Two architects — one in Raleigh, one in Wilmington —;
a Cullowhee professor; an innovative Wake Forest builder;
a coastal real-estate developer; and the owners
of a vacation retreat in Marion all share an
environmentally friendly vision and take steps
to preserve and protect the landscape
SKETCH BY LIGON FLYNN
of North Carolina.
DOING WHAT COMES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRYAN REGAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRYAN REGAN
At home, Frank Harmon
reads the paper by an
Architect Frank Harmon established his love for the outdoors while
expanse of natural light.
Opposite: Harmon’s home
splashing around the creeks of his native Greensboro and has since
is supported by concrete
shared his respect for the environment with students and clients alike.
piers, thereby protecting
underground tree roots.
Lori K. Tate
118 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
DESTRUCTION OF OUR
LANDSCAPE, THINK, IS
THAT’S ACTUALLY THE MOST
PRECIOUS GIFT THAT WE GIVE
TO OUR CHILDREN.”
‘BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT’
Getty Center in Los Angeles, California, and the Museum of
rank Harmon discovered
Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Spain.
Greenway Park when he was
Harmon founded Frank Harmon Architect in 1983 and
eight years old. Growing up he
has since completed more than 200 architectural projects.
spent countless hours playing
Housed in a weathered gray building that offers a distant
in the park’s streambed build-
view of the Raleigh skyline, Frank Harmon Architect includes
ing dams and forts, observing
Harmon and his team of four (six in the summer with the
the nesting habits of kingfishers,
addition of interns). His wife Judy, a landscape architect, also
and watching tadpoles hatch.
shares the space, as they often collaborate on projects.
“I just adored this place,” recalls the Raleigh architect. “I
WORKING WITH NATURE
Although the structures designed at Frank Harmon
realized when I became an adult that some person thought
Architect are aesthetically pleasing, the core of every design is
of that and what a gift I owe to him or to her who thought
sustainability. “It starts by thinking about the site,” explains
of this idea of turning that streambed into a park. It just fur-
Harmon. “If you look at any old
ther reinforced me and my
farm house in North Carolina, you’ll
belief that we as architects
see that the farmer who built it knew
can do wonderful things for
about orientation and knew where
other people not only now
the sun would set in the summer and
but in the future.”
knew where the breezes came from.
Wearing a brown fedora,
That’s why I love the roads of North
66-year-old Harmon drives
Carolina because there are all these
down Raleigh’s Hillsborough
lessons lying out there in front of us
Street quoting Walt
about how to use the site well.”
Whitman’s “When Lilacs
Last in the Door-yard
Bloom’d” as he talks about
spring. Listening to him wax If Harmon has a mantra it is this:
poetic about flowers with his Always leave the site better than you
rich voice tinged with just found it. The project his firm
the right amount of Southern accent, it’s clear his love for recently completed for Circular Congregational Church,
nature hasn’t wavered since those days of splashing in a Charleston, South Carolina’s oldest church (circa 1681), is a
streambed. perfect example. “They really wanted this addition that
Harmon believes the environment is to be respected. That would give them ways to extend their urban ministry, and it
belief has served as the foundation of his career, and it’s a was in a churchyard, which meant we had to move some
belief he’s been passing on to students at North Carolina graves, but they were totally alright with that,” says Harmon.
State University since he began teaching there in 1983. “It also meant that we had to cut down an elm tree, and so I
promised them that the building we gave back would be
better, would make that site better, and would actually be
more green. That’s what they got.” Turns out the elm tree
Fascinated with an older home across the street from his
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRYAN REGAN
was diseased and would have eventually fallen anyway.
junior high school in Greensboro, Harmon decided to
Harmon used the wood from the tree in the building.
become an architect in eighth grade. He began studying
Using reclaimed materials and local materials are two
architecture at NCSU and then transferred to the
Architectural Association in London. He worked in England important components of green architecture. “The environ-
mentally responsible reason [for using local materials] is that
for six years after graduation and later moved to New York
you don’t have to transport the materials,” says Harmon.
City to work with Richard Meier, whose work includes The
120 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
Erin Sterling, 29, has been working
with Frank Harmon as an intern
architect/designer for the past five years.
