All posts by Leslie Rennolds - Assistant Director

I am the Assistant Director at The Menokin Foundation. I have been here since 2010. Working in the middle of a 500-acre farm and national wildlife refuge has its advantages. It's very quiet (if you like that sort of thing). The scenery is beautiful and the wildlife is plentiful. Also, the work that is being done here is unique and rewarding. Especially to the unschooled in the field. I have fallen in love with Menokin - the Project, the people, the landscape, the challenge.

Madeira and the American Revolution

The history of Madeira is “a bit” murky and “a lot” thought provoking. Our personal fondness and affiliation with the drink stems from the ample supply of Madeira found in the inventory of Frank Lee after his death.

Menokin Wine Cellar (c) Hullihen Williams Moore

(SIDE THOUGHT: Wouldn’t it be FUN to have a Madeira tasting party in the wine cellar at Menokin? Email us if you’re interested. )

We have touched on the topic once before, with this interview with Julia Pearson and Bartholomew Broadbent about the history of Madeira and how it went from dreadful to delicious through a happy shipping misadventure.

But up until now, we haven’t given the Malmsey the credit it deserves in the formation of a more perfect union.  In a recent post on Atlas Obscura, writer Daniel Crown explores the Colonial obsession with Madeira in an article titled How a Thirst for Portuguese Wine Fueled the American RevolutionIt’s a good read chock full of quirky facts and figures. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • On August 8, 1775, two months after taking charge of his army, George Washington procured a large cask of the wine, as well as empty bottles, corks, and other paraphernalia. Over the next six months, he purchased hundreds of additional bottles and, eventually, an entire “pipe” (a term derived from the Portuguese word for barrel, “pipa”). A pipe of madeira held enough wine to fill 700 bottles, and a cask roughly the same. Washington, then, in preparation for war, ordered at least 1,900 bottles worth of the wine to be shared among his closest aides and confidants. (Party on, George!)
  • In 1766, John Hancock celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act by setting two pipes of madeira out in front of his house for public consumption.  (Party on, large signature guy!)
  • In 1774, John Adams reported to his wife, Abigail, that after tedious days of contentious debate, delegates to the First Continental Congress would sit for hours “drinking Madeira, Claret, and Burgundy.” (Party on, Founding Fathers!)

(ANOTHER SIDE THOUGHT: We would love to have a signature Menokin Madeira created for us. If you are, or know, an adventurous winemaker, let’s chat. You know our email address.)

What do Menokin and NNEC have in common? Jay Garner!

A familiar face on the Menokin Foundation’s Board of Trustees is now the new public relations manager at Northern Neck Electric Cooperative (NNEC).

Jay’s duties will include writing the NNEC pages for Cooperative Living Magazine, managing internal and external communications and overseeing social media outlets.

Join us in congratulating Jay on his new position!

2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education goes to Jorge Silvetti

COPIED IN FULL FROM THE  AIA.

Search “Harvard Graduate School of Design” on Menokin’s blog for more posts about their collaboration with The Menokin Glass House project.

2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education
Jorge Silvetti, Int’l Assoc. AIA
Jorge Silvetti-02
2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Architectural Education Recipient

Born in Argentina, Jorge Silvetti has taught at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design since 1975, serving as a gifted professor and mentor, and with Rodolfo Machado has worked as a design leader in Boston since 1974. While his influence at GSD was most strongly felt from 1995–2002, when he served as chair of the architecture program, he has propagated a distinct school of thought among the design professionals who have graduated in the past 42 years.

“This is not a stylization of architecture that is visually and immediately identifiable, but a way of thinking about history, precedent, and the contextual complexities of architectural production that has inspired generations of architects and educators such as myself,” wrote Christian Dagg, AIA, head of the Auburn University School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, in a letter nominating Silvetti for the AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion.

