Staff Spotlight: Jeff Wheeler...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Jefferson, Iowa when my Dad was in the Air Force, but moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa in the fourth grade.  It’s located in the northwest part of the state near the Minnesota border in the midst of three large natural lakes and is a major tourist location for boating, camping, fishing and golf.  The Sioux name for the area is Okoboji and it is infamous for a Santee Sioux raiding party led by chief Inkpaduta and the resulting massacre of white settlers in the winter of 1857.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Iowa state University in Ames.  It was a very solid and practical program and not particularly weighted toward theory – it’s primarily an engineering school which probably has something to do with it.  I particularly enjoyed architecture history, which continues to influence and inform my design aesthetic.

Q: Who is in your family?

We’re a pretty small family.  I have one younger brother ten years my junior.  Mom (Karen)and Dad (Danny) were high school sweethearts and married when they were 18, but tragically, we lost my Dad when I was 12.  Mom remarried and her husband, Roger, has three kids of his own, their ages equally ranged between mine and my brother’s.  Roger has a son named Jeff too, which was pretty funny and quite confusing to callers who had to specify which Jeff they wanted to talk to.  Mom and Roger are still in Spirit Lake and most of my relatives live in central Iowa in and around Des Moines, but my brother eventually moved to California as well and lives in Belmont with his wife Cyndi and their two dogs.

Megan and I have been married for 18 years and our only son Cole is 15.  Stella is our third Bernese Mountain Dog – she comes to the office with me on occasion.  Meg is the Director of Special Events at Marin Academy High School in San Rafael and Cole is a sophomore at Sir Francis Drake High School in Marin.  We live in funky little Fairfax in Marin County.  Meg’s family is quite small as well and she is sixth generation Californian.  Her Mom comes from a family of grape farmers in Lodi and her Dad is originally from West Virginia.  Her older sister’s family lives in Fairfax too.

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

I used to deliver newspapers all around the Lakes in the summer and got to know all the cool, big houses of affluent families on West Okoboji – very much like Lake Tahoe, but with expanses of corn and soybean fields instead of pine trees and mountains – but there were also a lot of run down properties too, which I always wanted to rebuild.  A high school aptitude test signaled architecture as a potential career path, even though I really had no idea at the time exactly what that entailed.  But I managed to make it through calculus and physics to graduate in the Spring of 1986.  After a short stint drafting log houses in Wisconsin post-graduation, I packed up my Firebird and headed West for California.  I consider myself lucky that I always pretty much knew what I wanted to do and was intrepid enough to leave the Midwest and pursue life on the Left Coast.

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

My background is quite varied, with early experiences on Victorian remodels in San Francisco, which eventually led to managing predominantly large scale commercial and retail projects during the DotCom days for reputable mid-size firms, but I tired of navigating the politics (and the too frequent economic downturns) that come with larger firms.  Custom homes provide a lot of hands-on opportunity for unique structural and technical solutions.  We’re blessed with fabulous clients, beautiful sites and healthy budgets, so it’s a great feeling to be challenged each and every day to create wonderful and enduring architecture.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

It will be three years in February.  Before FA I was at at Swatt Miers Architects for six years.  Steve Stept was a partner there and hired me after six years at Sutton Suzuki Architects in Mill Valley.  It wasn’t too long after Steve came over to FA from SMA that he recruited me to come over as well.

Q: What makes our office unique?

Everyone here is just so normal, nice and smart.  It’s a fairly young office, which creates many opportunities to share knowledge and experiences and be a resource to help others grow as architects.  Modern project delivery is very complex and technology continues to advance at a rapid clip, so the group sense of comradery and teamwork here is something special.

Q: If you have to give up one of your 5 senses, which would you choose?

My hearing is so bad it’s like I don’t have it anyway, but music is too important to give up.  I’m primarily visual and it’s essential to what I do.  The same goes for touch – I’m constantly touching different textures of materials.  I love to cook and eat every sort of cuisine so taste isn’t really an option either.  So I’d have to say smell, which would help when I’m picking up after Stella…

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

Every day is a new opportunity to solve another set of challenges, which are rarely the same one day to the next.  Plus I love the new Firehouse spaces – it’s wonderfully conducive to thinking about and producing great architecture.  I also get to spend a fair amount of time on numerous job sites, which is still as much fun now as it was the first time I set foot on one – there’s just nothing better.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There have always been many, not just one.  Each past office experience taught me specific lessons that molded me into the architect I am today.  Famous architects whose work I gravitate toward all have a special way with elemental materials (stone, wood, glass, steel/aluminum and concrete) and how they go together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, which is what makes architecture so unique and incredibly satisfying as a profession.