She’s currently working on a visitor’s
center for North Carolina Parks and
Recreation and another for Raleigh Parks
and Recreation. We caught up with her
to find out how a University of Kentucky
graduate found her way to Raleigh.
How did you find Frank?
“I had just heard really great things about
the whole Triangle area, the community of
Frank Harmon devotes his architectural lectures to environmen-
architects, and the good work that’s going
tal issues, along with addressing space and color considerations.
on in the area, and it’s definitely true. … A
professor of mine had a connection in
Chapel Hill. … He gave me a list of 10
“The average building materials that we use come from architects, and Frank was on that list.”
thousands of miles away. There’s a saying in the organic food
world, ‘Eat what you can see,’ in other words what grows What do you like best about working
around you. I say, ‘Build with what you can see.’ ” with him?
Some of Harmon’s favorite local materials include Southern “My favorite thing is the atmosphere that
yellow pine, 5V tin for roofs, North Carolina blue stone, and he creates and that he nurtures here. It’s
Atlantic white cedar, which grows on the North Carolina coast. very much a teaching environment, but at
He has also incorporated geothermal heating and cisterns that the same time it’s very serious and we’re
collect rainwater for irrigation and plumbing into his designs. all given a great deal of responsibility.”
For the newly completed Marguerite Kent Repass
Ocean Conservation Center, a teaching facility for Duke How has he changed your perception
University’s Marine Lab in Beaufort, Harmon incorporated of nature?
older benches from a lab on the Duke campus into the “I really believe that everybody has the
design. “Not only did they save $80,000, but they didn’t fill same desire to be in nature and to appre-
up a landfill,” says Harmon. ciate it. I truly believe that. I think it’s just
a natural thing but not all the time are
Other projects his firm is working on include transforming
those feelings fulfilled or even brought to
a 1950s textile mill in Star into an arts and crafts incubation
the surface. Frank’s work is a catalyst for
center, designing the Visitor’s Education Center for the North
that. … I really enjoy seeing that there’s
Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, and designing a
very little separation between Frank’s love
new education building for the First Presbyterian Church in
for nature and for architecture. That has
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRYAN REGAN
downtown Raleigh and creating a master plan for the existing
been very inspiring to me.”
building. According to Harmon, the latter will be the first
green church in the Capital City.
“I’m a big believer in doing what comes naturally,” he says.
“The destruction of our landscape, I think, is unconscionable
because that’s actually the most precious gift that we give to our
children.” It’s certainly a gift he’s enjoyed throughout his life.
122 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
a concrete example
Frank and Judy Harmon only use their air conditioner in July and August. “We
use the trees to cool our house,” says Frank of the couple’s pink 1,800-square-foot
house that sits a block off of Hillsborough Street. “We have super-thick insulation in
the roof, and all the windows are carefully placed so that they don’t get direct sun
or if they do get direct sun it’s filtered through leaves.”
Built of concrete and steel, the Harmon’s house has a 1,000-square-foot footprint,
and was built above ground so as not to disturb any roots. “I think we only cut one
pretty good-size root,” says Judy. “We didn’t have to chop down any trees. … We
didn’t have to do any grading.”
“Our house is thin [20 feet], and it has windows on both sides so every room can
be cross-ventilated,” says Frank as he points out the corner windows which make
the space feel larger. In the kitchen, North Carolina blue stone from Denton serves
as the countertops.
Their one-third-acre lot features a lush garden with a winding pathway of Chapel
Hill gravel leading to a lap pool. A permanent ladder offers access to the flat roof,
which collects rainwater for irrigation.
“It’s important to me that it’s small,” says Frank of his house, “but it has very
high quality.” —
Frank Harmon’s thin home — it’s only 20 feet wide
— allows for more efficient cross-ventilation.
