Constructing the Coastal Shelter...

By Mike Trentacosti

As architects/designers, we are trained and trusted with designing, drawing, and supervising the construction of our projects. Very rarely do we find ourselves on a job site rolling up our sleeves and picking up a hammer. This is a dichotomy in our profession that I have often questioned. How, as architects and designers, are we expected to know how to properly draw our buildings if we have never built one ourselves? How are we to detail properly if we do not know the construction sequencing that must take place in order to build that detail correctly and for it to function? Rarely do we as architects get to design, draw, and construct our projects ourselves. So when the opportunity arose recently for me to go help a fellow architect and close friend build his own project, it was an experience I could not pass up.

It all started with a phone call a little over two years ago, from one of my closest friends I had met while studying environmental design at the University of Colorado. During that call, we discussed his plans to purchase a piece of land just off of Highway 1 somewhere between Port Orford and Golden Beach, on the iconic Pacific Northwest coast of Oregon. At the time I had no idea where this was, but judging from the photos he had sent me, the land looked like something out of a movie. Towering redwoods intermixed with that famous Pacific Northwest rain forest. Fog in the mornings and crystal clear blue skies in the afternoon. It was truly magnificent. At the time of the call, I had just returned from a design-build studio praxis where we built a tiny structure, and I was yearning for another opportunity to get my hands dirty and pick up a hammer.  As the months passed though, I didn’t hear anything from him and began to wonder if he had followed through on his plans to purchase the property after all.

Finally, a few months ago, I got the call. “Hey buddy, I purchased the land! I’m going to start designing an accessory structure soon, stay tuned.” At that point, I had no idea when the project was finally going to get started, but I knew it was an opportunity I’d wait for. After that phone call, we started having monthly design charrettes over the phone or through face-time, and as they went on the project began to come to life. Next thing I knew, May was rolling around and the dates had been set. My buddy Cam was going to be taking off from his job from late July into early August, with the bulk of the work coming sometime during the final week of the build. So with that information I began to plan my trip. Over another phone call we discussed options of where I should fly into; the land being so remote that there are only a few realistic options for getting to it. Portland was 5 hours north, so that was out. Eugene was three hours northeast, so that was also out. Which left me with my only option. I was to fly into a small remote airport just south of the Oregon/ California border. I reluctantly booked my flight, unsure of what I was getting myself into, and set my plans to travel to Oregon.

As the trip rapidly approached, I began to dive deeper into the project. Phone calls became more and more frequent. We began to construct a list of materials, tools, and a building schedule. The site was still in flux but would be chalked out later. Itineraries were set and the team was rapidly coming together.  The build team was to consist of three friends from architecture school, one artist, and myself. A dream team, if you will. Some of us had building experience while others had little to no experience. So right from the get go, I knew it was going to be a learning opportunity for all of us.

Before any of us knew it, it was time to get the project going. I made one last phone call to Cam to wish him the best of luck and let him know that I would be seeing him very soon. As the weeks leading up to my departure approached and passed I began to wonder what was going on with the build. I had reached out to Cam a few times during the weeks leading up, but I was often left in the dark on the build. After our brief conversations, I was frequently left to ponder whether the build was actually even happening or if everything on site was okay. But really, he was keeping me in the dark to ensure that he got the most out of my reaction when I first saw the project. Finally the day came for me to leave. As I sat at my gate about to board a small 20 seat “puddle jumper”, the thought crossed my mind one more time, “What the heck have I gotten myself into?” I gave Cam one last call, confirmed he was going to be there when I landed, and boarded my flight.

My plane ride was only about 45 minutes, so I found myself in this small remote airport in Crescent City California before I knew it. Of course Cam wasn’t there when I landed, so there was a brief moment of concern, but I found a small picnic table out front of the airport and plopped myself down and waited. After about ten minutes of waiting, I finally saw Cam rapidly approaching. I threw my bag in the back and jumped in. The first thing I noticed was how dirty he was. He was sitting there in the driver’s seat covered in a thick coat of dirt, carpenter pencil behind his ear and a smile on his face. “What’s up buddy… you ready?”

