Featured: 222 Juniper Drive, Rotterdam

Vintage frontA mid-century gem designed by noted architect John Johansen, one of the famed Harvard Five, that included Philip Johnson.  Striking exterior, beautifully sited on a half-acre lot.

Open floor plan with large picture windows in living room and modernist clearstory windows throughout.  Fireplace, hardwood floors, walnut paneling.  Central air, central vacuum, newer appliances.  Lower level includes brightly lit family room and additional space plumbed for possible third bath.  Rear deck overlooks large backyard.  Everything well maintained by original owners.

Hosted by Catherine Knauer

Built 1952, rear wing by Eric Fisher added 1957.
3 bedrooms, 2 baths.
1,500 square feet on 1/2 acre
Offered at $195,000

FRONTLiving room 1
Living room 2
Bedroom 1See the full listing here.   Take the virtual tour.

RearLocated in the unique West Hill Community of Rotterdam.
Check out more cool houses in West Hill.

April events with Historic Albany Foundation

Saturday, March 28
A Moveable Feast
5:00 – 10:00 p.m. // Formal Invitation & Details to Come
Historic Albany’s signature event celebrating historic architecture, fabulous food, and beautiful homes.

Wednesday, April 22
Walking Tour: Lustrons
5:30 p.m. // Meet at Eight Jermain Street
$5 Members // $10 General Public
Lustron houses were used to provide inexpensive housing for veterans returning home from World War II. Walk along this row of prefabricated homes and learn about their unique history and construction. The row that you’ll see on Jermain Street is the largest group of Lustrons in New York State still intact today.

Saturday, April 25
Walking Tour: Avian Haunts
8:00 a.m. // Meet at the Intersection of Englewood Place & State Street
Join the Audubon Society of the Capital Region and the Washington Park Conservancy in Washington Park for a special “Birding and History Walk” of Washington Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Bring your binoculars! This walk’s Albany Birder, Tristan Lowery, will help our group track down urban migrating and resident Avians of Albany’s premiere park, while Dr. John Pipkin of the Washington Park Conservancy (a birder himself) will elegantly fill in some intriguing history surrounding Washington Park Haunts. This event is co-sponsored by Historic Albany Foundation, Washington Park Conservancy, & Audubon Society of the Capital Region.

Space is limited and reservations are required. RSVP by contacting Nicki at info@historic-albany.org or (518)465-0876, ext. 10.

Meet the architect: Ted Mallin

By Joseph Dalton
Times Union, January 25, 2015
Photos: John Carl D’Annibale (Times Union)


Ted Mallin was 10 years old when he made his first visit to a construction site. He was tagging along with his dad, a homebuilder in Pittsburgh during the post-World War II boom. Mallin vividly recalls his reaction to smelling the excavated earth and seeing skeletal house framing: “This is really cool!”

Today Mallin, 63, is a principal with Envision Architects, an Albany firm that he co-founded in 1983 with two fellow Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute grads. While most of his time these days is dedicated to business development — the launching of projects rather than the detail of designing them — he still has a fondness for the aspects of the profession that attracted and engaged him as a kid.

Shortly after that first outing with his dad, Mallin got busy learning to draw. That’s something he fears is becoming a lost art in our digital age.

“Sketching and freehand is an important part of what we do. You have to be able to produce lots of ideas and then throw them away,” says Mallin. “I see people come out of RPI who can’t print well, let alone sketch. But a computer is only good at documenting a decision. When you’re in the realm of aesthetics, the shape of a curve can be subtle, and a pen needs to find that.”hands

As an example of what can be accomplished through quick renderings, Mallin can point to one of his firm’s most prominent local buildings, the parking structure for the SUNY headquarters in downtown Albany. Consider the difficulties of the commission: a mundane-if-necessary function, but placed at a site that could hardly be more prominent, sitting next to the iconic building on Broadway by Marcus T. Reynolds and also facing a stretch of I-787 that is effectively the entrance to the city.

Prior to a preliminary meeting with decision makers from SUNY, Mallin called on his entire staff for an intensive design session known as a charette. “I said you have one hour, no holds barred, to draw and draw and draw,” he recalls. “We decided as an office to show all of the 18 drawings, and they were blown away by the breadth of ideas.”

The resulting five-story structure, which came from Mallin’s own sketches, uses arches and columns inspired by the adjacent Gothic revival building. A terra cotta screen hides the cars. It was completed in 2001 and received an award from the American Institute of Architects.Suny headquarters

A couple of more recent projects had Envision Architects even more deeply involved with historic buildings: the interior renovation and restorations of the Albany County Courthouse and of William S. Hackett Middle School. Each of these received an award from the Preservation League of New York State. But they’re not the kind of architecture work that turns your head when driving through the city. And that’s OK with Mallin.

“We are a service-oriented firm,” he explains. “If it’s a roof replacement, we’ll do that, or a whole new wing to a building.”

