January 16, 2011

Sleep green

Tucked away at 5, rue Gavarni, just of off of the thriving, bustling shopping street of rue de Passy, in Paris’s XVIth arrondissement, is the Hotel Gavarni. A five-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, this thoroughly modernized historical hotel is independently owned and boasts “boutique” from every nook—that’s from its glass-roofed, heated breakfast terrace to its jacuzzi tubs to its rooftop suites.

The Hotel Gavarni; and the street it is on, is named after the artist, Gavarni, whose fine pencil and ink original artwork dating from the early 1900s can be seen throughout the hotel. With 21 rooms and four roomy suites, two of which have direct views onto the Eiffel Tower, the hotel is cozy. A couple of nights spent at Gavarni and you truly feel its home-away-from-home vibe.

Nearby museums include the Modern Museum of Art, Quai d’Orsay Museum, Wine Museum, Marmottan (Monet) Museum, and the nearby Fashion Museum, all within walking distance of Hotel Gavarni. Ask for what you want when you make your reservations. And if you need an airport or train station pickup, the hotel will do that for you too, in their Hybrid Prius.

Hotel Gavarni is Paris’s first independent hotel to earn the European EcoLabel certification. It is the strictest green certification to comply with, and in the world’s most visited city, averaging 27 million tourists each year, the fact that a 25-room independently owned hotel made it its mission to be Green, but seriously green, is an accomplishment to stop and take note.

Hotel Gavarni is part of what is being established as The Group Green Hotel Paris. The Green Hotel Paris Group acquired an additional property in the same neighborhood last year: the Hotel Eiffel Trocadéro is a 4-star property that perches just across the street from the Trocadéro and is graced by the Benjamin Franklin statue in its “front yard.” It is in the process of going through the requisite upgrades to earn its European EcoLabel certification. Plans are to gradually expand property acquisitions that will give the millions of travelers to the City of Light an authentically, and passionately, green option when they book their accommodations with the Green Hotel Group Paris.

Some of the eco-friendly practices Gavarni maintains: They offset their carbon footprint through the foundation established by Yann Arthus Bertrand, Action Carbone. But that’s not the only, nor even the most significant, thing they do. They also: provide organic breakfasts which include fresh fruit, jams and baguettes and Fair Trade coffee and tea; they use 100% biodegradable detergents for all cleaning products; they provide 100% organic cotton sheets and towels; recycling is encouraged throughout the hotel and in all the hotel rooms; they compensate hotel staff when they use public transportation options. The closest metro stops are Passy and Trocadero, and the nearest busline takes you directly across town to Gare de l’Est, the station from which the Eurostar departs.

“Hotel Gavarni is the size of a large house. All of our small actions can resonate with our guests, so they can copy them at home,” explains Green Hotel Group’s managing director, Xavier Moraga, the champion of the hotel’s eco philosophy and practices. He doesn’t just think in terms of his job or his business, either. He approaches green on a community and municipal level

Modern. Tasteful. Chic....and Green! Hotel Gavarni, Paris.

Hotel Gavarni, 5 rue Gavarni, Paris 75116 +33 (0)1 45 24 52 82 www.gavarni.com

January 10, 2011

DvH 'new concept' design projects 2011

So do we -


Thank you for a most successful two thousandeleven.

An environmentally correct approach to the way we live our lives can no longer be ignored. In varying degrees, the entire planet is engaged in a formidable attempt to reverse habits that have taken us to the point of no return. While industry and fossil fuels are undoubtedly the major contributing factors to pollution, development is also capable of inflicting long lasting scars on our environment, proportionate to our demographic expansion and housing needs.
We propose to our clients the use of locally sourced materials and alternative energies.
Many of the projects completed have wind, solar and water collecting, recycling, storing, and de-salination systems especially for coastal properties. This will prevent the unnecessary waste of fresh water since so many of these regions are progressively developing water shortages.
We have deterred clients from the use of uncertified timber sources and encouraged at every level the use of traditional methods and the minimal use of industrial products.

We also experiment with the use of aesthetically attractive and functionally satisfactory recycled materials.

It is of course, a struggle against market reality which, particularly in developing countries, still follows policies already abandoned in the first world and which often favor quantity over quality.

It is DvH design and Architektur 1x1's goal to approach every project professionally and with creative and innovative solutions.

*=project completed

* DvH 2011 01 New Orleans, Louisiana (update)

*DvH 2011 02 Shanghai, China (corp. retreat)

* DvH 2011 03 London, England (update)

* DvH 2011 04 Samos, Greece (update)

*DvH 2011 05 Pasadena, California (re-design)

* DvH2011 07 Northern Italy (update)

 *DvH 2011 08  Kenya (renovation)

*DvH 2011 09 Santa Barbara, California (renovation)

*DvH 2011 10 Las Vegas, Nevada (condominium re-model)

* DvH 2011 11 La Cañada Flintridge, California (studio renovation)

* DvH 2011 12  Half Moon Bay, California (beach cottage update)

* DvH 2011 13 Lipari Islands, Italy
(house renovation)

January 5, 2011

Inspiration and Realization


“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form.

It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.