I thought I was ready, but boy was I in for a treat. We departed on our hour and half trip up the coast to the property and for the entirety of the journey I was left in awe of the pure beauty, power, and surrealism that the Pacific Northwest coast has to offer. Once we finally got to his property, it was dark out, so unfortunately I wasn’t fully able to take in full view of the land just yet. I jumped out of the car, greeted my buddies, grabbed a beer and demanded that Cam show me the site. Until this point I had only seen a couple pictures of the project, so I had no idea what state the build was at, nor did I have any real clue as to what the project looked like. With some convincing, we finally began our short but strenuous hike down to the site. As we approached the bottom of the hill he made me stop and slowly turn my light on to what was the building. At first glance I was astounded. But this was still when it was dark out. Therefore I was only able to take in what my headlamp could shed its light on. But there it was, tall sleek V columns protruding up out of the structural framing, with the roof sloping upwards, gently returning back to the hills beyond. I turned back to Cam, and with a smile on his face he said “wait till the morning bud”. We hung around the site for a couple more minutes then climbed back up the hill and hung out around camp, catching up with some old friends for the remainder of the night.

The next morning I was the first one up and eagerly unzipped my tent, only to find one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever witnessed. For an hour or so, I was the only one up, and I just sat there and took in the view. After some coffee, a few stories, and laughs, we all slowly made our way down to the site. As I climbed down the hill, this time with a handful of lumber and my tool belt strapped to my back, I began to get the full experience of the site.

Little by little, step by step, the building started to unveil itself to me, only to be finally framed by the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. The building was perfectly sited on the corner of a hill gently touching back to the land. I sat there for a few moments in absolute awe. I practically dropped all the lumber. I turned back to Cam, who just smiled back at me. Not a word was said between us in that interaction but somehow we both knew what the other was thinking.

Finally, I collected myself and got down to it. I discussed with Cam my role on the build and we got right to it. I was in charge of hanging all of the slatted 2×2 members that were to wrap the entirety of the building. Cam and I sat there for a few minutes discussing and drawing out the sequencing of the design and detailing of the rain screen. Then, piece by piece, we assembled the slatted wall. As we went along, we experienced ups and we experienced downs. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. That’s the beauty of building. It’s never perfect but it’s what you take out of the process that stays with you longer than the successes of the build. I think those are some of the most important lessons that I was able to take out of this project. Every build is different, each offering its own hardships and lessons, but it’s overcoming those challenges that ultimately helps you progress as a designer and builder.

Over the few days I was on site, we experienced quite a few of these challenging moments. We would work from sunup till past sundown. We worked until we weren’t able to see in front of our faces and we were only able to build what was lit by our headlamps or lanterns. It was as true of a learning experience that I have ever had.

Then as quickly as it started, it ended. The last day of the build was upon us. There was a lot left to do. When we woke up that morning, there was an unspoken determination amongst us that the goal of the day was to progress the project as far as we could before we had to wrap up to shoot the project with whatever light remained. When the day finally wrapped up, we rushed to clean up the site. Then we all of took one collective moment before the shoot to sit on the deck as a group, enjoy a cold beer and soak in everything that had led up to this moment. It was in that moment that I turned around and caught Cam in a moment of reflection. It’s moments like that as an architect that you strive for. He sat back and soaked in what he was able to not only design but create with his own two hands. This as an architect is the moment in which you realize you were able to take a drawing, consisting of only lines, and turn it into something real. That moment where you see your true potential, where you realize you took a pile of raw lumber, pieced it together, and turned it into a true sculpture; when you see the idea you imagined finally come to fruition.  That night, we wrapped up the photo shoot, cleaned up the site some more, and just sat on the deck and enjoyed our last moments with the structure*

The next morning, we all woke up at the crack of dawn, grabbed a couple more pictures of the project, packed up our belongings, and said our goodbyes. As we left the land and drove up the coast, I spent those moments reflecting on what I had learned from this trip. It was at that time that I reflected on the power of building. I think as architects, we often take building for granted as we only get to experience it from a one sided perspective. When we get the rare opportunity to experience the other side, it is the lessons that we draw from those success and failures that ultimately make us better designers and architects.

