Staff Spotlight: Anjali Iyer...

Q: Where are you from?

I am from Bombay, India (or Mumbai as they now call it!). After working out of there for a few years, I moved to Bangalore to work with this awesome studio. This was a fresh start into small scale architecture; refreshing different from the developer-driven architecture that dominates big cities like Bombay. Bangalore was great and I met my husband there.

After five years, we moved to Prague, Czech Republic. A vacation in Prague, made me realize how much I was looking for a change, to expanding my horizons as an architect. During this trip, we both fell in love with this enchanting city – that straddled the past and present with such ease. We decided to move. For three years in Prague, we explored many parts of East Europe, made a ton of new friends, learned a new language (Czech!). Immersed in the culture of these places, as a local – we gained a new appreciation for our own roots – something one tends to take for granted in one’s native habitat.

San Francisco happened in 2011. I was ready to dive back into active practice after this sabbatical and move back to an English-speaking country. I’ve always been drawn to cities by the water and friends who had lived in SF made a strong case for it. We took a leap of faith and moved here! Eight years later, this is the longest that we’ve been in one place.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I did my schooling at St. Judes, a convent in one of the suburbs of Bombay.. Education was a huge priority for middle-class families in India. It was affordable and of reasonable quality. My parents made sure me and my siblings had access to education and a professional career of our choice. I ended up choosing architecture and went to Sir J.J.College of Architecture, the oldest architecture school in India.

The five year degree course at JJ was a big departure from the STEM focused education system of India. The course was challenging for most of us as it tries to inculcate a sensitivity; develop a sense of inquiry to navigate design decisions and an appreciation for what is aesthetic, what is beauty, why is it beautiful… All a big departure from the prescriptive nature of our early education. The scope of the course was broad – ranging from abstract principles of art, design, to scientific principles of construction through the sweeping lens of historic precedents. It took us a really long time to join the dots and make sense of the seemingly disparate aspects of the program. I do believe it takes all of those five years to understand how architecture influences, shapes and transforms everyday living.

Q: Tell me about your family

I am the youngest of three siblings. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14. My two elder brothers have been father figures in my life since. My mom lives with my eldest brother and his family in Bombay. He is a banker, and now an entrepreneur. My other brother lives in Upstate NY and is a research scientist. Having these two brilliant siblings as role models in my childhood was a huge motivation to excel like they did. We are a tightly knitted family and we try to get together at least once a year.

Suresh and I have been married for 13 years. We met through a common circle of friends in Bangalore. We’ve both grown through our travels away from home and family. He was one of those kids that knew they wanted to work with computers from a really young age. He is a software engineer and a musician.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

After getting into architecture school, I think. Indian cities, in their chaos and density, can be overwhelming. They lack the overt picturesque, curated quality of cities in the developed world. The patterns are harder to see unless one looks hard. The energy in these spaces was always evident, but it was hard to understand what made them tick, what made one feel a certain way in a public space; a temple, a small park, or the sense of refuge behind the doors of one’s own home. Architecture school gave us the tools and the vocabulary to dissect, and articulate the experience of being in a particular space. Once one knew where to look, design was all around – manifest in forms small and big. I was mostly blind to it, prior to this formal training.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I tend to gravitate towards residential projects. Considering how I’ve been doing this for a long while and how I still enjoy it, it must say something about the satisfaction I get out of that typology. There is something truly gratifying about designing for a known set of people who will live out their lives in an environment that you create for them. It is this home that gives them solitude and shelter from the outside world. You nurture and sustain a relationship with the owners through the entire process. Residential design is the best kind of collaboration, – not just with consultants and the construction team but with the end users, more so than any other building typology.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started here in October 2014 so I guess around 4 years and 4 months.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I really appreciate the diversity of people and personalities in the office. I also cherish the lack of hierarchy, for the most part, which nurtures a strong sense of collaboration and lets people have their own voice. That makes for a great variety of projects that are unique and non-templated.

Q: Whats your favorite part about coming to work?

Getting cracking on the list of items I’ve jotted down in my head for that day.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There is one person that I keep going back to, whenever I hit a roadblock and I try to imagine how he would tackle it. I worked with Edgar Demello for five years during my time in Bangalore. Edgar exemplified what it meant to be an architect- a renaissance man engaged in art, music, literature, politics – all with immense thoughtfulness, backed by a wry sense of humor. A small studio that did high quality work with a strong ethical backbone. We are best friends despite being generations apart. I aspire to be like Edgar – always engaged, always passionate.

Q: Are you a sunset or sunrise type person?

