Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Making the World Smaller

The world just got a whole lot smaller.

[click to read]

System Map.

Zimmerloop car coming through the evacuated tube at 750mph.
Graphic by Bob Kirchman. 
Copyright © 2017, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A New Proposal for 'Elysian Lilies'

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XIII, Issue IA

Take Metro In a Wheelchair, Just Once
[click to read]

Do Metro executives know what the Metro is like for a person who uses a wheelchair? (read more)

A New Proposal for 'Elysian Lilies'
By Bob Kirchman

In Metro's Smithsonian Station, the Elevator is tucked into a dark alcove that is poorly marked. If you forget to check the status updates for elevators, you might encounter this scene... the elevator is out of service.

In the older Metro Stations in Washington D. C., the elevators might seem like an afterthought. In Smithsonian Station, the elevator sits in a dark alcove and is easily missed. Harry Weese designed the stations as a crypt, of sorts, to the Federal City. He wanted you to know you were underground.

Newer Metro stations have two elevators side by side and they are large enough for two people in wheelchairs to ride together. Smithsonian Station's elevator is relatively small. Adding to the claustrophobia is the dark alcove. While the vaulted stations and open escalators are elegant in their muted illumination, a case might be made for the elevator alcove visually signalling connection to the world above.

To that end, a variation of the 'Elysian Lilies' mural is designed below, along with a brighter ceiling light and a brighter elevator door.

'Elysian Lilies' Mural Design for a Lift Alcove. Bob Kirchman

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Murals for Public Spaces

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume XXII, Issue XXIVa:

Murals for Public Spaces

Harry Weese actually created the spaces of Washington’s Metro as a Brutalism/Minimalist statement. He specified that their be no murals, but four decades later the imposing fearsomeness of the spaces had the leadership of Bethesda, Maryland creating public art.

Was it successful? Our studio submitted a very natural floral mural... a continuation of the theme began in the Hollyhocks Mural in Charlottesville. Our goal was indeed to overlay the stark entrance/bus shed with a natural imagery to create an inviting space. I joked to my colleagues: “This won't win. Bethesda Arts likes stark geometrics.”

Sure enough, the winning design was stark and geometrical. Though it has vibrant colors and is a good mural, it's Mayan hyroglyphs read to some people more like a diagram of underground utility piping. Not exactly the way to make the space more inviting unless the artist is David McCauley. Here are some interesting comments from the article that follows:

Let’s Cover Blank Walls with Public Murals
By Dan Malouff
[click to read]

One of the most basic tenets of good urban design is that walkways should be lined with things to look at. Blank walls discourage walking because they make a walk seem boring and therefore longer, and because empty and lightly maintained spaces feel less safe. Detailed, colorful places are inherently more pedestrian friendly than dismal, blank spaces, and therefore urbanistically superior. So, given that, why do we accept so many blank spaces in our cities? (read more)

Scott on February 3, 2017 at 8:02pm

One man's art is often another man's grafitti. The original design for the Metro by Harry Weese specifically excluded art to avoid the discussion of what is appropriate and what is not. Have you all seen the awful mural that was added at the Bethesda Metro Station? I even like modern art, and this thing just looks bad, and is not good urban streetsscape design. Public art and heroic sculpture is a great idea if well done, but I have seen some very bad and tasteless artwork in public places.

Another topic is the fine line between thoughtfully commissioned murals and illegal vandalism. It really is difficult to enrich the public realm without offending at least some of the public. I vote for great lighting, interesting textures, useful way finding signage, even some bright colors but suggest that unless art is carefully curated, we should avoid filling our city with poorly conceived murals.”

John D on February 5, 2017 at 11:22am

I have to agree that the mural at the Bethesda Metro Station is spectaculary awful. it's easy to visualize alternatives for that space that would be simpler, more durable, and more complimentary to its environment. So if that's an example of what we might get, I'd have to vote for more advertising to fund the system, too. At least ads get vetted by someone's marketing department and has to meet a quality hurdle.”

At this point, I want to emphasize that having designed a mural concept for the space, I can say flat-out that it is a difficult space. The bus shed is awkward in scale and the Metro escalator is long and scary. I noticed many able-bodied people opting for the elevator. I rode that escalator a number of times to get a sense of the sequence one went through going to Metro.

