haiku for the book "Richard Meier" by Claudia Conforti and Marzia Marandola

whiter than flat white
and more Corbu than Corbu
jewels on the landscape...

This is a whisper of a book about our favorite living Modern architect I picked up at Half Price. And even if he wasn't living, he would still be among our favorites. Back when the megalotto approached a billion dollars, we both agreed that commissioning Mr. Meier to design a house for us would be high on our list of splurging.

This book serves as a good introduction to Meier; a taster that will lead to finding the main course. The book has a somewhat brief introduction with photos of some of his works.

Not surprisingly, Meier was born to Germans. He received a degree from Cornell in 1957 and, after finishing two years of military service, toured European architecture in 1959. Upon visiting the Weissenhoff Estate in Stuttgart, he became enamored with the original manifestations of Modernism, particularly those of Le Corbusier. Meier then hightailed it to Paris to seek a position in Corbusier's studio. Sadly, Corbu rebuffed Meier's offer. Later, Meier was able to hold a long conversation with Corbu at the opening of the Cite Universitaire, a meeting that strongly influenced his career (despite Corbu once again rejecting his services). In Corbu's stead, Meier worked with SOM from 1959 to 1960 and with Bauhauser Marcel Breuer from 1961 to 1963 before opening his own studio in 1963. 

Similar to Corbusier, Meier was a voracious painter and shared an art studio with Michael Graves. Just as Corbu infused his architecture with art, Meier concluded that "architecture is an art of substance." Although Meier is clearly influenced by Corbusier--particularly Corbu's manifesto "Towards an Architecture--Meier's designs are much different in materials and in how they engage with people and the environment. In an homage to Corbusier, Meier keeps a model of Villa Savoye in his office.

Some random photos or Meier's work, not necessarily covered in the book:


living, and dying, at (a Modern) home

image from here

Getting old is somewhat surreal. Mentally, our minds are still clicking along with the vin and vinegar of a 20-year-old (setting aside, for the moment, momentary lapses of memory), but the eyes and body are beginning their slow decline to their final home in a buried wooden box. Being childless, we won't have progeny to saddle with our care, but even with kids and busy modern lives, would they be there? Would we want them to be there?

There's a nice article over at The Atlantic about the economic and mental benefits of aging in place. Who really wants to spend their last days in an old folks home? The article focuses on the wheres to live and building the human infrastructure to support aging in place. Other articles I've recently read discuss how autonomous cars will make it easier to live your life out at your home. And more and more there is more and more technology supporting aging in place.

Not discussed in the article is aging-in-place home design. Part of that is keeping a house one-story. But there are other important aspects such as accessibility. Is your house wheelchair friendly? Are the fixtures and doors easy to handle? Do you have safety bars (or behind-the-wall cladding to support safety bars) in your bathrooms? Is the house low-maintenance? These are things to think about when building a home, especially if you think the house you are building is your last. Thankfully, there are Universal Design standards to think about when remodeling or building a home.

We're still (hopefully) a few years off from having to seriously worry about these issues, but I hear the clock ticking....


dancing with architecture: artesian wells and springs in Lampasas, Glen Rose, Mineral Wells, Forth Worth, and Dallas, Texas

I have a photo blog over here focused on the world of watery post cards, especially artesian wells (and especially artesian wells in Texas). Along those lines, I took a few days off work to tour north Texas to find the location of the Jumbo artesian well in Fort Worth drilled in 1891. Along the way, I stopped in Lampasas, Glen Rose, and Mineral Wells. I also stopped in Dallas on the way home to see about getting a high-res photo of the Dallas Jumbo drilled right after Fort Worth drilled their well.

Back in the 1880s thru 1910s, Texas, like many places across the United States, went into an artesian-well drilling frenzy, which reached a fever pitch in the 1890s. The water wasn't always artesian, it wasn't always fresh, and it wasn't always water (many of Texas' early oil fields were discovered while drilling for water), but folks tended to find a use for whatever they found. In Lampasas,  Glen Rose, Mineral Wells, and many other locations, the water came up laced with minerals purported to cure some ailments (generally, this water helped to [ahem] grease your digestive track...).

