The Architect’s Newspaper (AN)’s inaugural 2013Best of Design Awards featured six categories. Since then, it’s grown to 26 exciting categories. As in years past, jury members (Erik Verboon, Claire Weisz, Karen Stonely, Christopher Leong, Adrianne Weremchuk, and AN’s Matt Shaw) were picked for their expertise and high regard in the design community. They based their judgments on evidence of innovation, creative use of new technology, sustainability, strength of presentation, and, most importantly, great design. We want to thank everyone for their continued support and eagerness to submit their work to the Best of Design Awards. We are already looking forward to growing next year’s coverage for you.
2016 Best of Design Award for Unbuilt > On the Boards: The Menokin Project
Central to a comprehensive master plan for a 500-acre historic Virginian tobacco plantation, the Menokin Project seeks to offer a new way to present and celebrate the complex history of the region through its designs to preserve the 1769 house.Built by a signer of the Declaration of Independence and designated a National Historic Landmark, the ruins of the house are stabilized and preserved using glass to highlight the history’s wear and tear. By delicately marrying old with new, the project seeks to reinterpret the house, while allowing researchers, archaeologists, and visitors to gain a unique understanding of the irreplaceable portions of the site, its ancillary buildings, and the landscape.
Glass Engineer Eckersley O’Callaghan
Preservation Technologist John Fidler Preservation Technology
Stephen surmounted the vast store of raw video and audio footage at Menokin and created a wonderful collection of video shorts covering topics from Oral Histories to Glass Project Team interviews. Not only did he do what the staff has never had time to accomplish, he did it very well!
Menokin Foundation Internship
As a student of early American history, the opportunity to work on the house of a signer of the Declaration of Independence was exciting – even if most of that work would be done remotely. Fortunately, it has proven to be an educational experience despite the distance. From documenting artifacts to video editing, my work with the Menokin Foundation this summer has provided me with new and practical experiences in historical preservation, archaeology, and digital history.
Before I started work for Menokin at the end of June, Alice French, the outreach and education coordinator, shared a number of readings from the Center for Digital Storytelling. The readings helped to clarify their expectations. I had not done any video creation or any work for a historical foundation. The Digital Storytelling Cookbook from CDS was a useful guide for the purposes and processes for digital storytelling. Much of the text is focused on telling personal stories, but the focus on using objects in videos, finding important moments, and keeping the audience’s attention were directly applicable to the work I would be doing. It also had step-by-step directions for creating storyboards, writing scripts, and using particular video editing software. Alice also shared an article from Edutopia: “How to Use Digital Storytelling in your Classroom” by Jennifer New. As a teacher, I was particularly interested in this article as it applied to both my internship work for Menokin and my full-time teaching. In her article, New gives a number of good tips for creating videos for educational purposes and encouraging students to create their own videos. The readings gave me a frame of reference when beginning the video editing work for the summer.
The main purpose of my internship is to help the Menokin Foundation produce digital history content for their website and museum. The content will be use to demonstrate the progress being made in restoring the site and highlight the many activities and opportunities available through the foundation. To start, it was encouraged that I practice my video editing skills by creating a promotional video for their annual summer camp. There were a number of pictures and video clips from the previous year’s camp, and I was use them to highlight the activities children would participate in this year. It took a couple days to create the final video, mostly because I was still learning to use the WeVideo software that Menokin is using. The process involved sorting through dozens of photos to find appropriate ones for use, editing down video clips, creating a storyboard, then editing it all together into a single video with captions and a musical track. Since that first one, I have become much more adept at creating short video montages of what is happening at Menokin. I have created a couple of videos on 18th century carpentry practices and techniques using recordings of classes Menokin has provided. I also edited a number of recordings of archeologists examining artifacts into short clips that will be used in longer compilation videos.
Menokin also wanted transcriptions of a variety of audio and video files in their database – transcriptions which I later found very useful when making compilation videos. Some of the more straightforward videos, such as the carpentry lessons, were fairly easy to transcribe. There were also interviews with people who had family connections to Menokin, and these were much more difficult. The interviews, which were audio only, were very informal; they were more similar to conversations than the lectures I had already transcribed. I found it challenging to keep track of who was talking and what they were saying. I wanted to record as much accuracy as possible, since the transcriptions would be used by the Foundation in other projects after I had left. The transcriptions were time consuming, but also very interesting. One interview was done when a visitor to Menokin shared that their great-uncle once owned the house, and she would visit the site as a child in the 1930’s. Another, much longer, interview was with two sisters in their 90’s who may have been descended from slaves who worked at Menokin. They had a great deal to share about growing up in the Northern Neck throughout the 20th century. The interviews told a lot about the history of Menokin and the surrounding area. Once I had the transcriptions, it became very easy to find some of the best quotes to use in videos promoting the history of Menokin.