I rode down as a man and his girlfriend (or wife) descended in front of me. She was laden with packages and he, carrying nothing, followed her down. I slipped down the left side and placed myself in front of the woman, simply because Southern men are taught from childhood to place themselves between women and danger. I rode down the long escalator standing there. The old escalator gave a rather wobbly ride and I thought of how one of these Metro escalators had actually failed – freewheeling down during a day when hundreds of thousands visited Washington for a Pro-life Rally on the mall.

The media was often guilty of downplaying the numbers of Pro-life Rallys, so as the official ridership of the day became public record as part of the investigation, it was shown that there are a lot more people riding the Metro on a day when there’s a Pro-Life Rally than the media would like to admit. Thankfully there were only minor injuries and the most harrowing image of the day was that of crushed baby strollers. I would call it a miracle.

But back to the rude man and the laden lady -- That little moment convinced me that bringing beauty and nature into the space might be a very good thing. I wanted at that point so desperately to break the spell of that dirty brutalist space... but it was not to be. About forty of us were competing for the opportunity and the $30,000 muralist's fee. I was able to see some of the other entries. There were quite a few geometric designs (design to competition committee), and I liked many of them more than the winning design.

In the end I was satisfied that I had created a good solution and that on another day another committee might have wanted something ‘different.’ But this time the committee opted for what they had financed earlier in a retaining wall mural.

I called my concept Elyssian Lilys. It was a continuation of a theme that begins with my old assistant Kristina’s Great, Great Grandmother’s Hollyhocks, which return every year to bless the street where they were planted long ago even though the house is long gone. It is also a tribute to a friend’s daughter, Lily. I had done a smaller mural of Heavenly Hollyhocks in the Fifeville Neighborhood of Charlottesville, Virginia. It warmed what had been a rather stark entry to a beauty salon and that exercise proved to me and those acting as design critics: Kristina Elaine Greer and Lisa Johnson, that a large natural element might indeed create a welcoming environment overlayed on Weese’s Brutalism and was sufficient in contrast so as not to take much away from it.

I think it will find a good home in urban fabric someday.



A Floral Legacy

The Springhill Hollyhocks

White Hollyhock, Springhill Road. Photo by Bob Kirchman

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime." – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Passing something along to the generations to follow... a worthy ambition, indeed the great feast of Passover and the celebration of Purim involve the passing down of the great stories of Redemption! "And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped." -- Exodus 12:24-27

The just-celebrated Passover is a way of keeping the story alive. For generations this story told as a meal has given new generations the cherished history of their redemption. Indeed it should serve as a  model for us as we pass down a Legacy of faith to our children. Historically we have passed along so much more to our children as we would teach them how to work, how to build a life and so much more. Of late our society has built a reliance on 'experts' to prepare our young people for the future. While I would readily agree that a young person becoming a doctor needs to be trained by other doctors, there is much to be learned outside of the academy from the proceeding generations of one's own family. Most of our work ethic and our character is formed in the home. There is much wisdom of a deeper sort to be found there.

Indeed, modern generations seem to have diminished the importance of this tradition, as referenced here in some of my writing: "Haroset, bitter herbs and young lamb mingled together to add illustration to an old story. In ancient times a covenant was often made within the context of a meal. Rupert's own redemptive story was now unmistakably flavored by sweet tea and macaroni and cheese. In the 1950's the American company Swanson created an invention known as the "TV Dinner." Families no longer conversed around the table, often "watching the news" instead of passing truth from generation to generation. Food was placed into individual compartments in a small aluminum tray, individualized for each diner. There were no more passed dishes. The family ate in silence as the television did all the talking."[1.]

That is why I love Mrs. Landes' Hollyhocks. They represent the passing down of a gift to bless many generations to come. The house is gone now, replaced by a gas station, but the Great-great grandchildren of Mrs. Landes still enjoy the fact that they still bloom every year where her house once stood and that is a wonderful thing!

I first noticed the wonderful hollyhocks as I would drive over to my weekend job with organ builder Xaver Wilhelmy. There they were growing in the highway right of way. I started photographing them, marveling at their tenacity in growing where they did. One day I mentioned them to my assistant Kristina, who surprised me by telling me that her Great-great Grandmother had first planted them. They too would find their way into story: "The hollyhocks were in bloom now, and their offspring, lovingly sown from Kris' pods, blessed many a neighboring garden in the biosphere which protected the little town from the ravages of the severe climate. Today, the little gardens seemed especially alive as hummingbirds and butterflies seemed to abound. "Why does this day seem so different from any other?" mused Kris. Surely it had to be the special visit from Kate and Elizabeth. No, the light seemed more brilliant. The flowers seemed more defined. An artist noticed things like this, and each of these women was an artist in her own right." [2.]