*This project is still ongoing as it is planned to evolve over time with its program

Designed By: Cameron LeBleu
Build Team:
Cameron LeBleu
Rob Hollis
Maxwell Justman
Bryce Duane
Michael Trentacosti
Photography By: Maxwell Justman

 

Staff Spotlight: Ben Welty...

Q: Where are you from?

Summerville, South Carolina. It’s a suburb of Charleston that had a small town feel while I was growing up but has gotten much bigger as urban sprawl has taken hold. Regardless, I have no plans of going back.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I received a BA in Architecture from Clemson University before heading to the University of Kansas to get my Masters. I chose KU to participate in their renowned Studio 804 design/build program.

Q: Who is in your family?

My parents are both retired and still live in the house I grew up in. My brother lives in my hometown as well and I’ve got two nieces and nephews.

My wife is an interior designer. We met at the University of Kansas and both moved out here after graduating. We got married in June of last year and had our reception in our current office back when it was an event space. We held the last event here before it became our design studio. Jonathan and Steven now sit where we had our first dance.

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

As a kid I was always playing with Legos and exploring houses under construction in my neighborhood. I just walked onto the construction sites on the weekends when no one was around; we didn’t ask. My aunt was a builder so I would spend some time as a kid with her on job sites.

I also took some architecture classes in high school, mostly drafting classes, before formally studying it in college.

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

I mostly enjoy working on custom residential projects, specifically single family residential. I like doing new houses and new construction as well as remodels in the city. There are different aspects and challenges to both that I enjoy.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Four years this past May. Before starting here I was working at a small firm in SOMA.

Q: What makes our office unique?

Our collaborative design process and the fact that it’s not a top down approach. Everyone gets involved, has a voice, and contributes. And that’s encouraged.

Plus, it’s only a ten minute walk from my house!

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

It’s so close!

I just enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by such talented individuals who have a passion for what they do. They make me a better architect and designer.

Q: If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

SOUTH Carolina style BBQ pulled pork dressed in Carolina gold, a mustard based BBQ sauce. Not to be confused with the more colloquial Carolina style pulled pork from eastern North Carolina, an amalgamation of poorly cooked meat and an astringent vinegar-based sauce that is masked with a scoop of coleslaw. If you have to put coleslaw on your BBQ, it’s not good BBQ.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Not really. I admire different aspects of a lot of people that I try to emulate and learn from, including everyone I’ve ever worked for or with.  I take notice of the qualities in others that I admire. Whatever characteristics I spot in them that make them successful and effective leaders are ones I try to adopt as well.

Q: What’s your design process like?

When assigned a project, I first like to dive into the history behind a site or building as well as its context. A lot can be learned by studying the nuances of a place, and more often than not those studies lead to design inspiration. From there it’s about creating spaces that are appropriate in their surroundings and functional in their purpose.

I like to work in section early on to apply a three dimensional perspective to the conceptual and schematic processes. Otherwise you run the risk of the tail wagging the dog if you try to force this perspective to conform to the two dimensional plan. However, that is not the only thing to be considered as architecture is actually experienced in four dimensions, time being the fourth, so an understanding of how a space will be experienced throughout the course of the day and year is also crucial.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?

Not really. I co-host a podcast that covers Clemson athletics but I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon.

See You Ying!...

On the whole I have had a very good internship experience at Feldman Architecture. I have to say, at first I thought my tasks as an intern would be limited to serving coffee or cleaning up the materials library. However, the office scheduled different tasks for me each day, and also tried to make me work with many different people on staff, really pushing me out of my comfort zone. I was pleased to note that the projects I worked on and kept up with were all interesting and rewarding.