On my first trip down to Menokin since I began the internship work, the was to gather recordings and pictures of the Archaeologists at work on the site and collect older pictures off the Menokin server that were too large to send by e-mail. It was also an opportunity to get to know more of the staff at Menokin and experience their day-to-day work.
The most fascinating part of the trip was getting to watch and interview the archaeologists. I do not have any experience with archaeology, but I could tell that they were experts who loved what they did. The day I was down there, a small group of four contracted archaeologists were carefully sifting through the rubble of a collapsed corner of the house. They were both cleaning the site for reconstruction, and looking for artifacts. The lead archaeologist, Chris, was very personable and allowed me to interview him about his work. He explained the process of sifting through dirt to find artifacts, described his history with the site, and showed me the glass bottles, buttons, and nails that they were preparing for cleaning and cataloging. I also interviewed Hank Handler with Oak Grove Construction, who has been doing reconstruction planning and work for Menokin for several years. He was very excited to discuss the techniques being used to stabilize the structure at Menokin – techniques pioneered by the English Heritage Society that were just being introduced to the US. As much as I wanted to, I was not dressed to jump in the rubble and join them (honestly, it did seem exciting), but I was able to get some great pictures and audio recordings to use in promotional and educational videos for Menokin.
The rest of the day was a chance to familiarize myself with the practical matters of a historical institution like Menokin. The staff is small, and they seem to work together on both day-to-day and long-term tasks. This particular day, they were hosting a genealogy course for the local community college; I was happy to help out when I was not searching their server for pictures and files. I also met with the acting director, Leslie Rennolds, to discuss my work and upcoming projects. The visit was a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the site and gather material for future videos.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work at Menokin. The experience so far has been incredibly educational. As I work into the second half of the summer, I plan to use the techniques and information I have gathered to create more digital content for the foundation. Right now, I am planning videos about the archaeology and stabilization work I witnessed Monday. There are also more recordings and material from past events at Menokin to examine and turn into media that can be presented to the public – connecting the public to the history. I am excited to continue the work.
Lambert, Joe. The Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkeley: The Center for Digital Storytelling, 2010.
The Menokin staff would like to thank Eliza, who took on the daunting task of sifting through boxes and boxes of artifacts extracted from archaeological digs at Menokin over the last 13 years, and photographing them for use in an upcoming exhibit. Her work is exceptional and we are so pleased with the final images!
Eliza is a rising sophomore at Christ Church School.
I first became interested in Menokin when I visited on a field trip a couple years ago. I was not only intrigued by the history of the house and the people that lived there but also the plan about the ‘Glass House’. It was something that I had never seen before. I liked the
idea that you could see what the house would have looked like back then while at the same time seeing what it looks like today. It’s awesome that you can see the structure of the house, foundation, and the inside of the walls, but it’s also cool that it shows what’s happened over time.
Before my internship, I didn’t realize that they had carried out so many digs and found so many cool artifacts. It was a pleasure to get to go through all the different things that have been found through the years. I hadn’t realized that other people had lived at the house after Francis and Rebecca. The artifacts were like a timeline that shows what went on and how things changed through the years. I not only learned more about the history of the house and the people that lived there, but I enjoyed the photography aspect as well. It was not all what I was expecting, but I’m very glad it’s what I ended up doing!
It was also fun to learn about what goes on in the background of historic places like Menokin. I had no idea the amount of time and effort that went into something like this. I think it’s really amazing that Menokin seems like it’s all put together by the community. It’s an amazing place that has a bunch of really cool people that obviously care a lot about what they are doing. It was so much fun getting to help out there and meet all the incredible people that make Menokin possible!
The Menokin Foundation is thrilled to announce a new grant received in the amount of $30,000 from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation. This grant will support the capital campaign to save Menokin.
Specifically, it will help fund the archaeology and stabilization of the southeast corner of the house scheduled to start in July, as well as the beginning construction of the Menokin Glass Project in 2017. We are so grateful for this support from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation!
In addition to supporting the urgent need to save Menokin, the $30,000 grant from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation helped the Menokin Foundation to meet the 1:1 match for a $300,000 challenge grant from the Cabell Foundation. This challenge grant was awarded in November of 2015 and has helped the Menokin Foundation to raise significant support for the capital campaign to save this National Historic Landmark for future generations.