The statement: "Why does this day seem so different from any other?" alludes to the Seder by design, referring to the child's question which prefaces the great retelling of the great story of redemption. Projecting the great story into the future is a direct reference to the hope we have in our own promised redemption! Indeed that hope is at the heart of the celebration of Redemption and resurrection!

White Hollyhock, Springhill Road. Photo by Bob Kirchman

The Great-great Grandchildren of Mrs. Landes and the story of her legacy of hollyhocks. Her hollyhocks still bloom every Summer on Springhill Road in Staunton, Virginia. Her house is long gone, replaced by a gas station but the flowers continue to bless those who pass that way. They were the inspiration for the mural: Heavenly Hollyhocks that Mr. Kirchman painted in Charlottesville, Virginia.











Every Summer they appear!, remnants of a garden planted long ago that continue to brighten the drive into Staunton along Churchville Avenue. What a great living legacy for a gardener!Photos by Bob Kirchman

Mural inspired by the Springhill Hollyhocks.

Zipporah’s Flowers

As we were finishing the Journey to Jesus Mural, an Egyptian woman visited our church. Her name was Zipporah (the same as Moses’ wife). She mentioned that she had had dreams or visions of Heaven. Naturally I was intrigued and when I met her in the foyer I asked her to describe what she had seen. “Jesus is in Heaven surrounded by Children,” she remarked. That was a “WOW” moment. The Journey to Jesus Mural depicts children of all nations coming to the throne of the Redeemer! Zipporah unknowingly was affirming the message of a two-year project that she had no prior knowledge of.

She continued: “The flowers there are ENORMOUS… more like TREES!” Zipporah had unwittingly planted the seeds for the concepts developed in Heaven’s Hollyhocks and Elysian Lilys. These visions had comforted a Christian lady living in the midst of persecution in her homeland and now they had a message of comfort for others as well. That prompted their introduction into stark urban environments.

Journey to Jesus, a mural depicting the nations coming to Jesus in the New Heaven and New Earth described in Revelation 21. Mural by Kristina Elaine Greer and Bob Kirchman

Epic of Human Civilization

In 1932 the Trustees of Dartmouth College commissioned José Clemente Orozco,’s mural: The Epic of American Civilization, which depicts the history of the Americas. It is a great work of art but it presents a dark scenario ending with ‘gods of the modern world.’ It uplifts the great civilizations of the Maya and the Aztec but then delves into a rather dystopian depiction of modern times. Unseen is the fact that human civilization has never been without troubles and it is easy to see visions of the past as ‘pure’ forms because you are spared the sights and smells of everyday life there. Orozco’s mural was originally seen as controversial but as the academy aligned itself more and more with Anticolonialism and Socialism, the mural became more of a statement of where they were intellectually.

Dartmouth had originally been founded to evangelize the native peoples of America, but as the academy began to adopt the view that Western culture was ‘nothing special,’ Orozco became the Leonardo of this new faith. Selective history always sees the sins of those one disagrees with and overlooks a lot of those of one agrees with. Yes, the Conquistadors were terrible. Modern education is indeed soulless and seeks to indoctrinate, as Orozco intimates in his depiction of ‘gods of the modern world,’ but the academy, having espoused a more Marxist philosophy, continues to suppress other thoughts (especially Christian thoughts). Witness the recent speech by Noah Riner where the student body president talked of how finely educated Dartmouth graduates had not all been noble in their subsequent lives.