I think I’m a sunset type of person. Literally because I’m not a morning person. I still feel the possibilities at sunset even as you see the sun go down, the day doesn’t stop there.

Q: Whats your design process like?

If I had to choose  a word – contemplative, tentative. It starts with a collage of early impressions… of the site, the clients, their aspirations… Words that linger or impressions that stay when I’m recalling the site. Visuals… doodles. There is a sense of ponderous excitement before one touches pen to paper. Furious iterations. Eventually, it leads to something more free flowing and lucid .

It’s an iterative process…  zooming in and out… being really fuzzy; about letting yourself dream about what a project wants to be, darting going closer and getting excited about individual possibilities, and looking at them anew from a distance.

Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?

My Iphone. It’s my window the world. I really am not a gadget person so that is saying a lot. Being a consummate multitasker, the phone helps me stay on top of work and what’s happening outside of work, practice on the new language I am learning. I’m a power user. I used to read a lot more books before phones became prevalent, took notes the old-fashioned way. Now it’s all on my phone!

Third Thursday January 2019: New Staff...

For our first Third Thursday of 2019, we decided to mix it up and keep it in-house. Our three newest staff members were invited to present on their backgrounds and previous work from schooling or companies they’d been a part of before joining our firm. Each came from different locations with unique focuses, skills, and talents. Jeremy presented on a few of his residential endeavors, as well as his own fine arts projects. Kateryna had us explore some of her graduate work and gave us an insider perspective on what it takes to build skyscrapers around the world. Laura spoke about various buildings she worked on while living in Boston, and how they compare to the projects here at our firm.

Each wrote a quick summary of their presentations which you can read below!

 

Jeremy

While at a previous architecture firm, I completed a house just outside of Montecito.  The 9,000 square foot house has a commanding presence on Padaro Beach, highlighted by 40’ wide pocket doors beneath a 14’ cantilever.  The exterior materials are reclaimed teak from Thailand, board formed concrete wainscot, standing seam titanium roof, and steel windows and doors.  The interior finishes include rift sawn white oak ceilings, plaster walls and custom concrete pavers on the floor.  The house features dual master suites on the second floor with panoramic views (one for the clients and one for their son who lives in LA). The owners recently moved in and I flew down to welcome them, happy to complete such an awesome project with stellar clients.

 

Laura

For my Third Thursday presentation I described my experience designing large-scale residential developments in Boston. One of the projects I highlighted was 345 Harrison; a 12-story, 585 unit project in South Boston which included ground floor retail and restaurant spaces, elevated private parks for tenants, an indoor gym, an exterior pool and lounge, and many more tenant amenities. Working on 345 Harrison gave me a great sense of accomplishment as a designer – it was an honor to contribute to such a landmark development in my home city.

Residential projects here at Feldman are, of course, much smaller in scale, but offer a much more personal design experience and a more focused vision, on a faster schedule – It’s a great change in pace! I can’t say how thankful I am to be a part of the team here at FA.

 

Kateryna

Several weeks ago I had pleasure to share a brief overview of my design work from the Master Degree that I received at IAAC, in Barcelona, as well as a variety of projects from my previous work experience at SOM and Morphosis. Academic projects covered my interest in temporary architecture, wind energy harvesting and clay tile making inspired by a visit to a renowned Catalan ceramics factory. This work resulted from the numerous discourses that were held at the school, and looked at ways to challenge energy wasteful living, while growing social awareness on the issue.

The Nubular lightweight structure, is an exploration into an injection-based architecture. A homogenous building material, in this case perforated pvc skin, is used to create tubes of custom lengths and angles, which are then filled with one’s material of choice depending on the chosen tube’s position within the overall structure. Given that the material filling is a key parameter in the behavior of the structure, several tests were carried out to identify the optimal fillings and member lengths to avoid buckling. It was decided to fill the bottom most members with soil and sawdust mixture, while the top is composed of lighter foam balls. Each tube length is split into 3 with a maximum part length of around 800mm, and allowing for 50mm flat connection gaps in between and at the ends of each tube.


The overall shape was designed in grasshopper using hoopsnake plugin. An original tetrahedron shape is drawn, and hence follows the path of an arched curve, turning and repositioning itself in the process from the start of the path to the end. After this process, the geometry was manually pulled to the ground plane and specific 3-piece curves were extracted and drawn to ensure they stay under the 800mm limit. Each of the curves was separated as a layer and with lengths fed into another definition to directly produce laser cut files which included labels and welding line engravings.

The fabrication process took about 3 full days. 78 custom lengths were laser cut, welded, filled, and holed at the junctions for connections with zip-ties. Construction took around 10 hours.

