Places We Love, Part II

On this Valentine’s day, we finish our look at some of our staff’s favorite places on earth. These places represent the connections we make with the places we work and play; sometimes a brief encounter, sometimes a mainstay of everyday life. In case you missed Part I, you can check it our here. We hope you’ll enjoy these places as much as we do and, in turn, share some of your favorite places with us.

The Villa Lante,  Bagnaia, Italy – What’s more romantic than a Renaissance garden? The Villa Lante, located 50 miles north of Rome, is definitely my favorite. It is delightfully simple and pure, with a series of axial garden spaces stepping down a hillside toward a small town. Beginning at the top, a water source originates from a grotto in the quietest, most natural part of the garden. One follows the water down the hillside as it reappears in various forms – spring, fountains, cascade, and pool. Flanking the path toward the bottom are two identical pavilions, designed by Vignola, which focus the view to the lower parterre and town beyond. I love how the garden combines landscape and architectural elements to create a rich spatial sequence, full of meaning and beauty.     Mark Elliott, Architectural Staff

Plan and elevation drawing of The Villa Lante

Plan and elevation drawing of The Villa Lante (Image source: Italian Gardens of the Renaissance. New York: Architectural Book Pub. Co., 1966.)

National Park Seminary, Silver Spring, MD – Nestled in a hilly, wooded area near the Beltway in Silver Spring, the National Park Seminary campus has had a long and interesting history as an elite private school for girls in the first half of the twentieth century, then as an annex to Walter Reed Hospital starting during World War II. In the early 2000’s the US Army released it for private use and redevelopment.

This is just one of those quirky places where nothing would rationally make sense to an architect studying it on paper. It is nevertheless one of the most charming and intriguing places I know of in the Washington area. The campus’s steady growth and development over a 50 year period is evident in the jumble of architectural styles present: a mish-mash of Neoclassical, Tudor revival, craftsman and Victorian facades, a Chinese Pagoda, a Swiss Chalet, a portico supported by caryatids and even a windmill. Each facet competes for your attention, but it all somehow comes together into a cohesive place, like a memorable dinner party with lots of fun, quirky and charming people. The cap stone is the multi-story ballroom of brick, oak and stained glass. What a great place for a party.     Steve Knight, Associate

National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, MD

National Park Seminary in Silver Spring, MD

San Biagio & Santa Maria della Consolazione – Located in Montepulciano and Todi respectively, theses are two of the finest free-standing, High Renaissance buildings in central Italy.  Both Greek-cross plans with soaring domes.  Hard to pick the loveliest, so why try.  After all, Valentine’s Day is for couples. – Craig Williams, Principal

San Biagio in Montepulciano, by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder

San Biagio in Montepulciano, by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder


Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi, by Cola da Caprarola (influenced by Bramante)

Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi, by Cola da Caprarola (influenced by Bramante)

Amityville Horror House, Amityville, NY – The Amityville Horror house is arguably the most famous haunted house in America. This six bedroom dwelling was built in 1924 with a Dutch Colonial style that contained both a gambrel roof and distinct quarter-round windows. In an effort to detract from its frequent public attention, the house underwent an extensive exterior makeover. Nonetheless, the home still exudes notoriety, uniqueness and grandeur today. (And I love it)     Mario Dominguez, Architectural Staff

Amityville Horror House

Amityville Horror House before and after exterior renovations

Lopud Island, Croatia – This unassuming island, located a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik, is full of breathtaking surprises. From the Franciscan monastery hugging the harbor to the Doric Park overlooking the water, there is no shortage of picturesque places to explore. Two places in particular, however, capped our visit. The first was a surprise we discovered on our hike over the island – an installation by Danish-Icelandic artist, and one of my personal favorites, Olafur Eliasson and British Architect David Adjaye. Nestled on a hill, we found an Adjaye-designed pavilion that housed an Eliasson light installation. Not only was the space quite magical, but it also provided a welcome respite from the heat. From the pavilion, we proceeded to the other side of the island where, as you start your descent from the peak, the Bay of Sunj unfolds before you. We spent the afternoon on the Sunj Beach enjoying the calm water and spectacular scenery before enjoying a few beers back in the harbor and taking a sunset ferry back to Dubrovnik. Simply put, I love everything about this island.     Katie Garrett, Marketing & Communications Director 

Clockwise from top left: Franciscan Monastery, Doric Park, Path over the island, Adjaye Pavilion, Bay of Sunj

Clockwise from top left: Franciscan Monastery; Doric Park; Path over Lopud Island; Adjaye Pavilion; Bay of Sunj

Café Amouri, Vienna, VA – It’s this small coffee shop you’d miss if you didn’t know where to look.  It’s a bit cramped, seats can be hard to come by, great light, good coffee, friendly staff and best part is the walls are lined with record album covers (mostly from the 70’s) so I feel right at home.     Michael Swartz, Principal

Café Amouri in Vienna, VA

Café Amouri in Vienna, VA

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