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Conversation

Hitting Snooze

Sleep is the best medicine for just about everything. Not only do I love sleeping, but I also use it to help me solve design problems, from simply thinking smarter after a good night’s rest to power napping through a creative block and sometimes, literally dreaming about solutions. Sometimes, I dream in Rhino (no kidding!) and am proud to say that I have never pulled an all-nighter, even throughout college. Sleep is just too precious and a lack of it has been shown to negatively impact creative thinking.

But just like everyone else in the city, I tend to forgo sleep too often for social gatherings, events, or work. After three years of constant sleep deprivation (aka grad school), I also developed a terrible habit of hitting snooze – not once, not twice, but up to five times every morning no matter how many hours of sleep I get. It’s gotten so bad that I often set my alarm to sound half an hour before I need to get out of bed. Despite the overwhelming knowledge that this behavior is, in fact, bad for you, I still can’t kick the habit. That is, until I sleep outside.

Having grown up in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, spending time outdoors unplugged and far away from the city is a regular necessity. But I find something particularly magical about sleeping outside, whether in a tent, on a hammock, or out on the deck or roof. I tend to sleep better for a shorter duration and wake up naturally without feeling groggy. (I haven’t found research on the therapeutic wonders of outdoor sleeping just yet, but there are definitely benefits to spending time outdoors.) Whenever I have the opportunity to snooze outside, I do it.

Ever since we moved into our home on Larkin Street, I’ve been talking about getting a hammock to pitch on our roof deck. Not just for lounging outside, but also for power naps, occasional post-lunch siestas, and a comfortable place to find some quiet in our open office space. And after going on about it for over a year, I was finally tasked to buy one! Naps for everyone! (Have I mentioned the benefits of napping?)

In the spirit of “the lived experience”, I’ve opted to test two hammocks: first, a Byer of Maine Barbados Brazilian hammock for its style and material heft and second, the Kammok Roo for its durability and easy set up. Two different takes on the traditional hammock, but I’m excited to try them both out! I hope the rest of the gang here is, too. The next time I’m stuck on a design problem, instead of waiting for a creative spark or mood to hit me, I’ll curl up in the hammock for a little outdoor respite. It’ll be like hitting “refresh” instead of “snooze”.

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Conversation

Make Art That Doesn’t Matter

A year ago, I was painting on an easel in a dark corner of my bedroom, in front of my dresser, with old sheets on the ground to protect my landlord’s carpet… tiptoeing between drying canvases on my way in and out. Art requires space. Our office learned that when we moved from the Mission, and I learned it when I gained some space and fitted out my art studio, filled with natural north light. I’m lucky to have this space in a city so dense, but it didn’t come without its sacrifices. In order to justify said sacrifices, I created my Art Night.

I just picked up Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and it is reaffirming that many creative types throughout history are like me, creatures of habit. A brief glance at my iPhone calendar would unveil the plethora of mundane tasks and appointments I create in order to keep things moving smoothly. In between the important things, I schedule the little things – laundry, exercise, one-week reminders for birthdays that require gifts or cards (seriously try that, it’ll make you seem so prepared and thoughtful). They all have equal weight in there, and that is the only reason I’m wearing clean clothes to work today. And, for the past year, my calendar has included a weekly reoccurring appointment called “Art Night.”

Art Night is where I can work through some minor obsessions; results include some dreadful pieces that belong nowhere, and some better stuff that finds its place in my apartment, the apartments of my friends (I’ve resolved to make all of my gifts this year… and I’m successful about 90% of the time) and the chance, habit-supporting commissioned piece. The Night is allowing me the time to problem-solve and strategize without deadlines or consequence. It’s never been the way I work; I’m challenging myself to find opportunities within incompleteness, and striving to “finish” work that is just awful, and hopeless. It’s good for me, I guess.

Being the way I am, the calendar appointment was necessary to allot time for the self-serving and anti-social undertaking. I make up for it by occasionally inviting friends to join me, and by blasting my Instagram followers with my progress. Sharing my art virtually provides the social factor I crave after a long evening to myself. Plus, I get to connect with other artists and makers I’ve met through school or along the way, gain the instant-gratification every #millennial obviously needs (I’m not even going to fight that point), and create an accessible chronicle of my recent work.