Tom Kundig, Peter Bohlin, James Cutler, Glenn Murcutt, David Samella and Lake/Flato are living examples that I admire.  Other modern masters such as Lou Kahn, Jean Prouve, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra are equally inspiring.  They all demonstrate a great respect for the integrity of materials and how a building ages in place.  I try to emulate their examples and think about how every material can be assembled in a lasting and pleasing way.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I try to break complex problems into smaller pieces first and then focus on fundamentals (insert any sports metaphor here) and how those fundamentals then inform the appropriate technical solution – all the while with an eye toward nurturing and improving the intended design direction.  I try to achieve elemental and rational compositions that tame the inherent complexity of modern building materials and assemblies, while maintaining a sensitivity to the building trades that actually interpret and then construct our designs.

Q: What is your equivalent animal? (looks or personality)

I’ve always been a chameleon that quickly blends in and adapts to any situation.

Traversing the North Island of New Zealand...

By Tai Ikegami

This summer, I learned how to drive on the left side of the road as we covered the North Island of New Zealand on a family vacation. After spending a couple of nights in Auckland, we headed north to the Karikari Peninsula, driving through stunning sceneries along the way, and foraging for mussels at Langs Beach. There were almost too many beaches, waterfalls, caves, etc. to keep track of, but Maitai Bay was a definite standout with its picture perfect crescent beach. Luckily for us, it was the off-season so we had the beach all to ourselves!

We headed back down south after a few days, passing back through Auckland and further south to check out the glowworm caves in Waitomo, followed by Hobbiton. I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies but the Hobbit village was a big hit with the kids. The set is meticulously designed, and includes what was at the time the most expensive movie prop in history – a fake tree. The original tree was taken down between the movies so they had to construct a fake tree to match, with every leaf carefully hand painted. And I thought architects dwell on details too much…

We then explored the areas around Lake Rotorua, before heading over to the Karangahake Gorge and Coromandel Peninsula where we kept seeing more stunning sceneries, many reminiscent of northern California but much more dramatic, grand, and lush – plus you see a lot more sheep. Geysers and natural hot springs were some of the highlights from this area. At Hot Water Beach, visitors who arrive at low tide can dig a pit on the beach and enjoy the ocean front natural hot spring until the tide comes back in.

New Zealand is a beautiful place with hospitable people. We are already planning another trip to explore the South Island the next time.

Before heading back to SF, we traveled to another place where cars drive on the left to spend some time with the family and eat good food. Here are a few fun extracurricular activities we explored while in Japan:

MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM teamLab Borderless

teamLab Borderless:
I had seen the works of teamLab a few times before, in the US and Japan, but this was definitely the largest by far. It’s basically a 10,000-square meter indoor amusement park filled with their greatest hits.

Archi-Depot:
Part gallery, part model maker and storage service, this place typically has interesting architecture related exhibits all year around. There was one show on Corbusier and another one showcasing architectural models from select architects in their 30’s. Very inspiring.
https://archi-depot.com/
https://www.instagram.com/archi_depot/

Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum:
Mori Museum was hosting a very well done exhibit on the history of Japanese architecture. It did a fabulous job of mapping out a very concise picture of the evolution of the architecture in Japan, from very traditional to the arrival of the west/modern and to the modern architecture Japan is now well known for. Having only studied architecture in the US, it really helped to connect the dots from my perspective.

Tanihata Kumiko Ramma Showroom:
I also had the chance to visit the showroom of Tanihata. Kumiko is an amazing woodworking technique that dates back to the Asuka Era (600-700 AD) wherein hundreds of small wood parts are precisely cut and fitted together to form an intricately patterned wood screen, called ranma, without any use of fasteners or adhesives. We hope to have it incorporated into one of our projects as a privacy screen for the master bath.

Fall Newsletter 2018...

Welcome Autumn!

Photo shoots, office-outings, and many staff vacations have defined our summer this year. We’re all happy to welcome in the fall and prepare for the holiday season. First however, we have to get through SF summer!