As an international student, English is my second language. Sometimes it is hard for me to speak out during meetings or when I have a question. However, everyone in this firm is so nice and friendly. They are always so patient with me and answer all my questions. It makes me feel like this team is more like a family.

I feel so grateful to have had a chance to be part of the team, even for just two months. I want to say thank you to everyone, especially Steven. From working with you I learned a lot of things which cannot be learned in school. And thank you to Evan, Liza, and Serena, for being my mentors and friends, and for making my internship experience so much more wonderful.

It has been a great honor to meet you guys and I hope I can see you all soon.

-Ying Pan

The Winning Recipes!...

Our office recently hosted an in-house Chili Competition & Margarita Mix-Off. At the end of the evening, Daniel took home the prize for ‘Best Chili’ while Heera claimed the title for ‘Best Margarita’! Recipes below:

Spicy Cadillac Margarita — Heera Basi

Ingredients:
-Ice
-Tequila
-Lime
-Cointreau

Optional:
-Grand Marnier
-Jalapeno

 

Directions

1) Fill glass about 1/2 way with ice
2) Into the glass squeeze juice from 1 lime
3) Stir in 1-2 shots of Tequila (depending on how strong you like it! My recipe has about 1 1/2 shots) and 1 shot of Cointreau
5) You could stop here and enjoy!
OR…
6) Add a float of Grand Marnier on top to make it a “Cadillac” Margarita
7) Add 1-3 Jalapeno slices to give it a kick! Drink will start out mild, but the heat will build!

Green Chicken Chili – Daniel Holbrook

Ingredients:
-3 Poblano peppers
-4 Jalapeño peppers
-1 ½” pounds of Tomatillos
-1 onion
-5 cloves of garlic
-1 beer (similar to Corona or Pacifica)
-1 cup of sour cream
-2 cans of Cannellini Beans
-2 cups of Chicken broth
-1 ½” pounds of boneless skinless chicken thigh
-1 tablespoon of Cumin
-1 teaspoon Chile powder
-1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
-1/2 teaspoon or coriander
-1 teaspoon of honey
-salt and pepper to taste
-Cilantro
-Limes

 

Directions

1) Place Tomatillos, Poblanos and Jalapeños on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until skin is soft and blistered (10 minutes) Remove from oven.  Cover and let cool.
2) Once peppers and tomatillos are cool, remove blistered skin, Seed and rib the peppers and chop.
3) Season chicken with salt, pepper and a half teaspoon of Cumin.  In a heavy bottom pot, sear the chicken until brown on both sides.  Remove chicken and set aside.
4) Add onion and garlic to pot, sauté until translucent.  Add remaining Cumin and other spices, sauté until spices are fragrant.  Add beer to deglaze the pan.
5) Add Tomatillos and Jalapeno’s to the pot along with 2 cups of chicken broth (Save Poblano’s to add later).
6) Return chicken thighs to the pot to finish cooking.
7) Allow soup to simmer for 30-60 minutes.
8) Once simmered, remove chick thighs, then blend soup with an immersion blender.  Slowly stir in sour cream
9) Chop chicken thighs, return chicken to pot.  Add the Beans and Poblanos.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.
10) To thicken soup (if needed), remove some broth and beans and blend with immersion blender, then return it to the pot.

Add salt, pepper, honey, and lime to taste.
Serve topped with chopped cilantro and sour cream.

Hoshinoya Fuji: A Japanese Glamping Resort...

By Heera Basi

While most of the country is basking in the summertime heat, here in San Francisco the summer fog has me dreaming of sunshine and the outdoors. Fortunately, our summer is just around the corner and there is no better or more fabulous way to soak up that experience than GLAMPING! I recently learned of a Japanese resort that epitomizes the Glamping experience – the Hoshinoya Fuji. Ever since learning about this resort, I have been inspired by their design philosophy, approach to hospitality, and connection to the landscape and local surroundings. As a member of the Feldman Architecture Interiors team, I will certainly be looking to this glamping resort for inspiration on my next project!

