Defining a Modern Asheville Aesthetic
I recently sat down with architect Maria Rusafova at her home in West Asheville. She is the first architect to respond to my formal request to define the qualities of a Western North Carolina modern design. However, the original idea and inspiration came from lengthy discussions with my friend and architect Brandon Pass. No doubt I will be discussing this with him soon.
Maria and her husband have been in Asheville since 2000 following her graduating from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Her brother lived here and – well — who can resist? Asheville worked given that Maria states she is drawn to modern, site sensitive and environmentally conscious designs. She, also, loves the creative challenge of designing around tight budgets. How often do we hear that? Given the rich results of her own home and the client project she just finished in 5 Points neighborhood she definitely knows how to wrangle a lot – from minimal means. As you know, that always speaks to me.
Before I delve further into my discussion with Maria, let me remind you that my goal is not to define what modern is to WNC in black and white, but to note some common influences. Most of us, without being able to describe it, can intuitively feel when a modern building works within its context and doesn’t. The natural and organic design integrity creates a harmony that is almost timeless. In opposition, I’ve seen some out-of-state builders propose stucco and aluminum homes that capture a trendy modern aesthetic that is neither contextual nor timeless.
Back to Maria.
Geographically, Maria, as most architects, has rarely seen a flat site here. Most are sloped and challenging. However, the challenges can offer useful layering of functions and separations from public to private or living to utilitarian.
Materials – there are many natural materials readily available here from stone, wood and metal that reflect our local geography and help to create a continuum with the natural world.
When it comes to vernacular influences Maria is infatuated with both barn structures of our rural landscape and some of the simple, narrow and upright homes of our historic neighborhoods. There is calmness in breaking down a residential structure to a simple polygon, as opposed to, a myriad of roof lines. Again, less is more. There is richness and freedom in something that is easy to identify.
Culturally, people are moving here for sense of community. A home no longer defines ones life, but something that steps back to offer the freedom to live other aspects of your life in a broader sense. So, freedom from financial constraints and maintenance are important to living the life we all want here — perhaps an extra dinner at the Admiral or time to hike the Blue Ridge with friends?
For me, Maria blends her understanding of context with her European sense of simplicity and efficiency. It is an appropriate blend that allows her to capture the nuances of locality while bringing a lightness to living appropriate for today. One can see this in the plans for her own home.
Maria was recently chosen by one of our real estate clients to help sensibly steward the updating needed to their original Bert King home. We will explore more on that and one of her other upcoming projects soon.