After over 12 years in the Mission District, our office has moved to our new hood – the Tenderloin. Our light-filled, spacious new office (images coming soon) is also above a beautiful retail space, and we are looking for the right tenant to be our downstairs neighbor! Go to 925Larkin.com for more details.
…or removing it, rather! After a productive hiatus, some big things are happening up in Cazadero.
I recently went on a colorfully fun trip to Mexico City (D.F. as those in the know call it) which was meant to be the subject of my blog, but ironically, I’m writing to you of the flat and “bland” states of Kansas and Nebraska. States which usually get the reaction “oh, I’ve driven through there” when I am asked where I’m from. I go home every year for the holidays to be with my family and to confirm to them in the flesh that I do, in fact, still exist somewhere. Plus, I suspect they are a bit offended when I go elsewhere to travel.
Rather than gifts, I took my family members out to do fun stuff (time with me is better than new toys right?). I was surprised to beat my 17 year old bowling team brother at his own game, in a fluke of consecutive spares and strikes that is surely never to be repeated in my lifetime. My mom and sis got a fancy dinner of Omaha’s signature steaks. And Dad showed me his new work shop with all its impressive Dad-designed tools.
I decided on a whim to meet up with some friends three hours away in the town I went to college in: Manhattan, Kansas (aka “Manhappenin’“ and “The Little Apple”). The whole trip, the radio was playing what I suppose are now “oldies” from the 90s/00s, so it was like I was back in high school and college again, only this time I was in my grandmother’s Oldsmobile. When I arrived, my eight friends and I were a rowdy group getting into some college-age shenanigans, which don’t need mentioning on a work website… needless to say, it was like old times again.
I had lunch with my two favorite professors/mentors, who also happen to be married. Wendy Ornelas, who is at the same time a friendly, tiny-framed lady and a headstrong powerhouse who is not to be messed with. A person so similar to Bonnie that I often call one by the other’s name. And Bob Condia, my studio and theory professor, who regardless of whether he is in a classroom or a bar, is constantly posing enigmatic questions which generate either puzzled faces or inspired conversation, both of which I suspect he appreciates in equal measure, but for opposite reasons. We had a lovely lunch that I wish could have lasted longer… let’s have 3 more beers and talk some more architecture and neuroscience!
I felt most nostalgic as I wandered by myself around Seaton Hall, home of the College of Architecture Planning and Design, and my late night home for 5 years. It was incredible to come around a corner and have my brain light up with some crazy memory I hadn’t accessed in years. Favorite classes. Projects I hated. Projects I loved. Models built while half asleep powered on Pepsi, gummy bears, and waning willpower. Shooing away goofball friends trying to interrupt a structures study session. Late night games created around the destruction of some crappy abandoned model. So often, being exhausted but inspired and excited in studio was more like being drunk than anything else. I visited my very first studio, where I met my first two college friends, who I am still close with and amazingly enough, were among those with me on this trip. Ah, the younger years.
Having my Mexico and Kansas/Nebraska trips so close together left me feeling that exploration of new places grows one’s mind and future, but at the same time one can’t (and shouldn’t!) escape the self that represents where they come from. So call me a bland base with colorful topping. But I’ll kick your butt in a cardboard sword fight. In a tornado. Take that.
I went to Ahmedabad, India to visit family last month. My daily journeys through the city were chaotic, and consistently so – whether they were via rickshaw, the back of my cousin’s motorcycle (imagine skydiving with a thousand people), or by playing human Frogger in the streets.
I spent time with loved ones I hadn’t seen in ten years; endless dinners, stories, laughter and pinched cheeks. It was everything I went there for with a bonus: developing a deeper appreciation for the quiet moments. This slideshow is a catalog of the moments where I found that surprising, recalibrating silence in the loudest place on earth.
More pictures on my Flickr page.
Becky and I went to the awards ceremony a couple weeks ago for Cabin Fever. Our competitors had some creative and beautiful ideas, and it is an honor to be in such good design company.