As design professionals, we spend most of our time striving to make art that matters (thanks, CCA!). But for one night a week, I get unfocussed, and gladly make art that doesn’t matter. It’s still too early to tell if this is working to make me a better designer, thinker, person. But for now, it’s simply a ritual; a challenging escape that I’ve grown to appreciate.

 

Special thanks to the geniuses behind syncing calendars, my old roommate for moving out, and Flax Art Store for being on my way home and always carrying that random supply I just learned I need (I’ll miss you guys).

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Conversation

Metropolis Magazine

Eva Hagberg, “Leading the Band”
Article about Lumosity.

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Conversation

Contract Magazine

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Conversation

Houzz Tour

Matthew Ankeny, “Rugged and Refined Beauty in Sonoma County
Article about Cazadero House.

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Conversation

AIA SF Tour

Upcoming AIA SF Tour of Boor Bridges Architecture Studio
Date:  June 13, 2014, 3:30pm – 5:00pm

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Conversation

C Magazine

Alison Clare Steingold, “Trou Original
Article about Trou Normand

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Conversation

I am Inspired by Gardens

I am inspired by gardens, possessed by making gardens, and want to be a garden designer when I grow up. Try as I might to spend my time away from work to enrich my soul with architectural site visits (as I have done for the last thirty years of my career), I have recently found myself defaulting to garden visits. On the rare occasion that I peruse buildings, I search out ones with gardens, and then am disappointed if the gardens don’t live up to the architecture. While I am still honored to experience first-hand the many great buildings of the world, my desire to experience gardens is so much stronger now.

A few of my favorite designers of late are the well-known Bernard Trainor – who designs the most magnificent estate gardens that are stunningly beautiful and rigorously functional; and Kate Frey – who is the designer for the working beds and wandering landscape of Lynmar Winery. The beauty of the gardens at the Lynmar Winery cannot be described in either words or pictures.  I was there last weekend with Flora Grubb and her “in another time, might have been, mother in law”, Barbara. The raised beds outside the main patio had just been planted, so you could clearly see the orderly installation of seedlings at 12″ on center – with ½” hoses serpentined to reach each plant. This simple order belies the amazing and unbelievably rich, edge-of-chaos eruption that will explode in the late summer. What I loved about seeing it in May is that I realize that beauty starts with an idea and order and then coalesces into something we can’t control… as hard as we try.

Why gardens?

As I care for my aging parents, and watch my twin daughters grow into adulthood, Kate’s garden provides insight into a long human life in just one season:

We work hard to provide the place for our children (seeds) to grow. We give them nourishment (sophisticated soil amendments, compost, tea, worms).  We provide positive reinforcement when they choose good friends (synergy of planting combination of herbs, annuals, and vegetables, bee and butterfly gardens) and work hard to send the right message when they don’t (weeding of sorts). And then in summer, they start to grow (the changes that one goes through in puberty cannot be understated).  We marvel at their amazing talents, their beauty, their love of life, their laughter with friends. We know that our role is to be there, in the background, supporting and loving and simply being the person who cares for them.

And as the summer fades into autumn, Kate’s garden grows mature with age and starts to lean with the abundance of tall flowered stalks – the tentacles of vines meandering here and there, ripe with fruit and squash. And when autumn snaps, the beds take on their aging beauty, their wrinkles in full view. Some retract inward, and others shrivel from their ends. But the process reminds us that we are mortal beings who grow and die.

Death is not to be feared.

I don’t know how long my parents will live. My mom is 80 and recently had a stroke; she went from a robust, world-travelling 79-year-old to a slow, careful, unsteady, and happy-to-be-helped 80-year-old. A withering but beautiful vine with the sweetest late summer fruit ready to be harvested – and for her return to the earth.

My dad is going to be 88 on June 7th …and he is losing his memory. His flowering is well beyond autumn and withering in the dark winter months of pre-Alzheimer’s forget-me-nots. Physically healthy, but mentally deteriorating – a hard combination for any living thing.

Meanwhile, our girls just presented their 9th grade I2 (Inquiry and Innovation) research projects last night, and I was blown away by their maturity, curiosity, insightfulness, and ease at speaking in public. While neither one has a passion for gardening or architecture, it is clear that they will make their own beautiful and wonderful gardens of life.

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Conversation

Offscreen Magazine

Offscreen, Issue 8
Photographic spread featuring Stripe HQ.