We are grateful for this support of Menokin and the opportunity to discover what this house and property can teach us now and into the future.
For more information on the Campaign to Save Menokin, please contact Christina Markish: (804) 333-1776 or email@example.com.
We have talked and talked about the amazing stabilization and preconstruction work that has been taking place at Menokin.
But as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The photography of the completed Northwest Corner reconstruction took my breath away. This before and after photo from 2015 shows the remarkable accomplishments of our preservation effort.
I hope you also feel the excitement and pride that I feel when I see this sneak preview of Menokin in her glory days.
If you’d like to help with our efforts, please consider making a donation.
INTERFACE: A COMMON BOUNDARY OR INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN CONCEPTS OR PEOPLE.
Interview with Rebecca Buntrock of Robert Silman & Associates Structural Engineer for the Menokin Glass Project October 15, 2015 by Menokin staffer, Debbie Wahlstrom
Debbie Wahlstrom (DW): What is it like to be an engineer and how would you describe the difference between an architect and an engineer in a project like this?
Every day as a structural engineer is a little bit different and could be spent coordinating with architects, building a large analysis model, or taking measurements in an existing building – or sometimes several of these at once! This is particularly true on a project like the Menokin House, which combines a high degree of existing building preservation, new design, and their interface.
I often get asked what the difference is between a structural engineer and an architect – if the architect designs the building, what exactly does the engineer do? Simply put, the architect designs the form, shape, and layout of the building, and we design the structure that supports it. Our ultimate goal is to establish a safe and code-compliant structural system (beams, columns, lateral frames, etc.) that still meets the architect’s vision. It’s an iterative process of collaboration between the structural engineer and the architect.
DW:So it sounds like the architects work with the design, and the engineer makes sure that design is practical to reality, to everyday life.
RB: Yes, exactly. The architect creates the form, but we work with them from the onset to provide guidance and feedback to create a solution that still observes the laws of gravity.
DW: Are you working on other projects in addition to helping us with Menokin?
RB: Yes, I do have other ongoing projects. The Menokin House is a very important and special project, but is also a relatively small building and the schedule is variable. My primary area of interest is renovation and preservation of existing buildings but I also work on new construction. At Silman, we’ve always found that working on both types of construction (new and existing) can really complement each other. Working on new buildings gives you a solid foundation for analysis, whereas through existing buildings, we can really see what has and hasn’t worked over time, in particular from a material and detailing perspective. These lessons and experience are put to good use at Menokin.
DW: How did you come into the field of engineering and why did you choose to do that?
RB: I was not one of those people that knew right away growing up that I wanted to be an engineer. I was good at math but I also enjoy art, writing, and history. I started off in college as a math major in the Arts Faculty at McGill in an attempt to combine all of these interests. However, my math classes immediately became much too theoretical for my liking and I realized it was applied math (calculus, geometry, physics) that I preferred. I switched into civil engineering and it became fairly obvious that this was probably where I should have been all along. The applied mathematics combined with problem solving and the practical, tangible aspect of structural engineering was a much better fit for me. And working with existing buildings involves a lot of writing, communication, and historic research, so I am still able to do many of the things I enjoy.
DW: I love that! It is so neat when you get to put all of your interests together in one little package. And I feel like my own work here at Menokin has allowed me to do the same.
RB: Definitely. I was very lucky. When you are first starting out and trying to decide what you want to do with your life, it’s a lot of pressure to make the ‘right’ decision to graduate on time. But how can you really know? I was lucky that it turned out so well for me.
DW: Do you have any experiences as being a female in the field that are unique to you in that way…or do you feel like it has been the same for you as the men… or, what is your perspective on that?
RB:I’ve been fortunate to receive a lot of support, opportunity and encouragement throughout my career from work colleagues and mentors. This has been hugely important to me to have people to look up to and learn from. But there are challenges to being a female in a workplace and the construction industry which is still a male-dominated field. I would say most of this is inadvertent or subconscious but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It might be as simple as someone not listening to my suggestion, and then agreeing with a similar suggestion that comes from a male colleague. That does happen, and that can be frustrating.
DW: Do you have any particular advice for girls who are interested in pursuing this field in their future?
RB:It’s important to have the confidence that you belong there and that you have something to bring to the table. Take advantage of mentors in your career. Communication is also very important. I hated public speaking, I still do. But a lot of our job is speaking to contractors, architects, other engineers to communicate ideas. Working on these skills as early as possible will also help with confidence.