Cubicles are forbidden at Frank Harmon
Architect. Instead everyone sits at a big table
while paper lanterns hang from the exposed
CLASS PRARIE ceiling. Depending on who’s in the office you might
hear Billie Holiday or electronic music from
Underworld oozing from an iMac. The open
“This is our most the toilets, and the mulch
conference room is peppered with sketches, and
sustainable building so that serves as a walkway to
the accent walls of the space are painted a bright
far,” says Frank Harmon the building was ground
as we walk into the up from scrap pieces of
“About 15 years ago, I really had this big
open-air classroom at wood left over from the
change in the way I thought about myself and my
Prairie Ridge Eco Life building process.
office, and that’s when I changed it to this big
Station for Wildlife & Constructed of Atlantic
open space where we all sit around a table,” says
Learning, which was white cedar and southern
Harmon, who was inspired by the set up in his
established by the North yellow pine, the building
architectural design studio class at NCSU. “I
Carolina Museum of features a roof made of
thought to myself why don’t I organize my office
Natural Sciences as an Galvalume, a material
like this? You know — a big studio and everybody
outreach facility. known for its durability.
in that studio could have their own project, and I
With a prairie on one “The idea here is to do
could be like the critic. I wouldn’t have to do
side and a forest on the things that are really
everything and design everything.”
other, the classroom is entertaining, and then
The revamp seems to have worked as the space
powered by photovoltaic children will also sort of
exudes a casual yet professional ambience. “The
panels that collect the sun’s intuitively realize that this
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRYAN REGAN
environment is very much about equality with an
energy and turn it into is a good thing to do. This
understanding of hierarchy,” says intern
electricity. A large south- is a building that doesn’t
architect/designer Erin Sterling. “Everybody
facing overhang keeps the use fossil fuels to cool itself.
has respect for one another.”
building warm in the winter It uses the natural coolants —
and cool in the summer, as of the earth,” says Harmon.
there is no air conditioning. “The idea is to put children
Rainwater collected in a back in touch with nature in
cistern is used for flushing a safe way.” —
124 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
NO SACRIFICE WITH SOLAR
In western North Carolina, a professor’s home goes
totally off the grid and proves that you don’t need
electricity to create warmth.
Lisa M. Dellwo
ies provide electricity to operate lights, a stereo, a computer,
ucked into a sunny
two televisions, a dishwasher, and a clothes washer.
hillside above Sylva,
Additional solar panels heat water for household use and
Lydia Aydlett’s home is
provide a boost to the propane burner that provides the hot
a model of charm and
water for the radiant floor heating.
The front door, of
wormy chestnut left
over from her builder’s Aydlett, an assistant professor of psychology at nearby
shed, is punctuated Western Carolina University, doesn’t want anyone to think
with seeded glass win- that she’s living a life of self-denial. Like many academics,
dows that make the 2003 structure seem like it’s been there a she listens to National Public Radio in the morning and
lot longer. while preparing dinner, and in the evening, she might watch
Pass through the entry into an area where the living room a medical drama on the television in her second-floor bed-
melds into the dining room and kitchen, and you’ll see a room. The house’s passive solar design — a southern orienta-
shipshape space with storage niches and display spaces tion with large overhangs that block the summer’s worst heat
tucked under a stairway for which local blacksmith David from reaching her etched cement downstairs floor — means
Brewin created fanciful banisters of leaves and trailing vines. that she only has to turn on the heat at night.
Brewin’s work also turns up in the pot rack overhanging the “Probably the only thing you’d have in a typical home that
kitchen and in the brackets for the overhead beams hewn of I don’t have is a clothes dryer,” she says. She hangs laundry
oak from Aydlett’s surrounding acreage. outside in sunny weather and on a clothesline in her upstairs
It’s not until you walk to the rear of the house, though, sleeping porch in the winter.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM BARNWELL
that you discover what makes it truly unique: an array of Aydlett’s interest in living off the grid began in the 1970s,
solar photovoltaic panels that supplies every bit of the elec- when she came to WCU for a master’s degree in psychology.
tricity Aydlett requires. No transmission wires connect the “I was newly divorced and a single parent, very interested in
1600-square-foot house to a power company. Instead, 18 alternative energy and alternative lifestyle,” she says. “That was
At her solar-powered home bright-blue panels, 12 of which track the sun’s east-west the era for that kind of thing.” She bought a farmhouse on 25
in Cullowhee, Lydia Aydlett is
progress every day, gather energy from the sun and transmit acres, and learned all she could about solar power. “It seemed
creating a model for clean energy.
it to a bank of batteries in a utility room nearby. The batter- like magic, that you could make electricity out of sunshine.”