Staff Spotlight: Kateryna Rogynska...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Ukraine and later moved to Montreal for the second half of my teenage years. I am from the fourth largest city in Ukraine—Dnipropetrovsk, or the short version Dniper. My parents live in Ukraine, but my older brother now resides in San Francisco.

Q: Where did you go to school?

My Bachelor’s degree is from McGill University in Montreal. I did my Masters in Barcelona at a tiny little school that’s on offshoot of MIT called IaaC. The degree in Spain provided an off-the-hook experience that did not focus on the same content as my internships, but instead challenged another way of thinking about architecture and urban planning. What I found when I arrived was that the school was structured around a super fun media lab, where we got to play with 3D printing and Kuka robots. It was basically a warehouse filled with grown-up architecture toys.

Q: Tell me about your family.

My dad is a jack of all trades. He has worked in the financial industry, construction and metal part production, as well as helped managing a TV show in Ukraine. My mom is an engineer by education, but she ended up working in the beauty industry and has a passion for making women look and feel great.

My brother also is a jack of all trades; he started his career in sales and then soon after diverted into the technical side of that position, which led him to founding his own startup at a very young age. Now he runs a business in SF and calls Silicon Valley his home. His company develops software that helps run sales engineering teams more efficiently and increases sales revenue.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

My attachment to architecture stemmed first from an interest in interior spaces. When my parents bought a new apartment in one of the high rises that my dad help develop some years ago, we commissioned a talented young architect to co-design the interior. Experiencing the space for the first time was very powerful to me, because I saw the immediate effect of his work on my family’s life. Parallel to that, I have always had a strong affinity for the fine arts. During middle school, I also enrolled in an art school, which entailed numerous hours of sketching, painting and sculpture per week. That experience helped to direct my life towards a career that involved combining my love for special design with the technical skills I developed during art school.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I, by method of deduction, have learned that while skyscrapers and large commercial projects are interesting to work on in regards to your ego and sheer complexity of the problem solving to be done, I find myself truly reveling in designing tiny parts and pieces of projects that come together in a clever way.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

About a month!

Q: Know any SF hidden gems?

The water organ in the Marina is pretty great. I also really like Lands End beach. My boyfriend recently showed it to me during a low tide, and we went star fish watching!! When waves recede, the beach becomes entirely exposed. There are massive rocks that the star fish attach to, so when the tide is low you can spot hundreds of them!

In terms of restaurants, I am a Souvla junkie. My favorite going out spot recently has been Phonobar, which is owned by one of my friends. It has a really nice loungy atmosphere and great drinks. Plus I get to DJ there.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I am yet to discover all the unique features, but what struck me from the beginning was how close-knit the team is. The leadership puts so much care towards cultivating very strong office culture. The overall successful feeling of the interior of the office was definitely an attention grabber when I came by for my first interview.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

Right now it’s learning and feeling like I can always get constructive feedback on what I am doing. It’s very encouraging, and makes me want to work and learn even more!

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I am not the type of person who has one role model for life, but there is a French architecture studio, called StudioKO, that I came across about a year ago. They do work predominantly in Morocco while being based in Paris. They successfully manage to mesh ever so refined classical Parisian design elegance with the rough and colorful Moroccan terrains. The final product is really cool—you should definitely check it out!

Q: What’s your design process like?

My process starts with trying to understand the problem as much as I can by collecting all the pieces of information available. My mind constantly oscillates between analytical and messy artistic, so I tend to need to gather as much as I can to be able to start the process.  Later on, it’s about the big ideas. I like to write them down. Then, identify the moves and proceed into sketching/modeling, or whichever media makes the most sense at the moment.

Q: What is the strangest/most unique food you have ever eaten?

First off, I can tell you about the threshold I was not able to cross- which is fried crickets served on mole in Mexico City. My friends eagerly dove into the plate and enjoyed the crackling sound of crushing cricket skins, while I was curious, but also slightly disturbed.

I did try frog legs which were pretty okay. I would say the grossest thing that I am supposed to like since I am Ukrainian, but don’t, is raw pig fat. The dish consists of very dense pig fat that’s been marinated, smoked and salted but not cooked in the traditional way. It is definitely a relic of the past that I cannot imagine enjoying now.

Jess & Heera’s Japan Adventures...

Last year, two of our designers had the chance to travel to the Land of Rising Sun. Jess visited with her husband Chris in September, while Heera and Ben made the trek at the end of October. While both couples had differing itineraries, they all chose to visit Tokyo and Kyoto during their respective whirlwind tours. Jess and Heera then chose their favorite aspects of each city and crafted a beautiful snapshot of their unique adventures in Japan.