“The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

— Wendell Berry

January 2, 2011

Samos, bridge between East and West.

Fifty years ago I was only one of a handful of foreigners visiting the Greek island of Samos. There were no visitors from Athens, no tourists and no restaurants. Cruise ships were unknown. The ship from Piraeus anchored far out and its passengers were carried ashore in small boats. After the long journey there was a real sense of arrival.

Today, wherever there are beautiful islands, life has changed immesurably. The intervening years have witnessed an explosion of development, with invasions of travelers seeking the sun and something else less easely defined-perhaps the simplicity of a way of life that has largely vanished from the modern world.

Samos managed to remain independent for a long time.  It prospered inspite of the many battles its people fought to stave off invasion.  It was the birthplace of many exceptional minds.  The astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus who was the first to study the movement of the earth.  Callistatus who established the 24-letter alphabet, the architects and sculptors Rhoikos and Theodoros, who built the famous temple of Hera and the painters Saurias (the first painter too use chiamoscuro in his work) and Calliphon, painter of a number of masterworks which were to be seen in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

However, the best known of all these figures, is Pythagoras (580 - 500 BC) philosopher, mathematician and musician.  
Today, Samos is regarded as one of the most beautiful Hellenic islands it has not become a mass tourism destination, thus it keeps its unique, natural beauty.  An island that lives by its traditions.  You can feel this in every step you take and with every encounter of the courteous, hard-working people who respect the ways of their ancestors.

In the black night of winter, when the fishermen pass by the wind-buffeted and sheer slopes of Mt. Kerkis, the highest mountain on Samos, they say that they see a light at the peak that like a lighthouse guides them on a safe course during a storm.  They even say that the light is the spirit of Pythagoras.

Life can be conducted very differently when the weather is warm and clear skies a regular occurrence.  It is outward rather than inward looking, so the interior design styles of the temperate and northern climes look alien in the clear light of the Mediterranean, Caribbian, or tropics.  Walls are whitewashed, colors are clean and brilliant, furniture, and patterns are simple and traditional to the locality.  The most successful houses reflect their surroundings.

In the romantic sense, hot-climate style is a way of appreciating the simple life. Farmhouses are converted to holiday places. New houses copy the local vernacular. Architecture without architects. Whitewashed walls, tiled floors, scrubbed boards, and local pottery.
In practical terms, hot-climate style is a triumph of common sense. Whitewashed walls reflect light and heat; thick walls mean cool interiors and protection from strong, hot winds (meltemi in Greece). Shutters exclude glare and filter breezes latticed doors allow air to circulate. But these interiors are pleasing on a more elemental level. Living in a hot country, especially for those who are not native to it, reawakens the senses.


Lamu time

About 100 kilometers north of Mombasa, is the island of Lamu undisturbed by the turmoil of modern times it boasts a timeless serenity. Set in an archipelago of coral fringed islands, Lamu Town was a trading centre for hundreds of years. Great lateen-rigged dhows sailed in from Arabia and India, buying and selling ivory and spices. The resultant blend of cultures has produced a vibrant people, the Swahili, who are rich in history and justifiably proud of their maritime tradition. To this day there are no cars on the island, and transport is by dhow, donkey or on foot.

Swahili architecture is a style of building along the eastern and southeastern coasts of Africa. Though essentially of Arabic or Persian style and origin; archaeological, written, linguistic, and cultural evidence also suggests strong African influence and sustainment. There is evidence of enduring Arabic and Islamic influence in the form of trade, inter-marriage, and an exchange of ideas.

Lamu's unique stone townhouses, many dating back to the early 18th Century, are celebrated for their intricately carved wooden front doors, imposing entrance porches and shady courtyards, the grandeur and elegance of their interiors and their beautiful decorative stucco plasterwork.

The traditional stone house is Lamu's classic building type - found exclusively in Mkomani - the northern and oldest part of the town - a patrician area built and inhabited by wealthy merchants and noble Arab families - many of whose descendants still live in these grand, historic family homes.

They vary in size and form, from relatively modest, single-story houses to magnificent mansions, but all share a uniformity of design, construction and decoration. Each house follows a universal, centuries-old plan, and consists of a series of richly-ornamented galleries facing northwards towards Mecca. Thick external walls, high ceilings and small windows protect the inhabitants from the equatorial sun and ensure that the interiors are cool, private and secluded.

Of course not every Lamu home can or should be an absolutely traditional and historically accurate stone townhouse - many houses now have makuti-thatched roofs for instance - which were only introduced in the 20th century.

Much of the skill and pleasure of planning, restoring, building and furnishing a house here lies in working within the vernacular architectural style and with traditional local building materials, and in the adaptation and interpretation of time-honoured forms and designs to fit modern day needs.

Pantone has chosen Honeysuckle Pink as the color of 2011 (REALLY?).

Their press release describes it as: “A color for all seasons. Courageous. Confident. Vital. A brave new color, for a brave new world. Let the bold spirit of Honeysuckle infuse you, lift you and carry you through the year. It’s a color for every day – with nothing ‘everyday’ about it”.

(That press statement is mildly amusing; please let me know if you face the “brave new world” with pink.)

photos Pantone color lab