Photo by Meg Messina Photography

Many of our projects were professionally photographed in recent months and this past August we updated our staff profile pics as well! Our newer staff members were given the chance to pose for their professional head shots and the entire team finally sat down for an updated group photo. As you can see, no staff portrait is complete without one of our wonderful office dogs! We’d like to thank Meg Messina for once again capturing our good sides and for being such a delight to work with.

Our Studio Assistant, Serena Brown, was recently promoted to Marketing Coordinator and has been enjoying giving her role new life in the form of brainstorming marketing campaigns, organizing staff events, and all things social media related!  We encourage anyone interested in collaborating in marketing ventures, press releases, publications, award efforts, etc. to introduce yourself to Serena at sbrown@feldmanarch.com.

We’re excited to share that our Twin Peaks project won bronze in the 2018 Master Design Awards. More photos from this San Francisco remodel are featured in a recently released Metropolis Magazine article, found HERE.

Photo by Joe Fletcher Photography

A number of our hands on staffers have been hard at work these past couple of months transforming a chair for Chairity 2018. Chairity is an annual event hosted by Project Color Corps and Raphael House to raise money for the local community. Over 20 design firms from the San Francisco area come together each year to transform their assigned chair and give it new life.

Our firm’s “Sculptchair” is an experimental exploration of the cushioned seat, which features interchangeable chair tops as a playful ode to our interaction with the sitting surface. While molding concrete into fabric, and engraving the original upholstery pattern into the seat, we have literally and figuratively pushed and pulled at the limits of comfort, treating the seat as an object in itself. All chairs will be auctioned off Thursday, October 11th. Stay tuned for a post about our creative process and the final results!

A few of our designers chose the summer and fall seasons to take trips overseas. Tai and his family traveled to Japan and New Zealand, while Jess and her husband Chris also visited the land of the rising sun. Evan and his girlfriend Jenna traveled to Vietnam where they took stunning photos of both the bustling cities and gorgeous scenery. Serena and her boyfriend Jeremy jetted off to Europe to explore cities around Portugal and Spain, visiting six different cities during their eleven day trip! Be sure to watch out for posts on all of these exciting trips on our blog!

Finally, we are happy to announce that Sophia and Charlie welcomed a new bundle of joy to their family this month. Henry was born on October 1st and his new parents are over the moon!

As the holiday season approaches, we wish all of you good cheer and hopefully low-stress. From our family to yours, have a wonderful rest of the year!
-Feldman Architecture

Site Visit: East Bay Hills...

By Serena Brown

A few weeks ago, our office made the journey across the Bay Bridge to visit a project nearly 10 years in the making. Four houses sit atop a large lot in the East Bay Hills, soon to be occupied by four siblings, along with their families. Originally the site of their childhood home, the lot was cleared and divided to accommodate the new individual structures. Inspired by the five sects of traditional Chinese medicine, each of the four houses embodies a different theme. From left to right, the elements assigned to each are metal, earth, water, and wood. The fifth element, fire, is represented by the fire pit in the shared backyard

We began our tour in the Water House and were immediately introduced to the embodiment of its name—a beautiful water feature running the length of the front door to the kitchen. Following the trough, the floor plan then opens up into the great room, designed with floor to ceiling glass walls and striking white cabinetry. Our designers were able to take their time exploring the house; opening cupboards, meandering through rooms, and enjoying the view. The palette of the Water House is minimalist and clean, with white walls, dark hardwood, and black railings throughout.

By contrast, the Wood House next door feels warmer, its palette consisting of lighter wood panels and honey-colored floors. Its namesake is obvious, a tall wooden wall running the length of the stairs, fitted with subtle strips of light. Adjacent to the wooden wall is a large glass panel spanning both floors, a beautiful detail our designers appreciated in more than one of the four houses. An interesting feature in the living room took a bit of explaining at first glance. The architect had designed a customized sliding mount which was fabricated as a frame for a future commissioned piece of art. By sliding the painting to the left, they’re able to entirely cover their television, transforming the wall into a unique statement piece.

During our tour, the owner of the Wood House explained the process by which they assigned lots to the four siblings. When the project first broke ground, her two year old son was given the task of pulling slips of paper labeled ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ out of hat and handing them to his aunts and uncles. Each slip was connected to a corresponding lot. Whatever letter they received was theirs to inhabit. It seemed like a random and fair system to me!