126 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
1. Lydia Aydlett’s solar
home is not without
like a microwave and a
dishwasher in the
2. The photovoltaic array
captures solar energy
and powers the entire
3. Aydlett’s screened
sleeping porch upstairs
eliminates the need for
4. Large windows bring in
3 4 natural light.
Above: A bank of brilliant
red batteries stores all
the energy harnessed by
the solar panels.
The small footprint of the house and its passive solar features
In 1984, Aydlett moved to Chapel Hill to pursue a Ph.D.,
helped to constrain the size (and expense) of the photovoltaic
selling the farmhouse and three acres. On the remaining 22
array. She also practices conservation by using compact fluores-
acres, she built a 300-square-foot solar-powered cabin, with help
cent light bulbs and by connecting power strips to appliances
from women friends, for weekend living. In 1995, while work-
like the televisions and computer that normally draw power
ing as a pediatric psychiatrist for the Lincoln Community
even when they’re turned off.
Health Center in Durham, she moved to a small passive-solar
Aydlett’s children are grown now, with children of their own,
house in Arcadia, a passive-solar community in Carrboro.
and she shares her home with shelter dogs Suki and Penny. At
When Western Carolina University offered her a job in 2000,
Thanksgiving, her family all gathers for dinner. She’ll prepare the
Aydlett decided the time was right to pull the plug. While she
traditional turkey dinner in her propane range. If the weather is
lived in the weekend cabin, she and builder Tom West designed
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM BARNWELL
raw, she might light the wood stove. If it’s bright, the passive
a home influenced by Raleigh architect Sarah Susanka’s “Not-So-
solar features will work so well that she has to open a win-
Big” series of books. “It’s fascinating to me to think about how
dow or two. And if anyone wants to run the dishwasher,
to construct an environment that meets your needs but in which
she’ll check a meter to ensure that the batteries are storing
the parameters are constrained, like in a sailboat,” she says.
West had to learn a lot about solar power in the process.
Otherwise, it’s a typical family gathering. “I’m not suffering
“He’s a quick study,” she says. “He was able to get technical
here,” she wants people to know. “I’m very comfortable here.”
advice from solar distributors who were not here on site.”
128 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
Eco Smart: Eco Smart:
lisa m dellwo lisa m dellwo
The story of how one family let the sunshine in …
early adopters, we are much more focused on envi- cient in energy efficiency, home in New York state, but
The day we had the solar It took 12 years to get to changed. The price of solar and at current energy rates,
paying a premium for ronmental issues in recent and builders were unenthu- we will explore it, along with
panels installed was the first that day two years ago PV had dropped modestly, we would expect to recoup
technology that we hope years. siastic about incorporating geothermal and wind power,
and only time I’ve ever been when we first flipped the and North Carolina had our investment in 17 years.
will become more afford- As professionals who green features. So when a as a way to reduce our car-
on our roof. switch of our Sunny Boy introduced net metering, On days when we generate
able. At the end of the write and speak about envi- house with solar panels bon footprint there, too.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t inverter and began generat- which allows customers to more than we can use —
day, it’s more about values ronment and energy, we are came on the market — ours
they?” said Dave Hollister, ing our own power. The first sell surplus power back to generally sunny days in the
Lisa M. Dellwo
than money. trying in this one way to — she grabbed it. The solar
founder of Asheville-based time we got an estimate for the utilities, obviating the spring and fall when we’re
has recently moved from her
My husband, Bill inspire others to follow our feature was just as much of
Sundance Power Systems, photovoltaics, we could need for the expensive and not using air conditioning —
partially solar-powered home
Schlesinger, is an environ- lead, so that generating a selling point as our beauti-
the company that installed have bought two well- space-consuming batteries. the meter runs backwards
in Durham to New York's
mental scientist who solar energy will become as ful stone fireplace, she told
our 2.5-kilowatt array. equipped cars for the same In 2005, Sundance installed and our surplus power is
Hudson Valley, where she
addresses the causes and mainstream as having run- us.