Currently the Nelson Robinson, Jr. Professor of Architecture at Harvard, Silvetti leads design studios and delivers regular lectures on history, contemporary theory, and criticism. His groundbreaking 1977 essay “The Beauty of Shadows” provided a compelling argument for how a profession caught between postmodernism and deconstruction should proceed. Later works co-authored with Machado that expanded upon his arguments have greatly influenced his students as well as other schools of design nationwide. The list of deans and department chairs who were former students, colleagues, or employees of Silvetti is long and impressive.

“As chair of the architecture program at Harvard, his emphasis on design as a form of research, coupled with his expansion of the field of architecture to include other design practices, had a profound effect on the discipline at large—an influence that can still be felt today,” Mónica Ponce de León, dean and professor at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, wrote in a letter supporting Silvetti’s nomination. “Through conferences, symposia, and exhibitions, Silvetti brought allied disciplines in conversation with architecture—long before interdisciplinary became a catchphrase in academia.”

Since 1986 Silvetti has overseen a number of research programs, including an examination of Sicily’s urbanism and architecture that won a Progressive Architecture award. Other projects have explored the future of public space in the shifting metropolis of Buenos Aires and the future development of previously industrial Bilbao, Spain. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize, and since 1996 has served as a Pritzker Architecture Prize juror. In 2000, he was a juror for the former Mies van der Rohe Prize for Latin American Architecture.

Beyond academia, Silvetti’s work in association with Rodolfo Machado since 1974 and under different professional firms that they founded and led (presently MACHADO SILVETTI), has been widely celebrated. Run like a studio where all employees contribute ideas and everyone shares in the learning experience, the firm’s notable projects include work at many major Universities and Colleges in the U.S., (among them Dartmouth and Bowdoin Colleges, Princeton, Harvard, Rice, and Arizona State universities), abroad at the American University in Beirut and the Vietnamese and German University in Vietnam, as well as notable cultural and educational institutions such as the Getty Trust in the U.S. The firm received the First Award in Architecture from the American University of Arts and Letters in 1991 and numerous design awards and citations from AIA.

“After teaching for many years and participating in many conversations, he stands among a select group of peers,” wrote Machado in a letter supporting his partner’s nomination. “In fact there are only a few still fully engaged in teaching, who have witnessed and indeed participated in the wild swings of academic pedagogy—from the post-modern to the parametric to the current heterotopic panorama. Throughout all of it, Jorge has been committed to teaching the core canons of architecture while simultaneously supporting those innovating people and emerging projects that benefit the core and expand the reach of architecture.”

Jury

Chere R. LeClair, AIA, Chair, LeClair Architects, Bozeman, Montana

Don Keshika De Saram, Assoc. AIA, AIAS President, Washington DC

Donna Kacmar, FAIA, University of Houston, Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, Houston

Toshiko Mori, FAIA, Toshiko Mori Architect, PLLC, New York City

Nader Tehrani, Dean, The Cooper Union, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, New York City

Image credits

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A Season of Thanks

Thank you to everyone who has touched, or been touched by, Menokin in some way in 2017. We have had a remarkable year of growth and planning. Our programs are reaching more people than ever and we experienced a record number of visitors.

Now, during this season of celebration, it’s important to pause for quiet and mindfulness. Take a different path. Appreciate the timeless workings of nature transitioning to another season.

We offer you the gift of Menokin. It’s all here waiting for you. The road less traveled by.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us.

Please Touch

Have you ever succumbed to the insatiable desire to touch artifacts in a museum exhibit?  At Menokin, we understand this need and not only allow, but encourage visitors to gently touch or handle artifacts.

Holding an object in your hand connects you with the person that made it hundreds of years ago. What was moments ago just a nail, is now a time machine zooming you back to 1769 when blacksmiths pounded out nails for use in the construction of Menokin. The questions pop into your head…who made this nail?….was he free or enslaved?…how many nails did he make on the day that this nail was forged?…what other parts of the house did he create?

The nail is no longer an object. It is a catalyst for a story. It provides a point of reference for us to find relevance and connectedness to that story. And allows us to reflect on our experiences today in contrast to the day-to-day life of the maker of this nail.

