Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Triggered -- again

Reading today's obituaries, I found myself weeping.
Sverre Fehn, a famed Norwegian architect, recently passed away. He had an interesting take on architecture and structures in general. He considered buildings intrusive on nature -- a brutal "attack by our culture on nature." He made a point of designing structures that would relate more easily to the natural environment. His world-famous buildings embraced and harmonized with nature.
My late Dad was a second generation Norwegian-American who maintained much of his family's cultural heritage. He, too was an architect.
When Dad designed his and Mom's retirement home high on a bluff overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, he retained many of the existing trees and shrubs. The house was built with cedar siding to resemble a Maryland tobacco barn. As the cedar aged, it took on a grayish patina that made it nearly invisible from the road. The only thing that gave the house away was a bright red door.
He went to great pains to plant native grasses and trees to help maintain the stability of the bluff and to add beauty to the site. As spartan as the house may appear from the road, the back, which faces the water, is nearly all glass and has a wide, inviting deck stretching the length of the house.
When they lived there, the house had a distinctly Scandinavian flare. Dad hand-cut balusters in a Norwegian motif for both ends of the deck. Their beloved little Rusty liked to threaten squirrels from the safety of the deck.
When given some walnut from an old tree removed from Mt. Vernon, he carefully cut pieces and used them to frame the fireplace in a thoughtfully chosen Nordic pattern.
When Mom and I talked by phone the other day, we both admitted to occasional weepy moments. Dad died in November 2007 but our memories are still fresh. It's consoling to know there is evidence, made out of wood, concrete and glass that remind us of his presence, not the least of which was a tiny grove of dogwoods he planted on a bluff over the Chesapeake.

Dad amongst his beloved dogwoods.

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