Tokyo – Heera Basi

One of my favorite experiences traveling in Tokyo was visiting the Inner Garden at the Meiji-jingū, or Meiji Shrine. This garden was a tranquil and peaceful oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Originally built in 1920, the Meiji Shrine is one of Tokyo’s grandest Shinto shrines. The grounds are extensive, occupying roughly 170 acres in the middle of the city. The entry into the shrine grounds is impressive as you pass through 40 foot tall Tori gates made out of cedar marking the transition between the city and the shrine. As you walk along the tree lined pathway that leads to the shrine, the garden is off of a small side path that would be easy to overlook. The Emperor Meiji designed an Iris Garden here for the Empress Shoken. Once inside the garden there are a variety of smaller pathways to meander through. Along with the Iris garden, there is a beautiful tea house, a pond with koi fish, Kyomasa’s well, and several little pavilions where you can sit and enjoy the scenery. The garden attracts far fewer tourists than the shrine itself so it is a great place to tuck away for a relaxing stroll and a peaceful break from the city!

Tokyo – Jess Stuenkel

Tokyo is an amazing place where outside of every metro station looks to be its own metropolitan hub, eccentrically designed skyscrapers stand proud, and you are never far from the most delicious noodles. But after a few days feeling like tiny fish in the big city, we decided to venture an hour North just outside of Tokyo to Ōmiya. It was mid-week on a day with a gloomy sky endlessly threatening rain but the town was nevertheless a little oasis. Known as the Bonsai Village, Ōmiya was formed by a collection of professional bonsai growers who moved from Tokyo in 1925 in search of clean air and spacious land for their bonsai collections and life’s work. When the village was formed it had rules including that you had to own a minimum of 10 bonsai and open your bonsai garden up to the public. Although these rules no longer apply, the village maintains a sense of calm and greenery that is impressive. There are still around seven major Bonsai gardeners remaining with large garden shops, still practicing bonsai cultivation in the village. All of these gardens are open to the public to enjoy and even watch the bonsai masters at work. But perhaps the thing I found most impressive is the idea that to be a bonsai gardener transcends a lifetime. The oldest bonsai we saw was estimated to be 1000 years old, carefully cared for by generation after generation. Each bonsai is not the work of one gardener, but by an entire lineage of those dedicated to this ancient craft.

Kyoto – Heera Basi

Visiting Kyoto can be overwhelming as there are so many important and impressive temples to see. My favorite temple by far was the Genkoan Temple. Located in the foothills in the Northern part of the city, this small Buddhist temple was originally built in 1346. This temple is known for its “bloody ceilings”. The ceiling is comprised of wood floorboards that are stained in the blood of fallen samurai. In the 1600’s, these samurai were defending a castle that was under siege. Faced with overwhelming odds and impending defeat, the samurai committed ritual suicide rather than be taken by their enemies. The blood-stained floorboards from this castle were then installed as the ceilings in several temples, including the Genkoan Temple, as a way to honor and offer peace to the souls of the fallen samurai. You can still see the footprints of these soldiers on some of the boards. One of the other predominant architectural features here are the two main windows, one circular and one square. Located side-by-side, the rectangular window on the right is known as the “Window of Confusion” representing the suffering and passage humans go through in life. The circular window on the left is the “Window of Enlightenment” which represents the Zen concept of the universe and enlightenment beyond the suffering of mortality. The windows offer a view out to temple’s gardens, which were gorgeous in the fall with the leaves changing color. Visitors to the temple can sit on the floor and meditate in front of these windows. It is a bit of a trek to get up to this part of the city, and on the way to the temple we discovered Klore bakery which is just down the road. It is a small unassuming place, but the French-style pastries here were some of the best I’ve ever had! I highly recommend visiting this temple as it is less touristy and off the beaten path. Like the inner garden of the Meiji Shrine, it offers a peaceful experience and space for contemplation.

Kyoto – Jess Stuenkel

My favorite day in Kyoto was spent on the West side of town in the Arashiyama district. The tourism websites tout the experience of first hand encounters with snow monkeys, and photos within the tall groves of bamboo in the Arashiyama Bamboo forest. The monkeys were admittedly adorable, and the bamboo forest was indeed beautiful despite the gaggles of tourists with the same itinerary. But having completed these two activities we continued on to search out a shrine that looked to be a decent walk way, in the foothills of the surrounding mountains. We exited the far side of the bamboo forest, and after walking quickly away from the masses of people, our path became obvious. It was much less a street, and more a promenade that wove itself around the neighborhood, touching the entrances of temple after temple. In between, a picturesque residential area was dotted with small shops filled with handmade ceramics, tiny owl figurines, indigo wares, and yes, noodles. The residences, both large and small were complete with perfectly weathered woods, natural stone, and the most beautiful roofs. We walked slowly, making time to take in the colors, textures, sounds, and smells. We quietly debated which temples we had time to investigate beyond peering through the gates, or down their tree-lined entrance paths. We did pay visits to a couple of temples in the area and they did not disappoint. Each was completely unique, perfectly sited, and exquisitely crafted. The whole area melded the natural & man made into something completely harmonious and thoroughly enjoyable.