We are proud to announce that we received an Honorable Mention (with a plaque)! AND 2 “Spirit” awards for Most Stealth and Most Harmonious. Two titles we are very fond of.
I turned 52 this year and so did the Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts; yes, we were both born in 1960, the year of the rat – significant for our shared history of cunningly efficient artistic bearing. I had a chance to visit the school this summer on our family jaunt to the outerlands of New Brunswick and Maine.
Haystack is on Deer Isle, a small island (among thousands) that populates the Atlantic Ocean along the Maine Coast. The property is at the end of Ocean View Road – about 30 minute drive from Stonington, a small, vibrant arts-lobster town where we stayed in a renovated fisherman’s shack with our oil-painting friend Don Bardelo. Don has taken many classes at the school and suggested I might want to visit — little did he know that this project was one of the MOST influential buildings in my early training as an Architect.
Haystack was designed by Edward Larabee Barnes in 1960. In the early 1980’s, it was still being heralded by the Gropius-inspired teachers at the University of Arizona College of Environmental Design (in particular, my favorite chain-smoking, cowboy booted professor, uber-modernist Doug MacNeil) who presented this project as a seminal example of elegantly-simple, modern architecture tied to place that was uniquely American. And it stuck. After seeing the building in person I felt like my entire career as an Architect has been a search for my own Haystack. We are currently working on a project in Cazadero that has many of the same foundational conditions informing the design: sequence of entry, experience of view, formal response to place/light, and the subtle separation between public and private. Not having a camera for my tour of Haystack was a blessing in disguise . . . an opportunity to be in the place instead of visually recording it.
Fifty two years later, we are both showing signs of age, the wrinkles, creases and worn skin becoming a patina of beauty from one who has been loved for so long.
Sponsored by AIA/SF
Small Firms/Great Projects Magazine
Having spent more than three years in the bay area, I used to think that the design community in San Francisco was small. No, the architecture community here is tiny. I’d constantly run into colleagues on the street and hear the same names repeated in conversation. But after a weekend away in the woods with a cabin full of architects, I’m starting to think that the word “small” isn’t quite apt to describe this place…
One hot August weekend, I found myself among a closely quartered troop of designers. We were all from small firms based in San Francisco (with one exception from Berkeley) and were invited to escape to a remote site in the Plumas National Forest, right outside of Oroville, California – hence, “hot” August weekend. Yup, that’s old gold country, folks! What brought us here together was the first annual Cabin Fever Design Competition hosted by Barker O’Donoghue. Our goal over the weekend was to visit the site, gather inspiration, and design – you guessed it – a super cool off-the-grid cabin, to put it simply. The best part is that the winning design will be built over the winter. Pretty neat stuff, if you ask me.
Undoubtedly, there were a lot of great aspects to the charette (which I could discuss at length in another post), but what struck me the most from that experience wasn’t how we bonded over incessant architectural banter or fiercely fought tooth and nail over the competition. Beyond the expected outcomes of jamming a truckload of designers in a tight shared space, I took comfort in the camaraderie among each individual and the overall ease of the entire weekend. I had anticipated a bit of tension and weirdness from the nature of the competition and close quarters, but as it turned out, none of it existed. Even despite being among “the competition”, we all agreed that the atmosphere was one of shared warmth and mutual respect.
During our last dinner, somebody had commented on how it was rare for us to gather and get to know each other in such a relaxed and casual manner. After all, there are not very many opportunities like this one. Not surprisingly, we were all connected by very small degrees of separation and everyone knew of each other, yet (at the risk of sounding obvious) none of us really knew the next person. Still, this quickly gave way to a familiar intimacy that is, in my opinion, special to the design community of San Francisco. Maybe it’s something about seeing each other rough and ready – bedhead, pajamas, and all – but I can easily say for myself that it was a pleasure to spend an entire weekend with such good company. I can’t say if this would be true if we were from anywhere else.