Next on our tour was the Earth House, aptly represented by a large boulder placed at the foot of the stair in the foyer. The stone was selected by one of the owners amongst the dozens of large boulders unearthed by the excavation for the new homes. He collaborated closely with our design team on many of the more artistic features, many of which are found in his house, the final stop on our tour.

Despite being assigned the element metal, the owner of the final house took inspiration from a different aspect of nature: the sky. Named Sky House, the structure boasts a beautiful floating meditation room, countless skylights, and a roof deck with phenomenal views of the bay.  A custom light fixture in the main stairwell was created to represent the steps on the journey after death, the lights creating a path leading up into the heavens.In the meditation room, tucked away at the top of the stairs, two large glass panels replace a section of the floor, giving the illusion of hovering between the earth and the sky. A glass folding door opens up onto the upper deck, adding to the outdoor connection.

The four houses share a backyard, connected by a series of wooden decks and walkways. Behind the Water House sits a pool, surrounded by drainage troughs and newly planted greenery. The owners already have plans for family dinners and shared holidays on the outer deck. The owner of Sky House is especially excited to have the opportunity to watch his nephews grow right outside his door. The individual who seems most pleased by the four-house development is the sibling’s mother, who now has her children and grandchildren all within arm’s reach. During our tour I was inspired and reminded of the closeness of my own family, my mother being the oldest of five siblings. Like this family, we too make efforts each year to spend holidays together and to visit as we scatter further across California. It was wonderful to observe not only the beautiful houses this family has created, but also the close bond they so obviously share. I’m looking forward to seeing the houses fully complete within the next few months as punch lists are wrapped up and personal touches are added in. Special thanks to the family for allowing us to tour and for sharing their special story with us all!

Staff Spotlight: Nick Polansky...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up between Fairfax in west Marin County and North Beach here in the city. I spent most of my time growing up in the woods, exploring creeks, mountain biking, and playing on rope swings we put up.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Berkeley for undergrad and MIT for Graduate work. I actually was in an engineering academy in high school where I learned to use CAD to design robots, gizmos and bridges. The CAD skill landed me an internship with a landscape architect doing cad plans and helping design a wetland revitalization plan. I ended up getting a BA in architecture and a minor in Landscape architecture when I was at Berkeley. I guess you could say I came to architecture from the outside. A systems based approach. Architecture to me is an object in the landscape and part are part of a larger ecosystem. MIT expanded on this working at the scale of the city to the scale of the electron. MIT was intense and amazing. It’s like I was in the future; an optimistic future.

Q: Tell me about your family?

My mom met my dad at a non-profit ad agency where she was the art director/graphic designer and my dad was the creative director. They both still work in the non-profit sector. My dad grew up in North Carolina, my mom in Southern California. I have an older brother who lives in Oakland with his wife, who’s a floral artist, and their six month old daughter Ellia. He works for a non-profit travel agency that takes kids from inner city neighborhoods and schools to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The program is called Global Glimpse. Most students return having gotten their first glimpse of a global identity and they go on to use that story in application essays for college. I love my family. I love being an uncle. They keep me in the Bay Area.

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

I came to architecture through landscape architecture and honestly I came to landscape architecture through skateboarding. This was the urban side. When I was young, I was looking for every opportunity; nooks, crannies, rails, gaps, ledges, ramps; every details of the environment to interact with. It taught me about transition and continuity; fluidity and freedom in space. This same choreography translates into my interiors and how the human body moves.  I discovered Lawrence Halprin while skating the Justin Herman Plaza and his studies with dance were really inspiring. It really got me interested in landscapes and later the social and political aspects of public space. That, in conjunction with engineering projects in high school helped set me up to see how design works across all scales. Architecture seemed like a perfect place to view that range from, from the technical, social and environmental.

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

Good projects are really dependent on the people and the way we communicate, the expectations of the clients and how comfortable we are in the unknown. In the end, what we are doing has never been done before. The better understanding of the forces shaping the project, the easier it is to listen and respond with what is appropriate and natural, elegant and effortless. The project itself can be anything from the design of a fork to a whole city block. I love experimental art projects as well that test perception and experience. These act as tests for larger architecture environments. Those can get really interesting. I also like making sculptures our or wood, steel, and concrete, exploring the unknown purely through intuition.

