Christian Zapatka, for those of you who haven’t joined the fan club yet, is one of the Nation’s most acclaimed architects. A graduate of Princeton’s School of Architecture, arguably the most highly selective architecture program in the country, Christian developed his masterful design process under architecture and design luminaries such as Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, and the legendary Stan Allen. As if his scholastic pedigree wasn’t enough to cement his spot in the AIA hall of fame, Christian has also been awarded the Norton Prize for excellence in design and the coveted Rome Prize in Architecture.
During the lecture, Christian told his own story, speaking candidly about his time in Italy and about his work with master of design, Michael Graves. Unlike the cold technical speak often associated with the modern architect; Christian gave the impression that he had personally studied each home in DC. He knew the local history, knew how it fit with the city’s classic architecture, and has plainly used that information to inform the design of his buildings. And none of this seems to overwhelm his own unique vision, as it easily could. Instead, Christian’s design model seems crafted to “embrace those qualities worth maintaining” without hitting the “overly sentimental” mark. I’m, for instance, a fan of his method for re-imagining natural light in historic spaces, eschewing the typical addition of rows of ill-suited new windows for subtler effects like widening doorways and reconnecting broken sightlines.
Of course, any lecture has the potential to veer too deeply into detail, with all but the most ardent aficionados of the topic snoring through the second half of the presentation. If the first of the TTR Sotheby’s International Realty salons is any indication, however, these programs will be accessible to just about everyone and could actually be quite useful, not only to design professionals, but for anyone interested in design or considering a makeover for his or her abode. Christian’s talk, for instance, was perfectly suited to the Georgetown set with his emphasis on seamless integration of the historic and the contemporary.
TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is doing the District a true service by bringing the design community to the general public with this new series. The program offers depth, insight, and a dash of vision. And I, for one, was thrilled to look into the history of our community and a bit of our future.