They were beautiful: amount of money, but we a system on our Durham returned to Duke Energy. and her husband will be
effects of climate change in ning water. We didn’t intend to leave
glistening royal blue slabs would have had to park roof that, on average, We are also paid for our exploring ways of greening
public forums, emphasizing We are still way too far our house so soon after
of glass with Mondrian-like one of them on the street reduces our power bills by production of alternative their new home.
the need for us to adopt from that goal. Our friend installing the solar panels,
grids across the surface. because of the garage about 30 percent. Not bad energy through the North
conservation measures and Molly Tamarkin recently but we are happy to leave
But Dave was talking about space needed for the for a sprawling contempo- Carolina GreenPower pro-
energy technologies that began looking for a house them as a legacy for our
another kind of beauty, too: batteries. rary house built in 1964 gram.
will reduce our dependence with solar features. New home’s future owners. Solar
the simple beauty of har- when energy was cheap. This is no money-making
on fossil fuels. And my writ- houses she looked at were energy may not make as
vesting the sun’s energy to VALUES OVER MONEY Our system cost about operation, though, and it’s
ing projects have become filled with luxuries but defi- much sense in our new
power our lives. Ten years later, a lot had the same as a Toyota Prius, not meant to be. Like all
130 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
HOUSE OF THE
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF ENERTIA
Using native Southern yellow pine, Enertia homes
heat and cool themselves, basing temperature
regulation on a familiar model: the earth.
Kathleen M. Reilly
Eco Smart: Eco Smart:
basement, and if you’ve ever been in a cave, you know it’s
“Our house isn’t just about using energy-efficient appli-
our years ago, Merry Kay and Joe
always cold,” says Farrington. “The house uses natural
ances,” Merry Kay explains. “We’re just not even using
Farrington moved into a very special “As a teenager, I worked in the tobacco barns in
convection currents to draw that cool air up and circulate
heating or cooling appliances at all.”
home in Durham. Their home has no Greensboro,” he says. “Those barns stayed warm in the
it through the walls. Hot air rises up through the roof. If
Wake Forest-based Enertia, a manufacturer of beautiful
heating or cooling system, and yet they winter and cool in the summer.” Part of the reason, he
you’re somebody who likes your home at 65 degrees and it’s
and affordable “geo-thermal” homes, built this home in an
stay comfortable all year round. No decided, was the pine lumber used to build the barns. Pine,
a Carolina summer, you won’t get that. But when it cools
heating bills, no cooling bills — and no he explains, has resin in it — that sticky yellow sap that runs
down at night, it lowers the temperature in the house during
The company began as the brainchild of Michael Sykes.
contribution to the greenhouse effect. under the bark — making pine wood more heat-absorbent.
“I’m an engineer,” Sykes So Sykes built his homes with
explains. “I put myself through pine, and with a double-wall
school building houses. structure that acts as the home’s
Anybody who builds stuff own “atmosphere,” keeping the
always tries to think of a better heated or cooled air inside. The
way to do it — more efficient, homes absorb the heat of the
less expensive.” sun during the day, and then
Back in the ’80s, Sykes began release that back into the home,
hearing early rumblings about warming it without any electri-
the greenhouse effect, and he cal heating appliances.
paid attention. “The reason But does it really work?
earth stays so warm is because Absolutely, say the Farringtons.
it has an atmosphere around it, “In the winter, the logs radiate
but if you look at a picture the sun’s heat into the home,
of earth from space, the plus we have radiant floor heat-
atmosphere is so small, you ing,” Farrington explains.
can hardly see it. It looks as “Those are tubes that run under-
thin as the shell on an egg.” neath the floor. They have water
Sykes then looked at his in them, and the water circulates
work. “I thought, ‘why don’t up to solar panels on the roof.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF ENERTIA
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF ENERTIA
I build a house that has a little The sun heats the water, then
atmosphere around it?’ ” He the water runs through the
set about trying to figure out tubing so your floors are always
a way to apply his idea, and his warm.”
inspiration included classic What about the hot North
North Carolina elements. Carolina summers? “We have a
“Southern Pines” model
features soaring ceilings
and a balcony loft. Rooftop
photovoltaics denote the
house “Zero Energy,”
meaning it produces more
power than it requires.
TOP: Sunlight streams in on
an Enertia sunporch.