Working with the health care field has become one specialty. For St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany back in 2001, Mallin and his team renovated and expanded the emergency room. A similar two-phase project is under way for the emergency room at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. Functionality is key in such spaces, but still only part of the agenda. As Mallin explains, “the intent is to provide beauty in life’s greatest challenges and comfort people in these situations.”

Combining complex systems with an extravagant kind of beauty is what Mallin admires in Santiago Calatrava, who he cites as his favorite major architect of our time. “He creates extremely rational designs,” observes Mallin, “and then he weaves a web of art around them.” Probably best known for bridges crowned with soaring lattices of cable and steel, Calatrava also designed the long-awaited transportation hub at the new World Trade Center.

Mallin doesn’t have such grand aspirations, and even insists that he and his firm have no signature style. “Our aesthetic is a reaction to clients’ preferences, the site and the context,” he says. “When called upon for higher design, we’re proficient, but we’re not Calatrava.”
Yet among the firm’s many projects, there are more than a few recognizable buildings in our region. Among them are two particularly colorful schoolhouses in Albany, the bright red Delaware Community School, located between Delaware and Second Avenues, and the expansive, multi-hued Montessori Magnet School on Tremont Avenue. There’s also the new Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany and the main parking garage at Albany International Airport, both functional and modestly distinctive. On the campus of Siena College in Loudonville is the glass and brick Sarazen Student Union and in progress at Union College is a new 38,000-square-foot dorm.

“I’m very strong-minded and know what my clients need,” says Mallin, “and I will push the resources to get that done.”

That attitude might explain why his firm secures jobs that emphasize efficiencies, both environmental and budgetary. As examples are two ongoing projects, the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, expected to open in Delmar this spring, and the Urban Grow Center in north Troy, which is the new headquarters of Capital Roots (formerly the Capital District Community Gardens).

“The fascinating thing about this work is it’s highly rational, analytic data crunching,” says Mallin, “followed by creating a form out of material and color and light and texture.”

“Simply Chic” in the Times Union

TU real estate reporter Leigh Hornbeck has started a monthly column, “Architexture” that describes the hallmarks of different styles in residential architecture.  November’s focus was Mid-Century and here’s what she had to say:

Mid-century modern architecture is characterized by flat planes and open space. At the time, post World War II to the 1960s, these homes were referred to as “contemporary,” a term now reserved for houses under construction and built in the last 20 years. The ranch design was introduced during the time, but the houses made popular by Frank Lloyd Wright, called Prairie houses, are rare in the Northeast because of their flat roofs. Mid-century modern contrasted sharply with its predecessors because of its simplicity. Victorian styles celebrated ornamentation, but the architects that designed the new post-war style wanted simplicity, homes that could be built quickly and blended with their surroundings.

Prominent architects include Wright, Edward Durell Stone, who designed the uptown campus of the University at Albany, and Philip Johnson, whose colleague John Johansen designed 222 Juniper Drive in Rotterdam (below).

Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House on the campus of the University of Chicago is a famous example of mid-century modern architecture. Albany has a few examples of Lustron houses — prefabricated steel houses that illustrated the drive in the United States to build simple houses, quickly.

Kilbourn house

Places & Spaces, Leigh’s blog on local real estate is at:  http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate/

Albany architect Harris Sanders

By Joseph Dalton
Times Union, July 17, 2014
The first in my occasional series of profiles of Capital Region architects.

Sanders         During the 60-year career of Albany architect Harris A. Sanders, renovations of commercial spaces have been bread and butter work.  Little did Sanders know, however, that a commission in the late 50s to update a rather mundane reinforced concrete building built during the teens on North Broadway would result in an enduring landmark.  The site was to become the new home of RTA, an appliance distributor specializing in products of RCA.

“The client wanted something put on top that would tell people he’s in electronics,” recalls Sanders, who came up with the idea of a giant Nipper.  The 25-foot tall white dog was fabricated by a firm in Chicago and shipped here in pieces on railcars and assembled by a 10-story crane.

“That’s my claim to fame,” says the 87-year old Sanders.Nipper

If Sanders’ name isn’t particularly well known, his vision has been realized in countless commercial, residential and religious spaces across the Capital Region.  Long time residents of the area may recall a couple of his more imaginative projects that are now shuttered, including the Golden Fox Restaurant in Colonie, and Story Town, an amusement park in Lake George.  He also designed the worship spaces for Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany and Congregation Shaara Tfille in Saratoga Springs, and supervised the renovations of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church on Albany’s Whitehall Road.  “Those golden doors are mine,” says Sanders, with a proud smile.

An Albany native, Sanders had early exposure to the workings of buildings, since his dad was a plumber.  After some experience at the trade though, it didn’t take long to conclude that pipes and fittings weren’t his calling.  Yet there was never any question that Sanders would return to his hometown after completing architecture studies at the Pennsylvania State University.

At college, Sanders delighted in exposure to the emerging language of modern architecture, a far cry from the environment of Colonial and Greek revivals in which he grew up.