Staff Spotlight: Laura Knight...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up Winchester Massachusetts, it’s a ways northwest of Boston. It’s a lovely little town, very New England, a bit unforgiving in winter though.

I moved to California in early spring of 2018 and I love it here, it’s everything I wanted it to be. I was really enamored with the vernacular of residential design in the Bay and in SoCal. There are so many beautiful projects being developed in a wide variance of design motif and scale (especially residential projects which are my main interest as a designer) compared to the Northeast.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Boston Architectural College. The projects I developed there were very focused on the needs of the city, of its residents, how to improve their lives and the design language of the city as a whole. Even if the work was very abstract and never realized that locality gives you a feeling of purpose and fulfillment.

Q: Tell me about your family

I grew up closest to my grandparents. My grandmother worked in real estate and my grandfather is a photographer. I learned about film photography from him when I was very little (probably spent too much time in his darkroom with all those chemical…).

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

I distinctly remember one car ride into Boston when I was very little (probably about four) we drove through the financial district and I was in awe of all the beautiful buildings… Towering glass boxes, Gothic inspired stone structures, beautiful churches. I think that’s when I first fell in love with design.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

The bulk of my work experience is in large scale residential design but my passion as a designer will always be small scale residential projects. One client, one vision, and a process of refinement to make something beautiful and functional.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I joined the team at the end of November 2018 so a little over a month and a half. But I should have joined a lot sooner!

Q: What makes our office unique?

Incredibly beautiful design, a wonderfully curated project portfolio, and a very welcoming atmosphere.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

The projects I’m a part of right now are amazing and I feel privileged to contribute to their design. I’m seasoned in BIM management and I’d like to become a crucial asset to the firm in that respect – someone people can depend on to keep things running smoothly.

Q: Are you passionate about anything?

I’ve enjoyed film photography since I was little. I dabble in lots of hobbies: furniture design, sketching, piano, astronomy, physics, world affairs… Maybe I’m too unfocused!

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I’d say designers like Toyo Ito and Zaha Hadid. Toyo Ito is very mathematical in his design and I think there’s a lot of beauty in that. I take a lot of personal inspiration from studio Nendo in Japan, there is a wonderful thoughtfulness and childlike curiosity to their design.

I’m also personally inspired by traditional Shinto design and carpentry- there is an event in Japan every decade or so called Shikinen Sengu in which the same temple is torn down and rebuilt using the same ancient carpentry methods, it’s definitely on my bucket list.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Lots of sketching and iteration, refinement of ideas, I also enjoy working with physical models whenever possible.  Architects are detectives in a way, every program has a design truth waiting to be uncovered.

Q: What superpower do you wish you had?

Probably flight, for travel and photography purposes. It’d be a dream to get a bird’s eye view in any city I visit.

Winter Newsletter 2018...

New York Times Announcement & Winter News

Good tidings! Here at Feldman Architecture we’re constantly pushing and encouraging our clients towards sustainable design. Jonathan used his recently remodeled house as a testing ground and it achieved LEED Platinum. An article on its features and the design process was included in the NY Times just last week! We’re grateful to have worked with talented writer Tim McKeough and photographer Matthew Millman to make this story come to life. Congrats to the whole team: Ground Studio Landscape, Jeff King & Company, and Strandberg Engineering.

To read the article, head on over to nytimes.com or if you’re on the East Coast, pick up an edition of last Sunday’s paper!

We’re extremely happy to be ending 2018 strong. The Meadow Home was featured in the latest edition of Luxe and our Butterfly House was given a second life on ArchDaily thanks to beautiful landscape photos by Jason Liske and Ground Studio Landscape.

The Sanctuary received the Honor Award in the AIA Silicon Valley Design Awards this past October and we’d like to extend a thanks and congratulations to the full team: Ground Studio Landscape, Urban Tree Management, Romig Engineers, Strandberg Engineering, BKF Engineers, and Baywest Builders.