DW: I know what you mean; I think a lot of us get nervous having to talk in front of people, no matter what it is.
RB:And I think that especially when you are first starting out and you are sitting in a meeting it can be difficult to express yourself. And there are subtle things that do happen, like when I go to a site a contractor might say “oh, where did you go to school? You must have been the only woman in your class,” which is kind of antiquated; for example in my undergrad there was 30-40% women. It’s not like you are alone in the field anymore and in general people are very respectful of what you can do. I’m optimistic; I think that women engineers in the field are very much embraced.
DW: How did you get to come to be involved with our project here at Menokin?
RB:Silman, my firm, offers a fellowship for Preservation Engineering, and through that fellowship I spent 6 months working at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. So I was there in 2012 in that capacity and with another great female STEM team – Ashley Wilson, the Graham Gund Architect, and Katherine Malone-France, the current VP of Historic Sites at the Trust. Katherine used to work for Oak Grove Restoration, the contractors that built all the amazing scaffolding and catwalks that are currently on the site. So she organized for us to take a trip out to the Northern Neck to see this unique interpretation of a historic building and learn more about the renovation concepts.
Then it happened that when I returned to Silman, I got looped in to start working on the renovation project at the Menokin house. So it was kind of a cool thing where I saw it on my own and then ended up being very involved.
DW: I see. Huh…that’s really fun!
RB: Like fate (laugh).
DW: Yeah you’ve had a lot of good things like that work in your favor.
DW: When you visited Menokin with the National Trust, what would you say was your first impression or first memory of the project?
RB:I think it was probably the catwalk snaking around the ruins and the zip ties that hold the roof down. Getting to see through the guts of the building, the inside of it, this is the perfect building for that. It’s like x-ray vision to see how the whole thing was constructed. You know, you can climb up through and peak in, and see everything; it’s all really raw and exposed.
It’s such a cool thing to see where that tree fell down in the middle of it and created the masonry ruins, and to understand a little bit about the history based on what’s left and what the building has already experienced.
DW: I find myself wishing that I had more of your education…more architectural understanding…so that I could look at it and understand it even better. But even with my limited knowledge I like it too for those same reasons.
RB:Yeah I’ve noticed that when people visit historic buildings that is their favorite part. Even if you are not in this industry, it’s fun to understand what’s behind the wall and how things are constructed. I mean until I studied it, I would have had no idea. Maybe it will create some future engineers who got interested in construction because they got to see the site.
DW: What would you say has surprised you most about working to restore this home?
RB:It’s a fairly small building, but for the size there have been many architectural and engineering challenges! I think the main thing that surprised me was the resiliency of what remained after the tree had fallen on it, the masonry ruins, which are still standing after all these years.
DW: Right! That is interesting how those couple parts [have been] just holding themselves up.
RB: Exactly. It just goes to show you – as structural engineers we use the word “redundancy” – somehow this thing is still standing up even though we might not be able to put the numbers to it.
It’s also worth noting that the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) program documented this building in the 1940s, before the tree fell on it and caused half of the walls to collapse. The luck, or rather such good foresight that they did document this building means that we have the plans to interpret. It’s such a great example of how important the HABS program is for documenting historic structures.
DW: Yeah …I like that too. There was a man that just came in not too long ago, and he had some pieces from Menokin but we don’t know exactly where they go yet. He said that he remembers coming at age 10 (I guess he is 75 now, so 65 years ago) with his dad, and his dad was encouraging Mr. Omohundro to let them help preserve it or something. When he returned years later after the tree fell on it, he said he felt very emotional, like he wanted to cry. Then he saw these boards (maybe from a door or window?) on the ground and he had a feeling that he should pick them up or something might happen to them. So, just a couple of weeks ago, he brought them to us and told us his story.
DW: Yeah it was a really interesting story.
RB:I also heard, I don’t know exactly the logistics of it, but they found the original building plans for Menokin over at Mt. Airy, the building down the street. I think that’s so cool too. You never know what’s important in your attic, I guess.
DW: Right! All these little details that you don’t think matter and then everything comes together to help.
DW:What do you think is the most challenging part about the restoration project?
RB:From an engineering perspective, there are a lot of different moving parts, from the existing wall stabilization and restoration, the new construction of a steel framed enclosure, and how the new and existing interface with one another. On this building every single connection is going to be a little bit different. We are trying to be so careful about the existing fabric and reusing openings and original elements where we can, that we almost have to look at every single condition on its own. Again you’ve got to think that for such a small building it’s got a lot of surprises and I think that is what is so great about it, but it is also one of the most challenging parts.