In this office I’ve worked on a range of projects, everything from offices, restaurants, and residential remodels and ground up homes. Each of them is different and I like that diversity. The office is about the process of creative production; the evolution of an idea. The restaurant is about performance, acting as a stage like a theater. The residential projects are my favorite because they will last and be loved. Love to me is the essential element of sustainability. That is what makes it last for generations.

 Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started June 15th of 2015. 3 years.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think it’s the collaborative atmosphere, the ethics behind the type of work we do, the type of clients we get to work with, the dogs, and the positive and diverse perspectives. We truly value each other.

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

The vibe.

Q: If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

I already live everyday like it’s my last. LOL. Gather my loved ones, climb a mountain, meditate and prepare for the afterlife.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Alonzo King. Charles and Ray Eames. MLK.

Q: What’s your design process like?

It’s intuitive and rational simultaneously. I really like to set up frameworks that allow flexibility and the spontaneity of life to occur within. The initial design problem is defining the problem and the constraints. There is a system that governs the structural, infrastructural, and formal language of the architecture while the social space is organic, soft and flexible. I need to set up rules that give me freedom. It is a harmony of materials, space and time, structure, climate, air and light and the unexpected experience of discovery. Every story is different and it’s constantly evolving.

Q: What question would you not want to be asked in an interview?

If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

Third Thursday September 2018: Fyrn...

By Chris Kay

­­­As architects and designers, part of our job is helping our clients pick quality materials for their homes. When it comes to furniture, it pays to put our hands on the products so we can feel the quality of the materials firsthand. When we suggest a chair for a home, the hope is that that chair will not only blend seamlessly into our design but will also stand up to the tests of time – or the tests of your labradoodle thinking they deserve a place at the table.

A few months back before I made my way to Feldman, I came across one of these chairs. Just a stone’s throw away in the heart of the mission is a company that exuberates these qualities. I found Fyrn while searching through job listings. In researching the company, I was immediately drawn to their website and its immaculate portrayal of the line of furniture they are producing. There “Stemn” line is a modern rendition of the classic American Hitchcock chair, retaining the simplicity of the original chair but completely rethought to meet the demands of today’s production needs. Though totally unqualified for their “CNC Programmer/Machinist” listing, I reached out to Fyrn in hope of learning more. To my surprise, the two head honchos responded in kind and we set up a time to meet. I met Ros and Dave at Sightglass, which seemed to be a precautionary vetting location to make sure I wasn’t a patent spy with ill intentions. Whatever I said instilled enough trust in them to walk me over to the workshop – or toy store, depending who you ask. All I can say is that my tour of the space forever changed the way I think about furniture production and how I can strive for the same values that Fyrn instills in their furniture in my own work.

Fast forward a few months and I find my way to Feldman. When I heard about our Third Thursday program I jumped at the opportunity to share what I had been shown in the Fyrn laboratory.

For our most recent Third Thursday, the Feldman team headed over to the mission with cheese and beer in hand to meet the makers at Fyrn. Upon arrival we were greeted by their team in a newly remodeled space lined with examples of each and every piece of their furniture line. Our designers quickly took to testing as we gathered around, sitting on each version of the Stemn line. As everyone got settled, partners Ros and Dave began to tell us about the line and how it came to be. At the heart of their work is a desire to bring people together through a system that changes the relationship between people and the objects they choose for their homes. The thing about Fyrn’s furniture is not that it is flat packable, but that the entire system is modulus and uses minimal connections across the line. This makes the it easy to put together but also easy to replace an individual part if something were to ever break – which is unlikely due to the shear quality in the materials they use. The Stemn line was designed with this intention and hopes of, “moving people away from a disposable culture by creating a sense of connection between people, place and materials”. This is a mentality that most architects can agree with.

We continued our tour through to the workshop where the real operations take place. As we walked around the space, Ros and Dave walked us through the everyday processes of creating their product. Their organization quickly became apparent as they explained their operations from one step to the next. In San Francisco, space is sparce. To deal with this, Fyrn’s shop is in a constant state of flux as heavy machinery, equipment, and material move through the space to accommodate each process of the production. The lack of space partly influences the design of the products themselves. Flat packable furniture comes with the perks of being flat storable as well. So each small piece of the Stemn system has its place in a custom storage solution further displaying the ingenuity of the designers at Fyrn.