134 September/October 2007
By building an Enertia home, homeowners are making a
the day to about 75 degrees — cooler if the night tempera-
giant step toward decreasing pollution. “It’s not cars that are
tures are cooler.”
really the biggest polluters of the earth; it’s houses,” Sykes
says. “We use far more fossil fuel in heating houses and
building materials than cars put out. Cars just get more
Once Sykes saw the potential for his home, he realized he
press. If you want to buy a fuel-efficient car, that’s fine, but
could help even more by offering the home as a kit. “We
if you really want to make a big difference, it’s how you
were doing three or four houses a year, but by creating the
build your house that really counts.”
home as a kit, we can make up to 20 houses a year,” he says.
Sykes is particularly proud that Enertia is a North
“We ship them all over the country to 25 states.”
Carolina invention. “The whole concept was created in
The kit is “almost like a Lego set,” Sykes explains. The
North Carolina, developed in North Carolina, and uses
home is built as timber blocks, carefully numbered, and then
Southern yellow pine,” he says. “Hey, the other North
sent to the location where a contractor has already built a
Carolina invention, the airplane, really took off. I hope
foundation. The home is assembled on the spot; then the
this will, too.”
interior is finished. Total time? About six to eight weeks.
NEW DIRECTIONS DURHAM
Greenfire Development ground temperatures, a
demonstrates reuse at its cistern collects rainwater to
finest by transforming old flush in low-flow toilets, bike
buildings in downtown racks and showers encour-
Durham into sustainable and age energy conservation (as
THE luxurious spaces. do solar water heaters), and
Greenfire has two green the company hopes to recy-
On Lake Wylie near Charlotte, residents of an
projects underway — con- cle 75 percent of the con-
exclusive lakefront community, called The Sanctuary, verting the Hill Building (for- struction waste.
find it’s good to be green. merly the Sun Trust building) Two other projects incor-
Thanks to its careful attention to wildlife protection, into a boutique hotel and porate green aspects: the
spa, and turning Rogers Baldwin Lofts and Durham
water quality, and preservation of native flora and fauna,
PHOTOGRAPHY BY (TOP) COURTESY OF ENERTIA; (BOTTOM) COURTESY OF THE SANCTUARY
Alley, three buildings includ- Kress, which includes
and for employing green building practices, the home
ing a former fire station and bamboo flooring (a rapidly
community was the world’s first to receive a Three pharmacy, into mixed-use renewable resource), car-
Diamond Designation from Audubon International, an buildings. Rogers Alley’s first peting from recycled fibers,
environmental education organization devoted to the restaurant tenant, Dos recycled dry wall, and a
Perros, will be an upscale high-efficiency heat pump.
protection of land, water, wildlife, and natural resources.
authentic Mexican restau- The first owner moved into
Residents extend the green approach by creating
rant slated to open in early Durham Kress in mid-June,
natural backyards, complete with environmentally
2008, and the Hill building and more residents will
friendly butterfly, hummingbird, and bluebird gar- will open in 2009. be attracted by the ritzy
dens, all with the help of an on-site natural resource These two projects seek surroundings.
manager. Twenty miles of nature trails surrounding Leadership in Energy and By combining urban
Environmental Design renewal with green prac-
the property and a seven-mile undisturbed shoreline
(LEED) certification for a tices, Greenfire enriches
are the perfect setting to appreciate the importance of
variety of green features: downtown Durham with
— Elizabeth Hudson
cool roofs reflect heat, a sustainable class.
geothermal standing —
column well utilizes under-
For information on homesites, contact
11235 Wildlife Road, Charlotte, N.C. 28278
For information visit www.greenfiredevelopment.com
Among one of the “greenest”
hotels in North America, Proximity
uses 100 solar roof panels (inset)
and an energy-producing elevator,
the first of its kind in the U.S.