DW: Right, you are working with the architects and the archaeologists and everybody has to kind of think in terms of what is most important in their field and then bring it all together and make it work.
RB:Yeah exactly, it’s very collaborative, and there are very important preservation requirements and even small decisions can be very critical.
DW: What do you enjoy the most about it?
RB:It’s a little jewel box building but it has every single type of engineering challenge you could dream of. I mean with all the existing conditions, where we are re-using the walls to support the wind load, the glass enclosure, it’s sort of everything all in one little cute building (laugh).
DW: (also laughing) Yeah it’s a big project for being such a small building.
RB:Exactly. And, also I can’t complain about getting to visit the beautiful Northern Neck and getting to see Lightfoot [Menokin’s mascot and official dog greeter].
DW: How would your closest friends or family describe you?
RB:This one was hard for me; I actually polled my family and friends (laughing). I think I’m pretty friendly and positive. I’m a little bit type A. I do like to seek knowledge, and I’m enthusiastic for the most part. I like to think I’m smart (laughing again). (DW – You are smart.)
DW: And when you say “type A,” do people typically mean “staying with tasks pretty well”?
RB:Yes, I stay with tasks well and when I do something I aim to see it through. I like my role of managing a project like this and working through solutions for the challenges.
DW: Those are all good things. It is fun to be a wide variety of good things, because I think it makes you or any of us interesting as a person.
DW: What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
RB:I enjoy running, I ran in the New York Marathon last year. I find that’s a nice way to let off steam after a busy workday or sitting at the desk all day. In the spring and fall I enjoy biking, which is a good way to get out of the city. I also enjoy traveling, and spending time with family and friends. When I do travel I tend to seek out historic architecture both around New York and around the world.
DW: Oh that’s neat. Traveling gives you such a good perspective of what’s going on everywhere and seeing the similarities and differences.
RB:It’s interesting too because here in the United States, a historic building might be 200 years old, while in Europe it’s 2000 years old. We are such a young country but we still have a great stock of old buildings and history. I like comparing the two.
Menokin Interface is a new, periodic feature on Menokin: Rubble With A Cause. Debbie will interview other Menokin Glass Project team members as well as trustees, old friends, community members and others who have “interfaced” with Menokin in their lifetime.
On Friday, September 18th, the Menokin Foundation hosted its second guest lecture at William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library. The first lecture of the series was on the archaeology of Menokin, featuring Dr. David Brown and Thane Harpole from DATA Investigation as guest speakers.
This past Friday, Sarah Pope talked about the Menokin Glass Project, and photographer and Menokin board member, Hullie Moore, talked about his photos taken of Menokin. Friday’s lecture saw a capacity-filled room as guests listened to the preconstruction work that has been done at Menokin this summer and learned of the vision for the next few years.
The lecture series is in conjunction with the Menokin Project exhibit currently on display through October 6th in the Botetourt Gallery of Earl Gregg Swem Library. (More information on the exhibit can be found on the Swem Library website.) Prior to coming to William & Mary, this exhibit was on display at the Octagon House in Washington, DC. The debut of this exhibit on the Menokin Project was earlier in 2014 in Boston where the lead architecture firm developing the glass concept for Menokin – Machado Silvetti – is based.
The Menokin Project exhibit featured a combination of photography and an exhibition on the work of the Menokin Foundation and its innovative approach to the rehabilitation and interpretation of Menokin.
The photography portion of the exhibit, “Through Their Eyes: A Photographic Journey” was an artistic journey through the camera lenses of two photographers — Frances Benjamin Johnston and Hullihen (Hullie) Williams Moore. This collection spans over eight decades of Menokin’s history, as well as the changes in technique and the advancements in photo-technology from 1930 to 2014.
Special thanks to Menokin’s past and present board members who attended the lecture on Friday, including: Helen and Tayloe Murphy, Hullie Moore, and Penelope Saffer. Special guests also included an appearance by William & Mary’s President, Taylor Reveley, the Dean of Swem Library, Carrie Cooper, Smithfield’s Charles Griffith, Joanne Berkley of Norfolk, and many others from around the Williamsburg and Northern Neck communities.
The Menokin Project exhibit will continue to travel to other regions following William & Mary. More information on the next location and lectures associated with the exhibit will be shared soon. A book featuring the photography in the exhibit is available on our Shop page.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the exhibit, please let us know: 804-333-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.