What sets Fyrn apart in my eyes is their attention and patience in designing a piece of furniture that meets today’s needs for fast paced production while maintaining the quality of a handmade chair built to last through generations. These heirlooms allow people to connect with one another through the familiarity of an uncommon object – not dissimilar to the intentions of an architect and their building.

Thank you Fyrn for allowing us to see your process. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

If you would like to learn more about Fyrn, you can go to their website or follow them on Instagram @fyrn_sf

Staff Spotlight: Matt Lindsay...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up in Maine in a pretty small town outside of Portland (which I think of as the primary Portland). The town is called North Yarmouth and is a rural area outside of the surrounding suburbs. We never moved around when I was younger, my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in. I would say I had a pretty typical childhood in terms of activities. My friends and I played a lot outside and played sports in school. I left home after my sophomore year in high school to attend boarding school in Massachusetts for my last two years. Boarding school was hard, but I loved it. Most of my closest friends in San Francisco (and in life) are from my time there.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to Cornell and studied in the five-year architecture program. I chose Cornell because I got in and enjoyed my accepted student visit to the campus. I don’t think that I quite knew what to expect studying architecture and found the program really challenging. I was always a good student in high school, but architecture was like nothing I had ever done before and I initially struggled with the creative process.

Q: Who is in your family?

I’m the oldest of two; I have a younger sister who’s five years younger. Starting in the spring, she’ll be going to graduate school for occupational therapy. My parents moved to Maine in the late 70s after both growing up out-of-state — my mom is from New Jersey and Illinois and my dad is from New York. They’re both great — super nice people who were incredibly supportive and never really had an agenda for me growing up. They always wanted me to be my own person and maintained a very low-pressure household. I think I put way more pressure on myself growing up than they did.

My wife Abby I met in San Francisco, but she’s also from the east coast—Philadelphia. She’s a medical sales rep and is way more organized and perhaps even more type A than I am (we’re both kind of type A…). Plus, she’s hilarious and fun. We took a trip to Europe a few months ago where we did some hiking and spent time with her family — her parents were celebrating their 65th birthdays and retirement.

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

It was in high school that I first identified an interest in architecture. It was an implied interest—I was good at math and enjoyed art, and I never felt like I was very strong in humanities. I also knew that I loved building and making things; I got really into wood shop at kid at summer camp. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college I kind of looked at all the interests that I had and architecture was at the intersection of all of them.

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

I’m very detail oriented so I love working on projects with a high level of craft and an imbedded logic. I enjoy the projects that have a kind of governing system that guides the design — the Santa Cruz House is a good example. Along with that, every architect always wants a good client who knows when to provide input and when to step back and trust their designer. I also like projects that have unique constraints—like site or program—because they provide some complexity to the project and give us the opportunity to be creative.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Almost three years. I started in September of 2015 right before I got married. I moved out to SF in October of 2010, so I have been here about 8 years ago. Before starting at Feldman, I worked for a smaller firm in San Francisco for a little over 4 years.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I would say the lack of ego and diversity of interests. I also find it funny that several people in our office care about sports! I’ve never worked in an architecture firm where anyone has ever cared about sports. Here, at least 40-50% have an invested interest and everyone else is just ‘forced’ to participate in things like March Madness.

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

Besides just being around my coworkers, I really enjoy the opportunity to learn from them. There is an enormous collective knowledge about building and design in the office and I really love sharing, collaborating, and learning from everyone around me.

Q: What are five features you would include in your dream home?

It’s funny because I don’t have a clear answer, but it’s something I think about probably way too much. It comes up a lot, especially in conversations with my wife. I think I would have a similar answer to many people in the office in that I like modern design.

I want something that has an indoor outdoor connection, something that is beautiful and livable without being stark. Also, I would love to have a wood shop and social kitchen space—my wife and I cook a lot and we inevitably spend parties crammed into our small kitchen with friends. The last thing I’d like is a garden.  Something that looks pretty but is also functional; where we can grow vegetables.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I really admire an architect I worked for in Maine—Carol Wilson. Her practice is small and her process is pretty old school but she does beautiful modern projects in a state that is not known for progressive architecture.

