Credit: Robert C. Lautman
Google the phrase "Hall of Fame," and you’ll get back just under 60 million results. The most familiar ones are for sports and music, but there are also halls of fame for famous robots, inventors (did you know George Washington Carver invented 325 ways to enjoy the peanut?), clowns, quilters, Armenians, zydeco, dinosaurs (largest: Argentinosaurus hinculensis), and even readers.
This pantheon also includes myriad halls that recognize the lifetime achievements of the elite within the housing and development industries. Builder’s annual Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence is one of these, and this year’s inductees can only add to its prestige by their selection.
“We’ve been very fortunate and have won 110, 120 design awards,” notes Stephen Muse of Muse Architects. “But the ones that matter most to me are those that honor the body of our work.” Muse and this year’s other inductees, David Baker of David Baker + Partners Architects and Alan J. Green of The Green Co., share a common goal: to create homes and communities that are designed to enhance their surrounding environment and, at the same time, fulfill the needs of residents beyond their expectations.
Their excellence manifests itself in results that celebrate the connection between form and function.
Senior Principal, Muse Architects, Bethesda, Md.
Credit: James Kegley
Stephen Muse calls his residential design work “corrective surgery.” Muse explains that his 25-year-old architectural firm, Muse Architects, eschews what he sees as the two extremes of architectural renovation: radical change or mimicry. “Our work is always about the bigger picture, and we know we’re successful when you look at an addition and can say the house is better for it.”
One project that put this surgical approach to the test—and for which his firm won a Builder’s Choice Grand Award in 2003—was Muse Architects’ renovation and expansion of a historic 18th-century manor house in West St. Mary’s County, Md., built on that state’s first land grant and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Muse recalls a “quite small” house with no first-floor bathroom and tiny bedrooms on the second. The owners wanted to open up the house to accommodate more first-floor living space and rooms for their grandchildren when they visited. But expansion required approval from the Maryland Historical Trust, which had purchased an easement on the property to prevent the previous owner from selling the 412-acre property to a developer that wanted to subdivide.
Credit: Robert C. Lautman
The Trust’s plan for an addition to the house “didn’t make sense to us,” says Muse, because it was simply a smaller version of the existing home. But the Trust’s objective, he learned, was keeping the existing house as the focal point of the site. So in its design, Muse Architects doubled the size of the house, to around 5,000 square feet, by attaching several secondary rooms whose exteriors blend seamlessly with the main residence, which now has a downstairs master bedroom and bath, and a large kitchen/family room area. West St. Mary’s Manor’s owners were “very involved” in its planning and design, recalls Muse. But he still encounters homeowners who greet architectural design with a shrug. “I was talking with a friend who said he got what he hoped for from a redesigned house. I thought ‘how sad,’ because architectural changes should always trump expectations.”