Noah Riner, 21 — homeschooled son of a Baptist preacher, and now student body president at Dartmouth College — sparked national controversy with his September 20th convocation speech to incoming freshmen. In what is traditionally an immemorable speech, Riner maintained that character, not just intelligence and talent, must be the goal for true education. Dartmouth, Riner told his peers, has turned out a lot of very talented, very intelligent individuals. “But if all we get from this place is knowledge, we’ve missed something,” he reasoned — citing examples, both historic and recent, of Dartmouth alums whose credentials were impeccable, but whose character was proven to be greatly corrupt. Turning to raise the issue of New Orleans — the looting, violence, and rape in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — Riner clarified, “My purpose… isn’t to condemn just [the citizens of New Orleans], rather it’s to condemn all of us.” “The real problem in this world,” Riner argued, “is not lack of education [but] lack of character.” “[C]haracter,” he held, “is what you do when no one is looking, but I’m afraid to say all the things I’ve done when no one was looking.” He challenged his fellow students to be honest with themselves and with one another. “We have the same flaws as the individuals who pillaged New Orleans,” he said, affirming the truth of the universal sin nature. “Ours haven’t been given such free range, but they exist and are part of us all the same.” [3.]

Here Riner offered the message of Christ… the original message of Dartmouth, to the protest of the modern institution that Dartmouth had become.

So Journey to Jesus is subtitled ‘The Epic of Human Civilization,’ a nod to Orazco’s work, but also a continuation of Riner’s assertion that if institutions have failed us we need something more than an institution to save us. It is in that spirit that we offer Christ and ‘visions of Heaven’ as an alternative.

Harry Weese's Metro
Photos by Bob Kirchman



Metro 13

Metro 11

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

'New' 'Old' Architecture

The Inspiration for the Buildings of Big Diomede

The Church on Big Diomede is based on my painting of the University of Virginia Chapel.

My Grandmother, Lola Dalton Carpenter, designed this window for a stairwell in 1914. I carried it into the Twenty-first Century as a window at the College on Big Diomede.

At the turn of the Century, as the Twentieth Century began, the great world's fairs presented a vision of civic architecture for America's young cities. A beautiful classicism prevailed, inspired by the model of Greek and Roman architecture. As the McMillan Plan transformed Washington DC into a very beautiful city, it put in place a sort of architectural order. The civic buildings of the metropolis all followed the form of Greek and Roman architecture. The great Cathedral and Catholic shrine rose in Gothic and Byzantine forms, thus creating a wonderful order for religious architecture as distinctive.

For Big Diomede, it seemed appropriate to again visit the past for ordering the future. Thus I returned to classicism for the College and Gothic for the Chapel, the precedent being Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia... a beautiful campus in the Palladian style. Jefferson omitted a place of worship, perhaps by design, but in the 1880's a chapel Designed by Baltimore architect and University alumnus Charles Emmet Cassell was erected. The chapel’s materials, site, and style signify it as a Christian building in contrast to the Academical Village. Upon the chapel’s dedication, Professor Maximilian Schele de Vere proclaimed that while the Rotunda represented “in cold though classic beauty the outlines of a pagan temple,” the chapel aspired to Heaven with its “pointed window” and “flying buttress.”

In 1980 I was married to my beautiful wife in that chapel, about a decade after it was first proposed. Thus that building is very special to me. The Zimmerman Stone Mountain Proposal Story is the story of my own proposal! Yes, the Divine sent a Storm! We like to think it would have happened anyway, without the Heavenly pyrotechnics, but it remains a great story.

Grandma's window and Inglenook found their way into the story simply because the images fit the mission, and I love them. She was a student at the Maryland Institute in 1914 and produced most of her work in those years. She married O. F. Carpenter, a sucessful Madison businessman and painted as an avocation until her eyesight failed in the 1970's. Lola Dalton Carpenter was extremely talented and had studied fashion design. In a later part of the story, yet to be told, a nod to Kris' efforts in this discipline is really a shout to Grandma, who all of us credit with our own creative impulses. My cousin in Oregon is an incredible photographer. My own children are very good too. We all thank Lola Dalton Carpenter for blazing the creative path for us!

My Grandmother, Lola Dalton Carpenter, designed this ingelnook in 1914. Of course, it was exactly the look I wanted for Kris' house on Big Diomede.

I added the chalk drawings in front of one of my renderings to create the exterior.
Copyright © 2016, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Biospheres and Tundra Farms

Arctic Greenhouse Agriculture Prototypes
Copyright © 2016, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Here in this satellite view of Big Diomede, the biospheres have been added by the artist.

Greenhouses are visible in the Russian Terminus Rendering.

Here is the artist's view of the Big Diomede Biosphere Interchange on A2. Greenhouses and a portion of the biosphere complex are visible, as is the 'Unisphere' recreation that marks the 'End of the World.'