I also think I have been influenced by living in Bay Area in that I have a lot of respect for entrepreneurs, especially in the design field. I’m interested in people who studied architecture or design and went on to build a business/passion outside of or adjacent to the industry.  For example, one of the founders of WeWork started as an architect.  I’m always up for a good origin story.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I have a tendency to be quite linear in my process. I have to constantly force myself to step back and question my assumptions. I’m a very logical person by nature so I like identifying problems and creating rule or parameters for myself. I think I’m happiest designing once I have a guiding concept and I can dive into the details to execute the design.

Q: What time period would you choose to live in (past or potential future)

Can I go back to the eight years that Obama was in office?

2018 Furniture Society Conference...

By Nick Polansky

This year I was invited to speak at the 2018 Furniture Society Conference, a 4-day event including presentations from furniture makers and artists from across the nation. This year’s theme was Nexus, which looks at the intersection of technology and art as it relates to the evolving field of furniture making. It took place at Dogpatch Studios on June 13-16. There talks ranged from Women in Technology, to a girl’s project-based learning school, Project H Design in Oakland where underserved communities are given access to technology and the built environment. Other talks honored the great Wendelle Castle and the keynote Speaker Allan Wexler gave a talk presenting his new book “Absurd thinking between Art and Design.” I felt right at home.

My own talk was about my work that began during my Artist Residency at Autodesk in 2015. It was a simple talk about cutting wood. I was nervous, knowing I was not a trained furniture maker but my experience with digital tooling and material exploration allowed me to tell a compelling story. At first I shared basic milling patterns from rift sawn, plain sawn, and quarter sawn and described the properties of each resulting grain type. I then shared my work cutting planks of wood with a table saw and band saw, two analogue tools found in most wood working shops. The wood was cut with thin kerfs allowing it to flex and expand, changing the properties of hard wood to a “soft wood”. I wanted to transfer this operation to a tool with capabilities that these conventional tools did not have and one foreign to wood working.

While at Autodesk I had access a 55,000 psi waterjet cutter. The interesting advantage to this tool besides being able to cut through 5” of stainless steel or stone, was that it could pierce in the center of the material with no lead in or lead out. I used the tool to cut a series of kerf patterns into varies sizes and types of wood. I then steamed the wood and jacked the forms open with wedges and threaded rods. The result were large accordions that could take a 2×8 and expand into a 2×16 with beautiful bent patterns. I created a screen, a column, and a bench. They bridge the threshold of function and art.

The images and diagrams were presented in simple and clear drawings and black and white photographs. The vocabulary was kept simple and straight forward and resulted in a lively discussion following the talk. The majority of the room was interested in the process and potentials. For instance, could an entire log be cut on a waterjet? What types of joints could you make? Could you do this without a waterjet? The keynote speaker for the conference, Allan Wexler, was in the audience and he was impressed by the work and encouraged me to continue exploring. He thought the process and presentation was both technologically precise and brutally analogue, the balance I continue to achieve in my work. He said they represented a limit beyond which they would no longer exist, as if frozen moments of destruction.

The conference gave me great confidence to continue sharing and creating more work. On October 11 I will be showing alongside Cathy Liu at Matarozzi & Pelisnger Builders. I look forward to sharing the unique work with artists and architects, builders, and clients as I continue my art practice of finding balance.

Third Thursday August 2018: Amy Campos...

By Serena Brown

After a few months of summer schedules and overseas trips for many of our designers, it was nice to reconvene altogether for the first Third Thursday of the autumn season. Amy Campos, an associate Professor of Interior Design at California College of the Arts and good friend of our very own Lindsey Theobald, stopped by last Thursday evening to introduce her new book to our office. The book, Interiors Beyond Architecture challenges the previous narrative of interior design, and introduces various case studies that question the ambiguity surrounding the boundaries between architecture and interiors.

Revolving around themes of shifting identity, ownership, community, and space, each case study tackles a different facet of the discussion surrounding interior design and attempts to provide a new take on the age old discipline. Historically, interior design has been viewed and treated as subset of architecture, however for as long as the two have been intertwined, the complexity of the relationship has been studied and challenged.

©Designboom

There were a few case studies in particular that stood out to our designers, the first of which being ‘The Wheel’ by Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley, an experiment in tandem living. The two artists lived on a wheel-like structure for 10 days, coordinating schedules and movement for every activity. The project dealt with ideas of spatial identity and embracing uncertainty and the way occupants “can use space in innovative ways to further their own sense of agency and self-determination” (Schweder, 69). It was fascinating to see the ways the artists’ lives become intermingled to the point of coordinating their bathroom and sleep schedules!