SKETCHES COURTESY OF PORXIMITYHOTEL; PHOTOGRAPHY BY NORTH CAROLINA SIGNATURE/LINDSAY EMEIGH
out, but inside, Quaintance’s environmental measures — like
Sustainable design doesn’t have to mean rustic
the regenerative drive elevator (a first in North America) and
accommodations and earth-toned décor — consider
the energy-efficient filtration system — go unnoticed. The
Greensboro’s Proximity Hotel. Set to open in September,
high ceilings, enormous windows, and classic-modern décor,
the outfit is equal parts luxury and green living, built accord-
along with a bistro, art display and fitness studio, have a high-
ing to federal standards set by the Leadership in Energy and
fashion appeal; practicality seems to be an afterthought, but
Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.
according to Quaintance, the hotel’s environment-friendly
Sacrificing neither style nor sustainability, hotel designer
design and operation will use 40 percent less energy and 35
Dennis Quaintance brings harmony to the structure by draw-
percent less water than a hotel of comparable capacity.
ing on a sense of local history, as he did with the reincarna-
Built from recycled gypsum, concrete, and sheetrock,
tion of the O. Henry Hotel in 1998. Named after
among other materials, the building will eventually do double
Greensboro’s historic Proximity Manufacturing Cotton Mill,
duty, functioning both as a hotel and a sustainable practices
the hotel’s appearance recalls the industrial icon with a ware-
education center that will offer tours and outreach programs.
house-inspired architecture and loft-style lobbies.
Proximity Hotel is situated just a block away from its sister
hotel, the O. Henry, and is located on Green Valley Road, in
704 Green Valley Road, Greensboro, N.C. 27408
the center of a bustling commercial district. Proximity’s (336) 379-8200, wwwproximityhotel.com
rooftop solar panels cause the eight-story structure to stand
138 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
EYE TOWARD THE
1. Ligon Flynn’s office incorporates an
environmental aesthetic by bringing
the outside in.
2. Soaring ceilings and exposed spaces
promote a feeling of openess.
3. A living courtyard sets the stage for
PHOTOGRAPHY (TOP LEFT) COURTESY OF LIGON FLYNN; (TOP RIGHT AND BOTTOM) JERRY MARKATOS
Integrating the outside with the inside is in
architect Ligon Flynn’s nature.
YIN AND YANG
ut of the mar-
itime forest, the Flynn trademarked his idiom by designing homes embed-
sun shines on a ded into the natural fabric of the landscape — Hewlett’s
corner of a low Creek, Howe’s Creek, Pages Creek, and Figure Eight Island.
white wall — it’s Many of these locations are Wilmington’s best-kept secrets.
an unexpected For a surgeon and his family, for example, Flynn created a
structure here in secluded year-round retreat on five acres. Down a winding
this vine-draped thicket and an architectural reminder that lane, horses graze on wooded pasture until a circular drive
“someone lives here.” announces the understated entrance to the house. Defining
The fusion of architecture and nature is the bedrock of the groomed landscape, a low masonry wall with a signature
Ligon Flynn’s signature style. The “dean” of Wilmington porthole leads the eye past sculpted gardens and into a lush
architecture built his practice in the early 1970s and lawn where the home’s open great room, with floor-to-ceil-
anchored many of the Lower Cape Fear region’s most ing windows, embraces the southernmost point of Hewlett’s
stunning contemporary homes on this simple principle: Creek, welcoming 180 degree views of the waterway.
“No building is complete for human habitation without
Flynn ushered a new architecture for historic Wilmington, Near Middle Sound, a bank of mailboxes marks the
mentored by Henry Kamphoefner, Dean of North Carolina entrance to a well-worn dirt lane that forks like spokes on a
State University’s School of Design, a man who preached compass ending on a 15-acre enclave. A high bluff overlooks
modernism to his disciples. Kamphoefner encouraged Flynn the Intracoastal Waterway toward Figure Eight Island, and a
to embrace the great outdoors, allow open floor plans to pair of slender, two-story country homes, set apart like
unfold behind stiff exteriors, and to punctuate spaces with bookends, bridges the beginning and the ending of the 20th
expanses of windows. A tenet? An outdoor room is best century. The first is a vintage weatherboard relic, moved to
nourished by lush gardens that balance the massing of the this location by the owner, who commissioned Flynn to
house on its site. design a modern replica, linked each to the other with a
slate-covered Charleston-style courtyard, enclosed by
wrought iron gates, embellished with iron railings on win-
dowed balconies, cast iron planters filled with vermillion
Flynn’s office, a former livery stable on Second Street in
geraniums, and a lap pool surrounded by slate benches and
Wilmington, draws architects, designers, and green-building
low masonry walls. The new home honors the image of the
enthusiasts into its cobbled brick courtyard. Here, the sun
older structure, creating a pair of residences for extended
passes overhead, casting beams of light into a tree-lined
members of the same family.