A Concept for a Tundra Greenhouse Farm.

As Joe and Chris had pushed on through the Yukon Territory on A2, they had seen the glimmer of reflected sunlight from Elizabeth's latest initiative... tundra greenhouses. The soil of the tundra had long been known to be extremely fertile but since it was frozen most of the year all that grew there was low scrubby vegetation. Martin pointed out that there was an abundance of geothermal energy in the same vicinity as the fertile tundra. All you had to do was drill for it. With an abundance of oil and gas companies flocking to the region, you simply paid them to sink your wells as a 'side job.' Hot water and steam gushing from deep in the Earth powered turbines to generate electricity, extending the growing season with artificial sunlight. Next it was used to heat the greenhouses and warm the topsoil so it could be cultivated. Finally the cooled water was used to irrigate crops, sinking back into the tundra so the process could be repeated.

Environmental 'protectors' in the lower 48 cried 'foul,' but their own data actually proved you could turn most of Siberia and the Northwest Territories into farms without making a dent in the Earth's temperature balance. The change was not without precedent. In the late Nineteenth Century the American West had been transformed into the breadbasket of the world. Immigrants fleeing famine joined with adventure seekers and restless pioneers to build this new world. Disney's Main Street was but a faint allusion to the energy of these communities as they had faced the frontier with little else than determination and faith. Faith, in the end, was the nutrient that kept them strong. Rupert's shipbuilding friends were happy to fabricate greenhouses fit to withstand the snow loads as his great bridge and the support buildings necessary for it were nearing completion. His Swedish friend followed in the path of Sears Roebuck in providing fine houses for the pioneers. On Martin O'Malley's drawing boards were plans for a new world to take shape in the Twenty-first Century. A world wracked by war and famine eagerly awaited it.

Elizabeth's vision would bring people presently crammed into refugee camps to work the soil inside her greenhouses. The Bering Strait highways would become a conduit for them to feed their homelands. All this would require the participation of thousands of souls who would plant, cultivate, harvest, drive trucks and provide necessary services for those involved in these activities. Coptic Egyptians, now living free of persecution, populated one of the first villages. Their rich Orthodox Church seemed right at home among the vestiges of Russian America. Sumatran Muslims who had made their fortunes working away from home on cruise ships now were able to make a living with their families intact in their own little community.

Elizabeth followed the example of Nineteenth Century America in broadcasting the little groups in such a way that they would need to cooperate with other communities while they enjoyed the familiarity of their own. Perhaps ths sharing in taming hostile wilderness is one of the Divine's greatest gifts to mankind in that they learn to work together. Joe and Chris had stopped to help Abdul change a tire earlier in the day. Men of two different cultures, they were brought together by a common struggle -- the struggle for survival on that hostile road. Chris had never spent time with a Turk before, but Joe remembered when his Grandfather, a NASA engineer in the 1960's had worked with a man from Ankarah named Ali. Ali was the son of Turkish immigrants and was a fellow engineer. Joe's Grandmother had learned what foods to avoid serving as the men shared each other's homes in hospitality." -- From PONTIFUS
Copyright © 2016, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

The vision for Arctic farming has been shared in articles such as this one: Farming in the Arctic, It Can Be Done [click to read]. At the present it is not done on a large scale, but projects such as one proposed to build geodesic domes in the Nunavut community of Pangnirtung suggest the idea has merit. While greenhouse farming is done successfully in the Alaskan community of Bethel, a government program to encourage such farming was pretty much a disaster. In any case, the geothermic heated greenhouses in PONTIFUS [click to read] offer the vision of a new frontier, right down to the 'next' generation of 'Sear's Roebuck Houses.' In them, it is envisioned that the isolation would allow for a more organic agriculture and almost no use of chemicals.

There is a proposal to build geodesic domes such as these in the Nunavut community of Pangnirtung.



A greenhouse now on the tundra.

The 'Truck Stop at the End of the World'

Real Life Inspiration for the Big Diomede Service Plaza

In PONTIFUS [click to read] the Big Diomede Service Plaza is an important location...

...that is modeled after the Aire de Service de Mâcon-la Salle at St. Albain.

At the Aire de Service de Mâcon-la Salle at St. Albain, the dining areas span the highway.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Key Project

Frank Lloyd Wright's Proposal for Ellis Island

A very futuristic design, it would have been interesting as a floating city as well.