The idea of designers as ‘professional imaginers’ (not imagineers!) came up a few times in our discussion of media’s influence on design and vice versa. Architects, designers, and all artistic individuals essentially imagine for a living, describing things that don’t yet exist and communicating those ideas to the public, often times through media. Amy invited us to ponder how we know what we know about different fields, including our own, alluding to the influence of media in shaping our realities. Due to the growth of shows on HGTV and other design-based channels, designers have been given more opportunities to project their ideas into the mainstream, affecting not just the artistic sector, but the day-to-day realities of the average consumer.

Of course the question of sustainability in architecture was also a topic of conversation, us being an office focused on sustainable design.  Amy and our designers agree that designing a building or space to “last forever” isn’t sustainable, but she encouraged us to embrace the fleeting nature of design. Many interior firms create for the season, with consumers trading out pieces of furniture as they would trade out articles of clothing. Just as fast fashion is detrimental to the world around us, ‘fast design’ is no different. As designers we have the opportunity to shift and change that conversation surrounding sustainability and design—encouraging consumers towards better practices, and building pieces to improve the environment around us, rather than harm it.

The discussion eventually wound down after confronting the same cyclical question from which we began: is viewing the separation of interior design and architecture a positive or negative, or does it matter at all? The answer to that question is more complex than an hour of conversation can solve, but I invite you to ponder it all the same.

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Amy, for coming in and waking up our brains at 4pm on a Thursday. I’m sure her students appreciate her and her knowledge just as we do, and we hope to see her again soon!

To read more of Amy’s work, check out here new book, Interiors Beyond Architecture, which can be found HERE.

Staff Spotlight: Liza Karimova...

Q: Where are you from?

I’m from Moscow, Russia, but I was born in Austria. I moved here about five years ago to attend university and before that I was living in Switzerland for a few years. I’ve lived in four different countries so far.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to UC Berkeley for architecture. In addition to the standard undergraduate curriculum I took some material science engineering classes.

Before attending university here, I visited California only once, but I really liked it. UC Berkeley was actually the only school I applied to in California and when I decided to come here my parents had a bit of a shock. They didn’t want me to move so far away from my family after already being in boarding school for 4 years. It took a bit of convincing but here I am!

Q: Who is in your family?

My parents, two dogs, and a twin brother who looks nothing like me! He’s much taller and blonde. I also have a tiny parrot who I haven’t seen in ages. Technically he’s a replacement parrot since they don’t live very long… I don’t know what he’s called anymore!

Q: What is one talent you wish you had?

I wish I could do a backflip… my goal is to learn how to do one before I die.

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

In high school I always enjoyed art, physics, and English and I thought architecture was a good way to combine all three. I also attended after-school art classes for four years, where we created for hours every day after regular school.

Honestly though, at first I really didn’t want to do it because my parents were pressuring me into it. Until one summer I took an architecture course at USC. It was the first time I stayed up all night working on a project, which I weirdly found really fun and fulfilling.

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

I really enjoy projects that have some room for the unknown, where the design process can be like an experiment. It fascinates me to design living and working spaces, because it reveals so much about human nature. I have always enjoyed the sciences, so this is that part of me speaking.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Just over a year! Not counting my internship.

Q: What makes our office unique?

A lot of people say that it feels like a family – which is true, minus the drama. Everyone is so laid back! I love how comfortable we feel around each other.

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

There’s so much positivity and laughter! People really care about staying happy and making beautiful architecture. I also love our roof deck, I go there quite a lot.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I wouldn’t say that I have a role model, but I do have people I’m inspired by. Most of them are on the conceptual side of architecture. For example I like the work of John Hejduk and Martin Heidegger. They think outside the box and outside constraints of reality. I guess their work is more concerned with the human condition, temporality, and symbolism.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I try to stick to one simple idea but I almost always get side-tracked. And that often ends up being the best part- happy accidents! Although when I overthink things, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether an idea is good or just absurd. I always fluctuate between a logical and scientific approach, and a more intuitive one – sometimes, it’s hard to find the right balance of both!

Q: If someone designed a drink after you, what would be in it/what would it taste like?

A caramel latte, sometimes with a few shots of whiskey.

 

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