Architect Ernesto M. Santalla visits the residence of photographer Rhoda Baer, a modern masterpiece in Glen Echo.
Photography by John Cole
By Ernesto M. Santalla
She’s shot them all: cops, cobras, superstars, and death row inmates. To capture them, she’s climbed mountains, hung out of airplanes, and spent the night in an inner city emergency room. Finding the right moment requires infinite patience; often waiting for hours and then in a sixtieth of a second it’s done. Rhoda Baer is a photographer. Baer loves the visual world: a street scene, the sensuality of a flower, a child swinging a hula-hoop, or the architecture of a perfectly proportioned building.
Beginning her career teaching photography at Glen Echo Park and shooting for People, Smithsonian, Fortune, and National Geographic, Baer’s editorial, commercial, and advertising assignments have taken her all over the world and won many awards. But Washington has always served as a base for her home and studio. After years of working in a cramped low-ceilinged basement and around the time constraints of rented studios, she decided it was time to build her own house.
After an extensive search to find a lot and an equally exhaustive selection process, Baer hired Washington architect Ralph Cunningham of Cunningham-Quill Architects, who helped realize her dreams in the charming wooded area of Glen Echo. Known as the Quarry House, because of its location on a rock outcropping, the unabashedly contemporary, unconventional house is her home and studio, which the architect designed as separate, yet intricately related units, much in the way that art imitates life.