© NACASA & PARTNERS INC.

The Hoshinoya is an experience based luxury resort company that is equivalent to a lifestyle brand. Their philosophy focuses on much more than just the basic hotel function of providing a place for tourists and travelers to sleep. From the food, activities, siting, and most importantly, the design, the Hoshinoya approach focuses on stimulating all the senses and providing a completely immersive and transformative experience. They market the guest experience through a storytelling narrative – detailing the arrival, stay, and feelings upon departure.

The Hoshinoya Fuji resort is tucked into the foothills of Mount Fuji above Lake Kawaguchi. Appealing to local climbers and tourists looking to get out of the city, the resort offers an elevated and luxurious glamping experience. As they say: “Glamping is a stylish form of play designed to stimulate these dormant senses –without the toil and labor associated with camping– but it requires a suitably sophisticated playground to be effective.” Guests are greeted by the smell of smoke from a large campfire, the sound of leaves crunching under foot, and are encompassed by the forest and eventually the breathtaking views of Mt Fuji.

Azuma Architect & Associates designed the resort to give visitors different levels and qualities of the glamping experience. The site is broken up into two zones: the lower cabin zone and the upper cloud zone.

© NACASA & PARTNERS INC; Hoshinoya Fuji Resort

The cabins are sited such that the approach leads visitors through the woods, and upon entering their individual cabin they are greeted with a majestic view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. The architecture is not literally evocative of a cabin in the woods, which would be a simplistic and one-dimensional approach. Instead the cabins are made from concrete and glass. What could be seen as an ultra-modern and cold experience in fact breaks down and abstracts the core elements of camping to a glamorous core. Each concrete unit is staggered, and this shifting allows each one to have a view of Fuji beyond. The cabin interiors are also minimalist, alluding to the idea that the outdoor experience is simpler and less adorned. Additionally, each cabin has a balcony that comes fixed with a wood stove to emulate the experience of sitting around a campfire. This understated elegance also accentuates the views of the adjacent lake and natural surroundings, making the views and outdoors the primary focus of the experience.

© NACASA & PARTNERS INC; Hoshinoya Fuji Resort

In contrast to the cabin zone, the upper cloud zone has no dramatic views and instead focuses more internally on the experience of being immersed in the woods.  This zone includes a dining area, café, and gathering space for guests. The wooden platforms that comprise the cloud zone are sited so that they float above the forest.

As a takeaway, just remember: “Glamping is simply a conduit for delivering the finest offerings of the wild.”

Next Step: Scheming a way to visit in person and make this summer daydream a reality!

Bye For Now Parker!...

What a summer it’s been. Full of challenges, new opportunities and downright shenanigans. I can definitely say that I’ve learned so much and enjoyed my time here at Feldman Architecture.

From day one I dived headfirst into the professional world of architecture. Client meetings, marketing plans and renderings threw me right into the daily routine of an architect, and trust me when I say it has been an absolute blast. I had to push myself every day to think critically and creatively, to iterate, and take feedback in every project. My tasks ranged from redesigning the firm’s SketchUp libraries, project renderings and drawings, all the way to editing photos from the amazing Open House at the beginning of the summer.

Along the way I had an incredible group of people helping me learn new skills, new programs, and helping me figure out the vernacular of architecture. I learned so much about what it means to be an architect in the professional world, lessons that I’m sure will be with me and that I will treasure for the rest of my career.

Thanks again to everyone at Feldman Architecture for their unparalleled kindness and for being so welcoming, I hope to see you all again soon.

Cheers and all the best,

-Parker D. Klebahn

 

Staff Spotlight: Lindsey Theobald...

Q: Where are you from?

I’m from Napa, California, not far from here. The place I grew up has a small town feel, everybody knew everybody and everybody’s parents were friends. My house growing up was next to a creek and my sister and I used to explore it all the time. I remember my parents always going with their friends to the surrounding wineries and I would hate it and refuse to leave the car. But now it’s nice that it’s close by since I can visit often as a getaway.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Cal poly, where I studied architecture. The school is unique in that you have to declare a major when you apply, so I decided to become an architect at 17. Luckily it stuck. In my first year, I joined an optional class that was pretty computer heavy. It got into InDesign and modeling, before the advent of all the super cool modeling we use today.