One project that has progressed substantially this winter is our Round House in Los Altos Hills. This unique remodel is a perfect circle, which presented challenges and excitement for architect, builder, and client alike. In order to build the circular form, a giant compass was designed and installed during the framing process, which you can see in this video from Baywest Builders.

Our office is constantly growing and just this month we welcomed Laura Knight to the family! Laura joined our firm following a recent move from Boston, Massachusetts where she established herself as a technically skilled and innovative designer. During her tenure at Boston Architectural College, Laura began working in design full-time, seeing several large-scale Boston area residential developments through to completion. After three years of professional design, Laura made the move to California to pursue her passion of smaller, more personal residential projects. Welcome Laura!

 

Our new Studio Culture page is now live on our website! At Feldman Architecture we believe in the importance of a positive office culture that stresses fun and collaboration. For many unseen and candid shots of our staff, click here!

Speaking of office culture… we’re in the heart of the holiday season but as you can see we’ve been celebrating for months! Here are a few moments from Halloween, our Thanksgiving potluck, and White Elephant Party.

From all of us at Feldman Architecture, we wish you warm holidays filled with great cheer. Thank you for being a friend to our firm this year and we look forward to fostering more relationships in 2019.

Pro-Bono Update!...

By Ben Welty & Jess Stuenkel

Over the years the folks here at Feldman Architecture have participated in many rewarding pro-bono experiences, primarily brought to the attention of the office by an individual with a desire to lend a hand within the community. We have participated in CANstruction, Rebuilding Together, AFSF Student Mentorship, and The LEAP Sandcastle Contest. But in 2017 we decided to create a dedicated budget for our pro-bono work and look for non-profit organizations that were in need of architectural services. We look to the 1+ Program for insights into setting up our budget and getting us connected.  It didn’t take long until we were set up to work with two amazing non-profit organizations that needed space upgrades. Playworks, who works to bring out the best in kids through play, and CUESA whose mission is to cultivate a healthy food system through community & education.

PLAYWORKS

For over two decades now Playworks has been assisting schools and youth programs make the most of recess by providing resources to promote safety, engagement and empowerment while demonstrating the power of “Play.” Our partnership with Playworks began in 2016 after we connected with them via 1+, an organization that connects non-profits with architects offering pro-bono work. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, Playworks had outgrown their 9,000+ square foot national office and were in need of a larger space, with a caveat being that they had a strong desire to remain in their Jack London Square neighborhood. Knowing that it would take an indefinite amount of time to find a new space, it was decided that we’d first focus on improving the quality and efficiency of their current space by replacing their dated cubicles with sit/stand workstations that provided additional capacity while promoting more social interaction throughout the workplace. However, this would only be a temporary fix as the search continued for a new home.

Over the course of the next year and a half we assisted in the assessment of potential office locations, eventually landing on a 16,000 square foot collection of former warehouse spaces a mere three blocks away from their current digs. On a strict budget but with the need to compete with tech and other local industries to attract talented and qualified employees, we kicked off the project in late 2017 with the goal to provide a workplace that honored their culture and values and, as Playworks describes it, a place to “experience play as a professional.” Scheduled to open in early 2019, their new headquarters will offer just that – open office spaces with high ceilings, exposed roof structure and skylights; casual “living rooms” to serve as informal breakout spaces; a mesh “area” with bleacher seating for all-office gatherings and a glass rollup garage door opening onto an interior courtyard; and a large assembly space for training their coaches and holding other Playworks and community events. What began as picking out desks and chairs has turned into what will be the firm’s largest office project to date. And one of the most rewarding as well!

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5BVhJIK5eA&feature=youtu.be

CUESA

In addition to running three major farmers markets in the Bay Area, including the Ferry Building Farmers Market, CUESA has a cute teaching kitchen nestled behind large sliding doors in the south arcade of the Ferry Building. The small kitchen has a big presence as an informal space that brings together kids, communities, chefs and farmers. CUESA uses this space to teach kids about where their food comes from, and teaches them the glory of fresh fruits and vegetables. They provide a direct connection between farmers & the community and present high-class chef’s to anyone willing to gather around and listen. The kitchen space itself has been in use for many years, and is made up of donated equipment and love. In collaboration with NG Associates we have taken on the project to reimagine what this little kitchen space can be and how it can better serve its community. We are in the early stages of the project, but are very excited to begin!

This winter, CUSEA held their annual fundraising Gala which I was graciously able to attend with my partner Chris.  I was overwhelmed by the support for CUESA and the amazing food prepared by some of the best chef’s in the Bay Area, all who donated their time. The excitement and commitment to the cause was palpable and the night was loads of fun. If you’re interested in learning more about CUESA, check out this short film about the kids’ food program, and keep your eyes peeled for any public events CUESA presents as they are bound to be delicious.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMlEAy7VR58

Water You Doing With Your Water?...

