Architectural Inspiration for our New Houzz Video

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When principal Ankie Barnes filmed a video with Houzz recently (which will go up on our Houzz page and website in the coming weeks) it gave him the chance to reflect on the firm’s goals and philosophy:

—The studio system. With 21 architects, Barnes Vanze approaches each project as a team. “Since the Renaissance, the studio system is a time-tested tradition for refining and producing artistic works. The great studios of Michelangelo and others are examples,” Ankie says.

The Barnes Vanze studio in Georgetown
The Barnes Vanze studio in Georgetown

—The first meeting. Many people are curious about the process of working with an architect to design their home. “Very few people spend this kind of money in any other aspect of their lives except for their home. This should be a fun process,” Ankie points out. To that end, the first meeting is exploratory: “We want to know your hopes and dreams—the things that you loved about your grandmother’s house and what you would want for yourself.”

For example, the clients on this project asked that we replace a dilapidated but beloved family house on this site with a new one, reminiscent of the old, that would serve future family generations:

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And then: “We’re drawing all the time as we’re listening, as we’re talking, and clients get drawn in by the process, because it’s happening right there in front of them.”

These are examples of initial sketches that paved the way toward a (remarkably similar) finished result:

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—Inspiration. The architects at BVA often take inspiration for their designs from what they’ve seen on their travels. “The travel informs our work,” Ankie says. France, Italy and Morocco are particularly rich in architectural history—especially France, where Ankie’s spent most summers after growing up in South Africa.

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Ankie sketches in Provence, near his home there.
Here, he’s traveling down the Nile during a design leadership conference.
Here, he’s traveling down the Nile during a design leadership conference.

 

The simple, stark forms of this gable in a vineyard in Cape Dutch, South Africa, are particularly inspiring.
The simple, stark forms of this gable in a vineyard in Cape Dutch, South Africa, are particularly inspiring.

 

The detailed ironwork over this entry in France could influence the patterning of a wrought-iron balcony railing, or a stairway.
The detailed ironwork over this entry in France could influence the patterning of a wrought-iron balcony railing, or a stairway.

 

The inspiration for a vaulted corridor we designed in DC, below,

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can also be seen in an outdoor colonnade in Cuba:

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Architectural details. Every house has to have doors, windows, and a staircase if there’s more than one level. Architects at BVA see those and other structural requirements as opportunities to add personality, such as this curving stairway and balcony:

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or steel-and-glass interior doors:

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or gridded cabinet panels in this mudroom:

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—Reactions. “The best compliment I could receive is ‘We love it! It was easy, and it was fun.’ I want them to feel like it’s the best place they’ve ever lived in, that when they leave and get on a plane, they can’t wait to come home.”

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