“The only architecture we talked about in school was modern and the big leader in the late 30s and early 40s was Frank Lloyd Wright,” says Sanders.  He recalls that Wright even appeared as a guest lecturer, if only for about 45 minutes.  “He began by saying ‘You have a beautiful campus here,’ and that puffed us up. And then he said, ‘But the buildings spoil it.’ Then we knew who we had with us.”

Further contributing to Wright’s early influence on Sanders was a fieldtrip to Falling Water, the iconic Wright home in western Pennsylvania.  Sanders explains that one of his professors was close friends with the Kaufmann family that built the home and that at the time of their visit some additions to the property were still in progress.  “And I remember dachshunds running around and they matched the style of the building,” he adds.

Albany Public Library, Delaware Avenue branch

Albany Public Library, Delaware Avenue branch

Accentuated horizontal lines are a Wright trademark that appears in a number of Sanders’ own buildings, especially 331 Delaware Avenue.  Originally designed for the Chicorelli Funeral Home, it was converted to a branch of the Albany Public Library a few years ago.  It may be Sanders’ most recognizable local project after Nipper.

“Normally we try to sneak in some interesting ideas here and there,” says Sanders. “That’s what architects do.”

“But these were great clients and let me do anything,” continues Sanders, mentioning in particular the double cantilever on the building’s southwest corner that sheltered cars arriving at the front entrance.

When he could, Sanders also added touches of Wright to the houses he designed, which are spread across the region.  Perhaps nowhere is the style more concentrated than in Sanders’ own home on Tampa Avenue, where he’s lived with his wife Pearl since 1958.  During a tour of the home, Sanders points to some distinctive features that he unapologetically attributes to Wright. These include glass-to-glass corner windows, a floating staircase and the low ceiling in the entryway, which heightens the drama of stepping into the soaring and spacious living room.

Hidden from the street view is the main entrance.  Though jobs on housing developments didn’t always allow Sanders to have his way, his preference is that the front door of a house not face the street.  “Never show the front door, it’s a mystery,” he says. “Make a person come in and around the house to witness it, like it’s a sculpture.”

Living room Sanders

Interior of Sanders residence

“The Sanders’ house represents one of those fascinating stories about our architectural history that’s just starting to be told,” says Susan Holland, executive director of Historic Albany Foundation.   “We equate Albany with a Victorian sensibility but here is Harris in the 1950’s, designing a thoroughly modern house for his wife and growing family.”

A couple of years ago the Sanders residence was on Historic Albany’s holiday house tour.  According to Holland its inclusion amidst more stately and traditional dwellings was very well received and has helped spark the organization’s gradual expansion into advocacy for mid-century design.

While a front room of the Sanders house serves as a library and office, during a recent visit it was in the kitchen where evidence could be seen that an architect lived there.  Adjacent to the breakfast table was a supply of translucent green stencils, the tools of an architect, or at least one from the days before computer aided design.  Sanders likes to have those implements handy for when he takes work home.  He still shows up at the office everyday.

Established in 1955, Harris A. Sanders, Architects is currently led by the founder’s son, Daniel Sanders.  The firm has grown over the years, from a one-man shop to the current staff of 10 and operates out of offices at 252 Washington Avenue.  The work continues to be a rather broad mix, mostly in the Capital Region and across upstate.  A current focus is renovating former industrial buildings for residential use.  The recently completed River Street Lofts in Troy is one example.

According to Daniel Sanders, one of his father’s legacies is in the training of newcomers to the field.  “Many of the architects in the region started in this office,” he says.  “We have three interns right now and they appreciate his presence.”

“One of his strengths is understating the building as a whole,” continues Daniel Sanders, referring to his dad, the son of a plumber.  “He was trained as much in engineering as architecture and can focus on plumbing, heating and a/c, as well as design and form.”

Realizing such details of a building through mechanical drawings is Sanders’ main work these days. And though the firm bears his name, he carries on with a level of humility that might be considered rare for his profession.

“My son keeps me busy,” he says.  “I’m the little guy in the corner.”

Congregation Shaara Tfille, Saratoga Springs

Congregation Shaara Tfille, Saratoga Springs

UPDATE: 12/8/14:  “The Nipper Building” is for sale. See story at All Over Albany

101 Brookline Avenue, the coolest house in Albany – SOLD!

International style modern exterior wrapped around a warm and bright interior with a spacious and open floor plan.  Corner lot in highly desirable neighborhood adjacent to Marion Avenue and Buckingham Pond.  Owner has updated and restored all aspects of this beautiful mid-century home.


Built 1960 • 1,994 square feet • .43-acre wooded lot • 3 bedrooms, 3 full baths
Architect: William N. Marden • Inspired by California designer Craig Ellwood





Under contract in just five days.  Closed 6/23/14.  $295,000.
View the full listing:  www.101BrooklineAlbany.com
Times Union: Design Spotlight (5/18/14)