By Johnny Lemoine

Greg Fitzsimmons, who’s up there as being one of my favorite comedians, has a hilarious bit about water. It goes a little something like this…

“In America we have so much water it’s a joke. We have fun – we play! We have water parks. We squirt it down tubes and roll around in it… and shoot it. We have fountains. What IS a fountain?! It’s just us blasting water in the air, like (insert profanities here) look at all this water!!! We don’t even need it! And what do we do at the fountain? We take money we don’t need, and throoowww it in!”

He then goes on to play out a scenario where a child from another country, a much more deprived country, would come over to the United States and see what we’re doing with our water, like “what is this beautiful porcelain bowl filled with “cooool, cleaaan water?” He continues to go on and on about how we flush our waste with incredibly clean, potable water, and how ridiculous of a concept this happens to be.

When it’s put into joke-form, it becomes very, very clear that we have a huge issue here in the United States and in most other countries in the world. Although as funny as his bit is, it’s the absolute, disgusting truth. In the United States, on average we currently flush 4,757 gallons of drinking water down the toilet, per person, in one year. With our population growing at a rapid pace, our aging and costly water infrastructures and the price of water increasing 5% yearly, extreme droughts, all-too-frequent natural disasters, we really need to rethink how we use, and reuse, our water.

Here’s Greg’s scene if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ9s8feSLOY.

Just a seven minute bicycle ride from our office, I recently found myself in an old renovated warehouse with about sixty others at a day-long summit listening to some passionate folks from the Bay Area discuss something I take for granted every day, water. The Water Reuse Summit was hosted by the William J. Worthen Foundation, and was quite fascinating in terms of policy.

It began with Senator Scott Weiner, who gave a small, yet somewhat inspiring speech about how our overall sense of urgency has just simply not been there when it comes down to reusing our water in the progressive state of California. He continued to discuss what policies he had been working on to put into place to help make California more progressive in terms of water reuse, and what we had to do to survive our continued droughts (and recessions, since water is becoming quite pricey). One of these policies is Senate Bill 966, or “SB 966.”

Without state policies, there is no guidance on what the appropriate water quality standards are for reusing water in buildings. Jurisdictions have been very reluctant to permit these systems in the past when proposed at the local level because they have no idea what is appropriate or safe. SB 966 directs the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to develop regulations creating risk-based water quality standards for the on-site treatment and reuse of non-potable water in commercial, mixed-use, and multi-family residential buildings. This will assist local governments in developing oversight and management programs for onsite non-potable water systems, and to make it easier for all of us to start reusing water on-site and to get through the permitting process successfully, with a bit more confidence.

This is great news, yet this is also somewhat upsetting that in the year 2018 we’re finally making some strides in California to allow this process to happen safely, especially since the technology and precedents have been in place here since the late ‘20s. Los Angeles County’s sanitation districts started providing treated wastewater for landscape irrigation in parks and golf courses in 1929. It’s pretty ironic that I learned about this Senate Bill being put into place, and how revolutionary everyone made it out to be, at a conference in the city of San Francisco not far from Golden Gate Park, which is the same city that is home to the first reclaimed water facility in California. Actually, located in Golden Gate Park in 1932, the city reused its wastewater on-site for irrigation throughout the park’s landscape, but it shut down over forty years later as a result of some new regulatory changes. Now there is a new wastewater treatment plant, scheduled to be completed by 2021, to be in Golden Gate Park, again, that will reuse its water throughout most of its land. Hopefully this time around it lasts, and future regulation changes can work with older technologies, and we can stop playing this expensive game. The new wastewater recycling system costs $214 million.

I’m not sure why the United States is so behind in regards to recycling its precious water, and I’ll never be able to answer that question, or why people in Flint, Michigan don’t have treated potable water in 2018. What I do know is that we need to up our game and start thinking about this in a much more dire and creative way. This water reuse summit certainly hammered that notion home. I think that regulations like SB 966 will keep being put into place across the country if we take advantage of what they have to offer more often. We need to be more diligent about reusing our water locally, especially for architects with implementing water reuse into our projects on-site. Look, Israel has already recycled 90% of its wastewater successfully since the ‘90s, and Namibia, the most arid country in southern Africa, has been safely drinking their recycled water since 1969. Meanwhile, Australia mines for sewage to treat their wastewater.