opening. Breezes drift through the space. The sound of mov-
Flynn’s NCSU classmate and colleague, David Erwin,
ing water trickles from a far-off fountain into the shallow
landscaped both of these homes. Flynn and Erwin also
pool of a terraced garden, a pleasing sound of nature for
blended their yin and yang talents to cultivate the setting
everyone who works and visits here. Like so many of Flynn’s
and create a seaside home for North Carolina’s artist and
architectural creations, it’s as though this space is a living,
arbiter of country living, Bob Timberlake. In a live oak
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JERRY MARKATOS
grove, steeped by marshland, two architectural structures are
“We design the out-of-doors for habitation the same as we
linked with winding footpaths and native plants in a tapes-
do indoors,” Flynn says.
try of green-on-green texture. Only an iron gate and the
“We design buildings around the natural or native foliage
barest glimpse of a low tabby wall rendered from local oys-
that exists on this coast. The greatest tree we have here is the
ter, clam, and conch shells appear out of the underbrush,
live oak. The north end of Figure Eight Island is covered in
an architectural reminder that Ligon Flynn was here.
live oaks. We have put houses in and never cut one,” he says.
142 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
Maintaining a natural shoreline is
one proactive step developers are
taking to protect fish estuaries.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT TAYLOR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT TAYLOR
Just outside of Oriental, a new home community initiates a
forward-thinking approach to coastal development.
Kathy Grant Westbrook
144 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007
Future homeowners appreciate the
preservation of River Dunes’ natural setting.
COASTAL GREEN SPACE
I t isn’t surprising that a new
residential community is
being developed on the
Intracoastal Waterway, just
outside the small town of
Oriental in coastal Pamlico
County. (Show me a body
of water, and I’ll show you
lots of people who want to
live on it.) What is surpris-
ing is that it isn’t being overdeveloped.
Instead of cramming as many houses as
possible on every square inch of the property,
as is so often the case with waterfront real
estate, the developers of River Dunes have
chosen to create a relatively low-density development. groups to the Corps of Engineers — to attend.
And that’s just one of many steps they’ve taken in the Approximately 40 participants showed up, with a follow-up
name of environmental stewardship. meeting drawing 57.
Mitchell and his partners came away from those meetings
convinced that River Dunes could be a profitable, as well as
an environmentally responsible, business venture. They com-
River Dunes occupies 1,341 acres overlooking the Neuse
mitted to preserving lots of green space within the develop-
River as it empties into Pamlico Sound. Approximately a half
ment, with plans calling for about 630 homes — approxi-
dozen creeks are located on the property, along with almost
mately half of what the property could actually accommo-
400 acres of wetlands. “We realized this was going to be a very
date. Construction has begun on more than a dozen homes,
sensitive piece to develop,” says Ed Mitchell, president of
and by the time you read this, the first residents are expected
River Dunes Corporation. Just how sensitive became clear
to have moved in. Among the first homes going up is the
when Mitchell discovered that 26 different local, state and fed-
10th Anniversary Idea House for Coastal Living magazine. It
eral authorities would be involved in the permitting process.
will be open for tours in the fall.
As Mitchell saw it, he had two choices. He says, “You can
Other environmentally friendly measures being taken at
certainly try to work together and use that wealth of knowl-
edge that they [the regulatory agencies] have or you can take River Dunes include: using river rocks or sand, as opposed to
it strictly from an engineering approach and try to meet the pavement, on parking lots and trails, and encouraging residents
minimums and look at it simply from a business perspec- to use electric carts instead of cars for traveling within the com-
tive.” Mitchell and his partners chose the former. munity. Additionally, a permanent conservation easement pro-
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT TAYLOR
In a move that would have been unthinkable to most tects 238 acres that are particularly environmentally sensitive.
developers, Mitchell organized a meeting and encouraged But here’s the real kicker: this is a boating community
representatives from all of the various agencies — ranging (there’s nary a golf course in sight), yet residents are not
from the local planning board to environmental advocacy allowed to have private boat docks, nor was a marina built on
146 North Carolina Signature September/October 2007