We are compelled to ask, am I touching the nail, or is the nail touching me?

 

 

 

Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds?

Alice French, Education Coordinator at Menokin
This month, students from Essex Intermediate visited Menokin to learn why cultural institutions like ours are part of the Rappahannock River Valley Watershed. This is more than a STEM program, and a state initiative to give every 6th grader a MWEE, “meaningful watershed educational experience” it’s STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, (or Architecture as we like to say) and Math. And at Menokin, we demonstrate these important ways of learning every day.
STEArchitectureM – Human Stairs
STEArchitectureM – Human Arch
Students get to visit the site and have a real water experience in a canoe on Cat Point Creek; walk the trails and learn about this special habitat; take a Hard Hat Tour and learn about the cultural history of this property, and it’s relationship to where they live. 
Heading out on Cat Point Creek.
Why is Menokin involved in a program about watersheds? Because our site has a history that goes back thousands of years. Did you know that, while our continents were forming, and waterways and mountains being created, that Menokin was always on high ground?  People have lived here for a long time because of its rich natural resources, that have always made it a desirable place to live.
ScienceTArtM: Grinding soil pigments.
ScienceTArtM: Painting with soils.
Our house is a couple of hundred years old, yet the high-ground of our landscape is thousands of years old and inhabited my many for thousands of years before English settlers ever arrived. Our house may be the largest artifact we have of recent cultures, but our ground is deeply embedded with the cultures of many before Captain John Smith ever arrived. Yet, he carried on the identity and heritage of the Rappahannock Tribe, by using their word for this special place, Menokin, which we still call it today, in the 21st century .

 

Menokin, a 500 acre classroom connecting the past to the present. Come visit for yourself, connect with your world, and be inspired.

The Makers of Menokin

I have been struggling to formulate the “official Menokin blog post” about the Menokin Sleepover Conference. We have heard from others: blog and facebook posts; tweets and instagram stories.

This morning it occurred to me that the trouble was that I was trying to write from Menokin’s perspective instead of my own. With that clarity, I decided that instead, I will share my personal journey through the process of understanding white privilege and how it led me to the truths of the weekend’s conversations.

Let me confess that until very recently, I had never really given the concept of white privilege a second thought.  How very white privileged of me! So it will not come as a surprise that it had also never occurred to me, until Michelle Obama gave vocal credit, that enslaved people had built the White House.

Duh!

Of course they did. The landed gentry of the 18th-century certainly weren’t out in the woods felling trees and turning them into construction timbers and beautifully carved panelling. They weren’t burning their hands baking bricks, or sweating over a hot fire forging nails and hinges.

Their unpaid, enslaved laborers did that work. At the White House, and in Colonial Williamsburg, and at all the grand plantation homes that are so revered as part of our national history. Including Menokin.

The evidence is everywhere. These people were makers. They made houses and bricks. They made nails and hinges. They wove fabric and spun wool. They grew crops and cooked meals for their owners while their own families often went hungry.

I am a maker. I paint and draw. I knit and needle felt. I take pictures. I cook. And I love to share my accomplishments with my friends and family. I enjoy the appreciation of the work I have created with my own hands.

So when I started to really think about the Makers of Menokin and how their voices were silenced, their children sold, their lives and work unappreciated, their history UNTOLD — I got mad.

And the more I think about it, the more I understand today’s anger. We ALL want to be proud of our accomplishments. We all want to share a very personal part of ourselves and be told how beautiful our creations are. We all want to be valued.

When I lead visitors through Menokin now, I share my white-privileged revelation with them. Many of them are guilty of the same. And together we approach the story with an amended view, by thinking and talking about the enslaved people whose hands shaped and carved and constructed an infrastructure that allowed our “little experiment in democracy” a fighting chance at success.

The Menokin Sleepover Conference provided a safe place to have a difficult conversation during a tumultuous time. Frank Vagnone and Joe McGill help lead a diverse but eager group through the landmines.

I am proud of our foundation and its good work. And I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work in a place and with people who are committed to shining a light into the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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