Every drop of water we drink, use for showering, what we use to flush toilets with that “cooool, cleaaan water,” and what we use to grow our food, every drop, has been recycled many, many times before. Most of the water we’re currently drinking is already recycled from upstream, and is coming from other people’s waste to begin with. Actually, our water is said to be older than our sun, which is 4.6 billion years old. It’s not new. In fact, it’s ancient. It’s already reused. Therefore, we really need to get over the “yuck” factor of reusing water and to do a greater, more efficient job of educating our clients, and really everybody around us (that includes ourselves), that this is the right thing to start doing at a very early phase in the project and that it’s not all that disgusting. This is especially true for non-potable uses like irrigation and cooling, and most definitely true for flushing down our poop in our porcelain thrones. I’m not sure if it’s financially feasible for everybody to start doing this, but I do know that we at least need to start having this conversation a lot more often, educating ourselves and others, and to start thinking about this from the very beginning of our projects. No more “yuck” factor. More education. We shouldn’t be taking water for granted any longer.

Please check out this very informational water reuse practice guide from the William J Worthen Foundation:

https://www.collaborativedesign.org/get-the-guide

And here’s a guidebook from SFPUC’s website that’s pretty informative:

https://sfwater.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentID=11629

From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay...

By Evan McCurdy

In a search for a country where cheap beer is as ubiquitous as the beautiful landscapes, Jenna and I found ourselves heading to Northern Vietnam. Touching down in Hanoi marked my first time in Asia and I couldn’t have been more excited to navigate a city of seven million motorbikers. Our time spent in Hanoi was solely dedicated to drinking cold beer to survive the heat, and bouncing from one street food stand to the next, eating our way around the city.

There is something amazing about any city that can provide you with pho, noodles, bbq’ed skewers, and coffee within any given 100 foot radius. We spent days exploring the many lakes, night markets, coffee shops and temples of Hanoi. I also gained a new level of confidence in my ability to walk through intersections filled with hundreds of motorbikes, just assuming they will find a way to spare my life.

After eating a lifetimes worth of street food in just a few days, we hopped on an overnight train that took us further North into the mountains of Vietnam. We trekked through Sa’Pa’s rice fields and stayed with a local H’mong family. The next day we continued up towards a tiny village outside of Lao Cai, just along the Northern border of the country. We stayed with a local family for several days to explore the rural mountains, motorbike through rice fields, and eat traditional Vietnamese dinners with our host family.

We took a train back down to Hanoi and made our way out to the coast to see Ha Long Bay, known for its impressive rock formations. After hours of different ferrys and boat rides, we arrived at a floating fishing village in a remote region of the bay. The tradition of floating fishing villages goes back hundreds of years for families that live on Ha Long Bay. Every day we would kayak around the maze of islands, beaches, fisherman, and floating houses. At night, we came back to home cooked seafood, rice wine, and long games of Uno, the national pastime of Vietnam.

I have never felt more like Anthony Bourdain than I did during those two weeks in Vietnam.

 

 

AIA at FA: “The Resilient Practice”...

By Rebecca Gilbert

A few weeks ago, Feldman Architecture hosted a panel of successful women architects to discuss “The Resilient Practice” which was part of  the 15th annual Architecture + the City festival co-presented by the AIA San Francisco and Center for Architecture + Design. The architects discussed resiliency in two cases, first as architects who are meeting the challenges of a constantly evolving design and build process, and second as women who are succeeding in a historically male-dominated profession.

In the first case, the panelists described resiliency as the ability to adapt and find one’s career path in the context of an environment which is increasingly demanding architects to step outside of the comfort zone of pure design and into adjacent disciplines.  In this case, we understand their career paths as mirroring the heightened complexity of constructing or re-purposing structures in our increasingly urbanized existence.  The success of our careers requires us to meet this challenge – the growth of cities demands it.  The panelist discussed everyday examples of this concept.  Offices are expanding shared work spaces to foster interdisciplinary collaboration, embracing diverse educational backgrounds, and investing in technology to meet a faster design and construction cadence.

In the second case, the panelists understand that resiliency in the practice of architecture will require more equitable representation of women.  As our panelists astutely observed, while enrollment in architecture programs is increasing, growth in licensed female architects is lacking.  In some cases, technology, like remote working, is creating opportunities that did not previously exist.  In other cases as our panelist have shown, the path to workplace equality is knowing one’s worth and having the will and initiative to realize it. For these panelists, evolving with the increasing complexity of architecture has been a defining feature of their success.

Its encouraging that AIA SF has created a platform for women to discuss these issues and move the dialogue forward. I left that evening feeling inspired and lucky to be surrounded by such a supportive and progressive architectural community.

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