I really started to enjoy my major in my 3rd year. The studios got more competitive and we all started vying for certain teachers, as it really mattered what teacher you got. In my 4th year everyone went abroad; I went to Denmark, which was amazing. Even though the school was all American, I lived in student housing with Danes. The dorms weren’t connected to the school, they were just housing for a multitude of students nearby. 5th year was thesis year and I ended up getting my favorite professor, which was great.

CalPoly always felt like a quintessential “California” school.  We biked everywhere, had big backyard BBQ house parties, hit up reggae night downtown on Wednesdays, and really enjoyed the small-town feel of SLO.  That said, studying a whole year in Europe and traveling practically everywhere throughout the continent was a welcome reprieve to the small town life I’d lived so far.  Best of both worlds.

Q: Tell me about your family.

I have a mom, dad, and sister all close by. I have two kids, eight and five with the younger one turning six in august. My husband, who’s a landscape architect, I met at Cal Poly. I’m super fortunate to have my mom drive all the way from Napa three days a week to watch my kids after school.  My family is super close, so it feels natural to have my mom and dad be a big part of my kids’ lives.  I have a big extended family too and we try to get together as much as possible, whether it’s big trips to Kauai or quick weekend trips to celebrate graduations.  We all just got back from my sister’s ranch near the Sequoia National Forest.  My kids are obsessed with my cousins’ kids, so it’s constant fun whenever we all get together.  The rest of my family is very musical, so there is always a lot of playing instruments and singing when we all get together.  I’m hoping the gift of musical talent rubs off on my kids.  Or at least singing on key.

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

I guess my interest started in high school since I declared that as my major on my Cal Poly application. I applied for biology in all other schools except that one. I don’t remember what I thought I was going to do with biology, but I think I went for architecture because it was pretty specific and it seemed to be more exciting and defined. There wasn’t the typical “I love lego” phase or anything like that. I just liked design. I never took any art classes, so I wasn’t hugely artistic but I remember my mom and I designing my room all the time; rearranging the furniture, choosing the colors, and I found that to be super fun. I was into coloring and mixing patterns, just general childlike creativity.

What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I’m not specifically interested in the size or budget necessarily, but I really enjoy working with people who are willing to take more risks and or try some cool designs rather than play it safe. I love it when clients get excited about some crazy light fixture, finish, or piece of furniture that I’ve found. It comes down to the clients, not the project type or budget, but whether or not the homeowners are going to join me in taking them down this wild path to a unique project at the end.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Since 2006. I was practicing architecture in San Diego before I moved here. That company has since moved to Colorado as they weren’t into SoCal politics. Besides that brief stint after college this is basically my one and done career.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think it’s the lack of ego, which drives Jonathan to always pay close attention to who he hires. He bases a large part of his decision on personality and making sure our office culture stays collaborative, fun, and humble. He’s always done a good job of doing that. It’s more fluid now that we’re bigger than it was back then. For five years I worked with the same five people, so it’s nice to see some new faces and learn from all the new experiences and varied backgrounds they bring.

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

I’m never too bummed about the tasks I have to do or the projects I’m working on, plus the people are fun to be around. I fundamentally agree with the way we approach design and work and I don’t feel like I’m coming to some place where I have to battle against others’ opinions. The office feels like a good nurturing community. Every day I’m always finding different ways to grow that I wasn’t expecting, whether it’s focusing on helping colleagues, learning from them, or collaborating with team members.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Well, Patricia Urquiola kicks butt.  I took notice of her after I realized that every furniture piece or tile I was liking was of her design.  I appreciate her celebration of colors and texture.  She can be modern without having the negative connotations that occasionally go with  the term: like sleek, cold, and sterile.  She can use a huge range of colors, a multi-hued palette, and still have her pieces feel neutral and timeless.  Same with textures – her textures can be so outrageous, but on her specific pieces, they feel just right.  I also appreciate that she took her design sensibilities from architecture into product design and interiors.  She must have fun getting to design every little thing.

