2012-02-24 Barista Reflection

Barista Reflection

Seth and I recently presented at the SF Barista Nation conference — our talk, “The Benefits of Unique Design” was a pure marketing attempt on our part, but, as if often the case, it provided us with time to reflect on working with some of the best baristas on the West Coast (Ritual, Four Barrel, Sightglass and De La Paz). We had the benefit of presenting AFTER the first (of about 20) espresso breaks, so the audience was attentive without being rude or having to leave 1/2 way through to pee.

We are a small firm, and while we work really hard on our projects, we also value our families and a somewhat balanced life — all of this adds up to “no time to reflect”. So, it’s fun to sit down and do a presentation that is reflective of the past, both to relive the joys and pains, but also because, as architects, most of what we do is dream of the future. It takes a conference, lecture, presentation or marketing submittal to spur us to be reflective.

I love this kind of thing as it shifts my mind so completely from my daily ritual (and occasional grind) that I feel a lightness all over my body; the shift releases endorphin-like feelings of freedom. . . like I was on a mountain top looking across the fog to the ocean and about to run down the trail and plunge into the forest where I can run and play and dream. Sort of extreme, but it really feels that way. Which brings me to the concept of being and dwelling, and why Heideggerian humanism is deeply rooted in my phenomenological approach to design. And why, giving a lecture and being in a room with a bunch of people and talking about design is a really important part of what we do.

Serendipitously, I attended a lecture last week at the AIASF by a local architect-author, Sarah Robinson, who just finished a book called “Nesting: Body, Dwelling, Mind” (William Stout Publishers). She explores the complex material interplay of brain, body and mind and how, as architects, we have been adrift in the industrialization of design (Le Corbusier “a house is a machine for living”) that prioritizes the functional and visual aspects of architecture at the expense of our corporeal emodiement in the world. Sarah’s talk had so many similarities to ideas I explored while at Harvard, sans the feminist POV (you can read all about it in my dissertation “Perfomative Essentialism and the Subjectivity of Difference: The Paradox of Feminism and Architectural Form”). So, thanks to Barista Nation for giving us the opportunity to speak and reflect a little bit on what we do. And now back to the drawing board.