In our day to day, I think it’s easy to take our community for granted. Sometimes it takes a random experience like this one to help us remember just how lucky we are to be in this place we call home. Yes, our summers are infamously cold and we always gripe about the wind and fog, but there’s a reason we chose to live and work here. For me, it’s simple and this cabin weekend best illustrates just why. It definitely confirmed my obvious it’s-a-small-world observation, but now, I’d like to think the word “intimate” suits the architecture community of San Francisco far better than just “small”.
As a young designer, I’ve had the good fortune to work in a variety of cities but finding my way into the studio of Boor Bridges still feels like a stroke of luck. I remember cold-calling Bonnie after discovering Sightglass and suddenly finding myself at their annual office party. Warm introductions and a couple of whiskey specials turned into watching my future coworkers get down on the dance floor—my friends who accompanied me agreed that I had found a good fit.
I have long had the romantic belief that killing yourself in the name of work or school is a noble and worthy cause—intense projects, dozens of iterations, late nights, spinal dysfunction and permi-coon eyes the form for dedicated successful designers. Interning at Boor Bridges this summer has helped me remember that life is not all about architecture, rather, architecture is about life. This seems like a silly thought, but the last 2+ years of constant schooling (I’m in my final year of a 3 year Master of Architecture Program at CCA) had winnowed down my little world to one filled with archi thoughts, archi speak, archi friends, archi people and archi trees.
Boor Bridges has a strong archi thing going on, but it is well balanced with their commitment to a rich life —family, friends, play and rest—which makes for interesting co-workers with a very strong work ethic. The culture and setting of San Francisco is conducive to the well balanced life in many ways. A life rooted in significant relationships, rich experiences, and outside hobbies leads to a more dynamic understanding of our work—from the cafes we wait in line in, the work spaces we negotiate in, to the homes we construct memories from—people, place, and space, generally put.
Of course, being an architecture student, I would come to this meta conclusion never mind trying to internally justify sleepless nights for the name of “Architecture”. Another byproduct of the transition from grad student to intern was from thinking about space in terms of transitory blobs, fluctuating systems, vectors, and trajectories to considering practical matters of functionality through time, spatial and material constraints, client interactions and budget—all intimately experienced by a project I have worked on continuously and directly. (I’ve visited the site multiple times, prepared presentation drawings, interpreted the clients’ needs, selected materials and finishes, and coordinated with the project team).
Even essential concepts like “site” are sometimes overlooked or over generalized by us students, hypnotized by the vastness of our screens. It was a welcome break when we had the chance to escape to Bonnie’s sweet cottage near the Russian River for an office retreat. It was amazing to hear all the strange insects at night, use the sun and shade as a measurement of time, hear the kids laughing in the pool, and to see everyone so relaxed and well fed. Becky and I, as Boor Bridges newbies I suspect, had a pleasant surprise when we were asked to lead a design charrette on site.
During the charrette, I decided to lead my team out to the orchard where we debated the perfect sleeping spot, noting which trees to keep and trim, sun, shade, and temperature shifts, and various spatial frames and levels of isolation via the amount of screening through certain tree canopies and leaves. It was such a relief to have to heighten our awareness to the seemingly still space—what I still find to be a slow awareness at first, coming from a chain of cities, and perhaps another type of intelligence that takes time, space, and stillness to develop. The sensory still reigns, in my mind, and perhaps one of the most powerful elements of a space that our memories are constructed from or triggered by. In your face, super convoluted, mis-annotated, over generalized, pseudo-scientific diagram! (It’s a love-hate relationship, really).
My summer with Boor Bridges will definitely affect my fast approaching final year of grad school. I’ve had a fulfilling experience with some unique, smart, and able architects and am grateful to be a part of the small yet growing family this summer. It’s Monday night and I’m off to stir my own senses with a new love of mine: Classical night at Revolution Cafe—just the right amount of loveliness and funny people-watching to kick off another busy week.