translates into enough revenue to merit the initial offering is another story.

I must admit this whole social media thing doesn’t come naturally to me. It is a little overwhelming especially if you are just starting. I will tell you though that Twitter, Linked In, ITunes Apps and even Facebook are great tools to learn more about green materials or promote your craft to very targeted audiences if used correctly.

Two great new resources for me:

For almost every need, there’s a social media platform to guide you through the tangle of options. For restaurants, check Yelp. For hotels, Trip Advisor. For that guy you met last night who seemed kind of cool, Facebook. But for that new apartment that had great light but felt a little drafty? Nothing. Honest Buildings, which launched March 19, 2012 aims to fill that gap and simultaneously encourage building owners to make greener choices. Search an address in one of 5,570 cities, and ratings on the building’s walkability, energy use, and LEED compliance shed light on its green performance. Join the network, and you can review, comment on, or add photos of a building. Members who design, build, and repair buildings can showcase particular projects and link them to the building’s profile page.

For a more local spotlight on all things green:
Miami Green Info- A monthly calendar of green inspired events…
The site is curated by a really awesome new landscape architect Carlos Somoza. Somoza’s family hails from Nicaragua and makes a mean flan and tres leches. Check out But Somoza didn’t pursue the family business. His passion for landscape and architecture in South Florida is fresh and inspiring. Check out this new young voice on the Miami landscape architecture scene. Or catch one of his garden design classes at Fairchild Garden Center. Sign up for his Twitter feed. You won’t be sorry.

For your local plant material there are 3 big players to choose from: which features a very cool mobile app

All feature searchable databases. All are easy to navigate. And all have friendly knowledgable live staff who regularly head to the various nurseries so they can educate you about the nuances of each grower and his or her production.

If you are an iTunes junkie check out Rainbird’s Irrigation App or The Marble Institute of America’s North American Stone App. Many local businesses have chosen to pursue the paradigm of just buy what’s on the shelf. But the educated client or architect is welcome at Larry’s Cap Rock and Stone. If we don’t have it , we’ll find it at the lowest price possible with the best service you will find in south Florida.









Is Landscape Architecture No Longer The Good Wife? By Charles Birmbaum

Is Landscape Architecture No Longer “The Good Wife”? By Charles Birnbaum

Good news for landscape architects: your employment prospects are better than those of building architects and your work is appreciated more than ever – think of the High Line.
Bad news, you don’t always get the credit – think of the High Line.

Pop quiz: who designed the High Line?

If you’ve seen some of the avalanche of High Line press that incorporate the likes of these two recent quotes:”Arguably New York’s hottest architects at the moment, [Diller, Scofidio + Renfro] were catapulted into the city’s consciousness with their successful design for the High Line”; and “The High Line, [Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s] greatest hit in New York” … you would probably say Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R).

And, you’d get an “Incomplete” on your quiz.

The project lead, as clearly stated on the High Line’s Web site, is James Corner Field Operations. Field Operations collaborated with DS+R and Piet Oudolf, the brilliant horticulturalist who has been repeatedly and shamefully neglected in much of the High Line’s global coverage.

High Line Phase One, New York City, NY Landscape architects have long been overshadowed, particularly by architects. Tom Campanella, author of a forthcoming book on the landscape architecture team Clarke & Rapuano (designers of the Brooklyn Promenade and other important works), said Robert Moses, New York’s mid-20th century über urban planner, often took credit for their projects: “It used to drive Clarke crazy.” Laurie Olin, namesake of OLIN landscape architects and a practitioner of estimable talent who brilliantly reawakened Bryant Park, was similarly slighted.

During the 1991 reopening of the park he and William H. “Holly” Whyte, Jr. (of whom Olin in 1997 wrote “provided the key sociological study of behavior in the park … bold and effective programmatic and management strategies … [and an inspiring] clear moral vision”), were not invited to sit on the podium with the rest of the dignitaries. More recently, Olin characterized the status of the profession in those days as being equivalent to “the good wife” – supportive and working quietly/diligently behind the scenes. Olin does say things are changing.

But are they?

An article in the February 2012 Vanity Fair (with Daniel Craig, George Clooney and Matt Damon on the cover) about a Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking garage in Miami features six Todd Eberle photographs of the project beginning with a lush and dramatic double page spread featuring the “sloped garden and south façade of the house at the top of the parking garage.” The article concludes with a quote from the building’s developer Robert Wennett: ” [Herzog & de Meuron] designed everything – every hinge, every door, every vent. We even have Herzog & de Meuron toilet-paper holders. Probably the only ones in the world.”

Pop quiz: Who designed the landscape of this Miami project (you know where this is headed)?

The correct answer is Raymond Jungles, who also created the dazzling street level landscape that abuts the garage on Miami’s Lincoln Road. Amanda Jungles, Raymond’s daughter and the firm’s marketing director, sent Vanity Fair writer Matt Tyrnauer a crisply worded letter noting at one point, “The images taken by Mr. Eberle clearly capture [Jungles’] intellectual property” without crediting it and concluded by asking how the magazine would address this. She also enclosed a copy of a letter from Herzog senior partner Christine Binswanger, which details Jungle’s involvement and notes: “Raymond Jungles’ design was integral to the overall success of the project.” Jungles is now credited in one caption on the magazine’s Web site, but as of the April 2012 issue (Julia Roberts on the cover) no correction in the print edition … and, no one from Vanity Fair ever responded to her letter.

