November 2011

Cat’s Out of the Dropbox!

We’ve been keeping very hush-hush about our largest project but we are now pleased to announce that we are designing a brand-spankin’-new office for Dropbox! You heard it here first (Unless you read SF Business Times).

Our approach parallels Dropbox’s excellent business model; we’re creating an extremely efficient, simple structure – with an emphasis on raw, exposed, and unique materials – so  the excited, young, talented users at Dropbox and their interior designer/art director, Lauren Geremia, can cram it full of awesomeness (that’s the technical term).

We love that Dropbox chose our favorite of the building candidates they were pursuing. The raw space is simple, beautiful, and filled with light… it is also the length of TWO FOOTBALL FIELDS, which will easily accommodate their quintupling size. Although this design process is extremely fast-paced, we are working to thoughtfully address the challenge of maintaining and supporting an existing company culture as it expands at an incredible speed. We are thrilled to be involved in establishing the Dropbox aesthetic firmly in our favorite city and we are sure they will be working happily in their new space for years to come.

November 2011

Organized Improvisation

Design is not a one way street. It adapts and shifts during the creative process; the ultimate outcome is almost always different than the original intentions, and usually feels better. Design is way more fun when you can get behind that idea. I like to think of it as organized improvisation. I like to think about how I can selectively give up control of original ideas to circumstance, to materials, and to my collaborators.

We recently designed Sightglass Coffee and I had the opportunity to come up with a custom lighting fixture for the front of the new space. The way it came together and the finished product are so satisfying to me that I thought I would make up a bunch of rules about how-to capture that magic.

1. Find your inspiration – in this case we had 30 or so heavy metal joist hangers that came out of our demolition on the site. We really wanted to do something fun with them.

2. Make up some rules – The organizing principle was to string these metal pieces together in a way that made something new and unexpected. I imagined alternating the different sizes and placing them end to end with little bends here and there. The result was a gently undulating form that snakes it way along the ceiling.

3. Hand off control – The drawing looked awesome. But we didn’t want a drawing, we wanted a light fixture. Luckily we had an excellent builder and a creative lamp-maker available to work on it.

4. Practice saying “yes” – You will know that the right craftsperson is on the project because they will get excited about how to make an idea work. This is the time to set your rules aside, listen to their advice, and say “yes, yes, yes.” “No” is the opposite of creativity.

5. Respond – You may hate other people’s advice. That’s too bad, life’s not fair. Take it and figure out it supports the concept, makes it better, and gives it life.

November 2011

Meet the Makers

Presented by Flora Grubb Gardens
Seth Boor discusses the Thigmotrope Satellite, designed and manufactured locally in collaboration with Flora Grubb.

November 2011


A few weeks ago, when Bonnie and Seth asked if I would like to attend the Monterey Design Conference, I jumped at the opportunity. MDC is a gathering of architectural design professionals for a weekend-long event of TEDesque talks, people and vino.

First off, the landscape was absolutely beautiful; Asilomar right on the beach. The California coast always brings a smile, and surely not just because I’m from the landlocked “middle”. I suspect that Seth snuck out to surf… I hope he did.

There is certainly plenty to talk about in architecture today: the economy, sustainability, BIM, computer generated form/materials/production, and of course the age-old topic of just plain beautiful stuff. We got a healthy sampling of all of these. Tom Kundig with his array of custom operable, well, everything: enormous steel doors, entire window walls, and concrete cabinets. Bringing out the curious and giddy lego-building kid in all of us. Jeanne Gang shared some innovative use of materials, including stone doing things we think it shouldn’t, like glowing and hanging. I even went on a home tour of some recently completed residential projects, and got to hear from Jonathan Feldman about his first use of rammed earth. I was happily sketching/scribbling/and soaking up information all weekend.

And all of this in a place where you can get professional advice from an award winning architect over breakfast, or bump into old co-workers that remind you where you have been.

But my mind has been most busy unpacking a certain idea, brought up simply by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, one of several “up and coming” speakers intentionally sprinkled between seasoned and more well-known presenters. “Emerging, a verb we embrace.” Me too. Emerging is an idea with alot to say. Emerging as in, not there yet, but starting on the way. But on the way to where? To some unknown peak. Emerging because only the past is clear. There is no predetermined destination, only a promise of some kind of arrival.

As an aspiring (and hopefully emerging) architect, I am pleased to have been in attendance at this inspiring event.