Writing office for National Geographic's "Explorer in Residence"

Writing in Washington Life, Karin Tanabe describes the remarkable writing office designed by Travis Price architects for Wade Davis, National Geographic's "Explorer in Residence." It's one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever seen, the apotheosis of writing-caves.

“Travis did a studio on M Street in Georgetown for me,” Davis says, noting that in his current home, zoning prohibited a detached building. While many need light-filled rooms for inspiration, he wanted to avoid large windows opening onto a residential neighborhood and sought a cave-like atmosphere to disappear into his work. Subtle light was brought in by other means when the architect built a dome above his client’s desk (which Price describes as similar to the rotunda of the oracle’s temple at Delphi) and filled it with the books he uses the most. Davis whimsically calls the space his “Navajo kiva of knowledge.”

WADE DAVIS WRITING STUDIO - Washington, DC USA (via Bookshelf)



  1. Love the space, especially the bookshelves. I’m not so hot on the decorations, however. (Not that I would complain if I was offered this space).

  2. Beautiful room. When I become “explorer in residence” I will take down all the skulls and store them in a cardboard box. Ok, send me my invitation now please.

    1. Naw, take down the animal skulls and the books (books need their spines protected from UV and broad-spectrum light) and install the Morton Skull Collection.  What office couldn’t benefit from “a full cabinet of universal Craniology, Human and Comparative”?

    1. I think the confusion comes from stuff like the Great Kiva and many such structures existing on or near Navajo lands in New Mexico.  A quick google of ‘Navajo Kiva’ returns multiple results.  [of course, the Great Kiva was once called an ‘Aztec Ruin’, so…you know…]

  3. I’m glad it’s in Washington, DC.   If it were in, say, San Francisco, or Los Angeles,  I picture the day a minor tremor sends a shower of books down that well onto the explorer-in-residence.   Death by books!

    I hope there are speakers there continually playing the National Geographic Theme.

    “Look at this cool room /
    it means that I’m the explorer-in-residence *boom boom*

  4. Definitely a gorgeous space.  I have to wonder, however, how many staff jobs were cut or turned into “contract positions” to pay for this.  I worked at Natty G and saw 8 out of the 12 positions in my department disappear in a year and a half…and more recently the company cut 15% of staff.  This custom-made office seems like the kind of perk you’d see justified by a Fortune 500 with “Well, we have to attract the best talent.”  Um…isn’t “National Geographic Explorer in Residence” on your name plaque pretty much one of the top rewards for a scientist/explorer?  Not that scientists shouldn’t be able to have some nice things…this just seems like a boondoggle that could’ve been spent on – if not employees – then, you know, science?

    1. I think that this is Dr. Davis’s home office, bought and paid for with his own money, rather than National Geographic-provided perk. 

  5. What a smart idea for keeping your porn stash out of reach.

    A few comments:

    1) AWESOME looking.

    2) Is that just a regular ladder? I hate ladders. When you get older you will hate them too. If it were some how attached to a rail and castors with a hand rail, that would make it perfect. Maybe even a spiral stair case.

    3) Wouldn’t all that sun start to bleach your spines?

  6. For an obscure-yet-not appearance of the same idea in popular media – in World of Warcraft, in the city of Dalaran, is an Inscription studio with essentially the same library idea.  With a few differences:

    * In Dalaran, the ceiling library cylinder appears taller inside than the building is on the outside.
    * The tenants use magic rather than ladders to fetch/store the books (see one floating in the image).

    Image:  http://www.talisman.org/~erlkonig/Unlistable/dalaran-inscriptors-library.jpg

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