Bryant Park, New York City. Photograph courtesy OLIN by Peter Mauss/EstoWhy should we care? There are multiple reasons ranging from intellectual property to intellectual honesty, but I submit if we are to participate in the decision-making about the future of our neighborhoods and cities, either directly or through proxies such as politicians, other governmental officials, critics, etc., we all need to be well and accurately informed.

A recent Architect’s Newspaper/AIANY/Oculus sponsored panel discussion about architecture criticism offers some hope the situation is improving at the public and critical levels. One participant, Architectural Record editor in chief Cathleen McGuigan, who has a refreshingly ecumenical approach to examining the built environment, cites a greater (post 9/11) level of public interest and participation, and says “people are a little more sophisticated about the public realm than we given them credit for.” Another participant and broad thinker, New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, says architecture criticism has got to be more than just “comparing shapes.”

Q&A’s following the panel discussion were largely (and surprisingly) about the role of landscape architecture. Specifically addressing the issue of proper credit elicited responses, however, hinting at where some pitfalls might still lie. McGuigan said: “The client, the firm usually provides us with the list of credits.” Goldberger observed that the High Line “has been too often attributed just to Diller and Scofidio. I think perhaps as a result of their general celebrity … perhaps as a result of a bias towards architects and against landscape architects, I don’t know.”

Participant James Russell, US architecture critic from Bloomberg News, had a different take and said, “The design firms have to actually sort out how credit is given.” Russell recalled that following a High Line article he’d written, James Corner called to say he was the design lead and that Diller was a partner. Russell told the audience, “no one had told me” and recounted when he went to his editor saying Corner wanted a correction “She hit the ceiling and said ‘What’s their problem?’ … and it really is their problem.” James Russell, for whom I have great respect, is both right and wrong. The firms do have to sort this out, and landscape architects need to be more assertive/protective, but there are shades of “blaming the victim” here. The problem is Corner didn’t get credited as the lead for one of the most celebrated, high profile and influential urban design projects of this century. A correct credit is elemental.

Solutions? Well, OLIN is in the process of creating a memorandum of understanding specifically addressing credit/attribution to be signed by OLIN and the building architects. It clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities of each party as they relate to a project’s marketing and public relations efforts, and how the project team should be credited in marketing materials and in communication with the press. They are also looking into incorporating language into their contracts.

However, as I’ve written before, architecture criticism needs to evolve more if it is to continue dominating analysis and opinion about the built environment. It still remains largely building centric – treating “structures as if they were gowns on the red carpet” as the New York Times’ Bill Keller recently wrote – in the face of our integrated, system-based environment. And, it is our responsibility as readers of the critics’ works to make sure we hold them to account.

Housing Recovery To Be Slow & Gradual

Construction Corner: Housing Recovery to be Slow, Gradual

Reblogged from Marble Institute Of America Stone Dimensions By Garen Distelhorst

May 14, 2012 · No Comments

If, in your wildest dreams, you were hoping for a rapid recovery in the housing market, forget it. A group of economists at a recent webinar on housing and the economy sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders say it’s not going to happen that way.

Instead, the experts say, that the recovery in the most downtrodden sector of the economy will be uneven and will move slowly and gradually upward in 2012.

David Crowe, chief economist for NAHB, said that while the latest monthly data have shown signs of a slight softening, this is more reflective of typical month-to-month volatility in the numbers and the unusual seasonal factors than they are an indication of any significant downward trend in the broader housing market.

Crowe says that while several factors remain positive, the housing market still continues to face formidable challenges, including rising foreclosures, persistently tight lending standards for home buyers and builders and difficulties in obtaining accurate appraisals.

“No one is anticipating that an upward path for housing will run in a straight-line trajectory,” Crowe said. “The economy is in an uneven recovery and we can expect some corresponding ups and downs in the housing market in the months ahead.”

That sentiment is probably why builder confidence in the market for newly-built, single-family homes declined for the first time in seven month this April, sliding three notches to 25 in the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. The decline brings the index to where it was in January, which was the highest level since 2007. An index of 50 indicates that overall more builders are more positive than negative.

“Although builders in many markets are noting increased interest among potential buyers, consumers are still very hesitant to go forward with a purchase. and our members are realigning their expectations somewhat until they see more actual signed contracts,” said NAHB’s Crowe.

Sales of newly-built, single-family homes declined 7.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 328,000 units in March from an upwardly revised, robust pace of 33,000 units in February, according to the U.S.Commerce Department.

Crowe said that the March decline is from a stronger-than-expected sales pace in February. “Looking at the first quarter as a whole, sales are up 3.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. This is exactly the kind of modest, but substantive growth that we are expecting to see in the year ahead.”

Single-family housing production held virtually unchanged in March as a double-digit decline in the more volatile multifamily sector brought combined nationwide housing starts activity down 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted 654,000 units. the Commerce Department reported.

“While more consumers appear to be seriously considering a new home purchase, builders remain very cautious about starting new projects until they see more actual sales materializing,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of NAHB.

One good sign was that permit issuance gained 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 747,000 units in March, the fastest pace since September 2008.

On the remodeling side, business remained relatively flat in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Remodeling Market Index (RMI) compiled by NAHB. It declined one point to 47 from an upwardly revised 48 in the previous quarter. An RMI below 50 indicates that more remodelers report market activity is lower (compared to the prior quarter) than report it higher.

There is some better news on the remodeling front, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), which is compiled by the remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University: after two years of bouncing around, remodeling activity is expected to pick up later this year.

“Hopefully, we’re finally moving beyond simple volatility in the home improvement spending numbers to a period of sustained growth,” saidEric S.Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center.


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