Waco, followed by Fort Worth and Dallas, tapped into the nether regions of the Trinity Aquifer to find million-gallon-a-day free-flowing wells of fresh water. Unfortunately, folks, misled by pseudo-scientists who claimed an infinite amount of water,  left their wells constantly flowing as status symbols, quickly bleeding off the free-flowing pressure until the aquifers flowed no more by 1910.


The bride makes fun of me for taking her to dried-up springs, so it's ironic that when I go on a solo trip, I get to see still-flowing springs. Lampasas was quite lovely and will be worth a return trip with the bride.

As you approach Hancock Springs, you can smell the sulfur. And the springs are still an operational swimming hole!

Hancock Springs back in the day:

Lampasas County courthouse:

The blue line on the side of this building (with the stork) marks the height of the epic drought-busting flood in the 1950s:

For some reason, the historical marker for Hanna Springs is on the courthouse square and not at the springs about a mile away:

Hanna Spring:

Hanna Springs back in the day:

It took a little hunting to find the Abney Plunge:

Is this the old Abney well?

Lots of murals about Lampasas:

glen rose

Before Glen Rose was known for dinosaur tracks, it was known as a resort to partake of its mineral wells.

The courthouse:

This fountain is supposed to be fed by an artesian mineral well (drinking fountain spigots weren't working):

The Snyder Sanitarium where patrons could (and still can!) partake of mineral waters:

The Oakdale Plunge, almost 100 years old and originally fed by a mineral well, is still going strong:

Oakdale Plunge back in the day:

mineral wells

I did some environmental work at Fort Wolters back in the 1990s, and I vividly remember first driving into Mineral Wells and being shocked at the size of what-I-learned-later-was the Baker Hotel. Mineral Wells was a big deal back in the day. Its architectural history resembles Vegas in the way it renewed itself and its buildings over and over as it grew more popular.

Remnants of the Rock Castle south of town:

The Rock Castle back in the day:

Amazingly, there is still an operational water bar in town at the old Dismuke's Famous Mineral Water locale:

Look carefully: The grout spells "FAMOUS":

Famous now houses the reincarnation of Crazy Water, the most (ahem) famous of the mineral waters from Mineral Wells (available at Whole Foods). The site has three wells tapped into three different formations pulling varying levels of saline groundwater.

Dismukes back in the day:

The new Crazy is thankfully doing quite well. They have also taken over the old Crazy Crystals factory as a staging area to package and ship their water:

The Crazy Crystals factory back in the day:

Crazy Crystals was desiccated Crazy Water that you could mix with water at your locale to recreate Mineral Wells water. 

Cool bench outside a church:

There's a deep canal that runs through the heart of town that used to drain mineral water waste:

Sadly, not many of the original buildings have survived, victims of fires or renewal. I was able to locate the Norwood, which used to have a direct pipeline connection to Dismuke's water down the street:

The Norwood back in the day:

The old hospital:

The hospital back in the day:

The Crazy Hotel was one of the two most famous hotels in town during the town's glory years. When I first visited back in the 1990s, it was a retirement home; it's now abandoned:

Evolution of the Crazy:

Near the Crazy:

The Baker Hotel is something else. Built in the 1930s (and opening just as the Great Depression started), it is a massive landmark in town. Mineral Wells hopes to restore this gem. I hope they do!

The Baker in post cards:

Allow me a moment to explain what water from Mineral Wells does to you:

fort worth

Most of Fort Worth's artesian well history has been destroyed, but I stopped in to see if I could find the location of their Jumbo well and find anything at their history center. After deducing one of the cross streets and assuming that they drilled at the top of the hill I unknowingly parked 20 feet away from the well site. I stopped in to a nearby business to see if they knew of a well, and they had an old plat that showed the exact location!

The well was in the foreground as the pavement transitions to grass:


Finally, I made my way over to Dallas to visit Old Red, the old courthouse, and Dallas' Jumbo well, which still exists:

Big Red back in the day:

If you look closely in the lower right corners of the images above, you can barely pick out the derrick for the well.