Sunday, March 25, 2012

Old Cherries

In 1912 Japan gave a group of cherry trees to Washington, DC. Planted near the Tidal Basin, they bloom every spring. Over the years, more and more trees were planted, even though Washington DC's climate is not ideal for Japanese cherries. The National Park Service carefully tends the trees through the hot, humid summers. The cherries suffer the indignities cast upon them by hordes of tourists who trample the roots and try to climb on branches to pose for photos. This week, in the original grove, the remaining centenarian trees unfurled clouds of pale blossoms. It was a fine show of vigorous new growth sheltering trunks that are gnarled and bent like so many elderly survivors at a party. A gift indeed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Warm, sunny days have hastened the blooming of all the spring plants. While everyone waits breathlessly for the cherry blossoms to open, the magnolias are already putting on a show. Near the Smithsonian's Moongate Garden, their branches arch over both sides of the walkway, forming a quiet pink bower. Petals drop all around me, joining the pink drifts. This is not the half-hearted barely-pink tint of the cherry blossoms. Magnolias claim every shade of pink right there on every petal, shading from a hearty deep rose out to pale pink at the edges. Finely traced streaks of burgundy run from base to tip. I stand and look at all this perfect pinkness on a perfect morning.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooper Union Letters

How do you identify a building without ruining the look of it? Schools, businesses, churches all need signage.The challenge is to do it in a way that is consistent with the building's design ethic. In the East Village of Manhattan, Cooper Union's newest structure required something sleek and modern. Shiny silver letters wrap around the overhanging edge of the entrance. They blend in with the matte silver skin but are different enough in texture to be readable from any angle. It's an ingenious solution that is completely in character. Would you expect any less from a school that focuses on art and design?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

View From Ca' d'Zan

In 1925, John and Mabel Ringling built Ca' d'Zan, their winter home, in Sarasota, Florida. It's a mishmash of styles inspired by their travels through Europe. The view is the best part. Ca' d'Zan stands right on the edge of Sarasota Bay. I like this photo of the mansion's partly-opened windows. The tinted panes and metal gridwork frame and tilt the sea and sky. Even in this slightly jumbled state, it’s a reminder of why so many people are lured to Florida in the winter.