Another favorite of mine is John Pawson.  Quite on the other end of the spectrum from Patricia Urquiola.  His interiors are the epitome of minimal, but a minimalism that is so appealing because of the strong emphasis on materiality.  A room of his design can be empty, but it still feel inviting because of the rich materials he uses –textured concrete; smooth wood with tight detailing; and natural light softening white walls and ceilings.  The combination of pretty natural materials with crisp detailing is effective.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I’m visual, so I love looking at images of things on Pinterest or other websites. I find a lot of inspiration in images first and often ask for reference images from the client.  Then I know what look and feel we are trying to achieve.  Images are pretty effective for interior projects, which make up a large part of my work.  It’s an effective way for the client to share their vision or ideal aesthetic with me and vice versa.  Once I have a clear idea of the look and feel, I try to figure out the material palette.  I get the physical materials in front of me before moving forward. We’re constantly getting new materials for our office library that I (try to!) organize and keep up to date.  The new library is so lovely and I feel like a kid in a candy store here!

Q: What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever been given?

My husband just told me that I’m emotionally mature.  Meaning that I am thoughtful in my reactions to others. That kind of blew me away, especially since I’m not always mature in my reactions towards him!  But, I do tend to see the best in others and that leads to more positive interactions.  I think it’s really important to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I’m an optimist!

Q: Where is your favorite spot to go in the city?

It’s different to think about because my experiences right now are through my kids. I love taking them on the ferry here and then going exploring around the city. It’s stress free! I can get a drink on the ferry and relax, plus the kids love the thrill of the ride. We are members of the Exploratorium, so we’ve spent many a weekend there.  For restaurants, I’m partial to the Presidio Social Club, especially if you get to sit on the back patio.  A glass of wine plus their fries and aioli and I’m set!

‘Paris is Always a Good Idea’...

By Bianca Mills

“There are two kinds of travelers. There is the kind who goes to see what there is to see, and the kind who has an image in his head and goes out to accomplish it. The first visitor has an easier time, but I think the second visitor sees more.” – Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik

I have always valued the experience of traveling alone and in May I went to Paris by myself for a week.  I had been to Paris twice before and on those trips I had lit candles in the Sacre Coeur and watched the sunset from its steps overlooking the city, visited the graves of my favorite artists resting in Pere Lachaise and walked through the expansive tunnels taking in the gravity of the history of the Catacombs.  This trip was a somewhat spontaneous venture for the gluttonous purposes of beauty, solitude, food & drink, as well as finally making it to Versailles.

This time around I was more comfortable trying to use my high school level French. My ‘bonjour’ must have been pretty convincing because I got full rambling sentences as a response on my first day, thus abruptly ending the fantasy that I am practically bilingual.  I had rented an apartment on a side street near St. Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement. Arriving jetlagged and happy, I spent my first night having dinner at a familiar place, Les Antiquaires, the restaurant where I had spent my 40th birthday on my previous trip.  I tucked into a small table between a group of Canadians celebrating birthdays and a group of Austrians on a layover, all of whom would soon adopt me and befriend each other.  A few of them individually shared their stories with me of visits to San Francisco, a love affair that ended in Paris, and the hope of a new baby. As new friends, we wrapped up our dinner by inflicting a red wine saturated version of ‘Que Sera Sera’ on the other patrons, which seemed totally appropriate at the time.  That night, I walked back to my apartment in misty rain with no umbrella, a relaxed smile and tired, happy tears running down my face.  It was the kind of magic that I regularly only imagine.  It was charmed.  It was perfect.

My first two full days in Paris were quiet.  It was over a holiday and most of the city was closed.  The weather was beautiful so I just walked.  I went through the 6th and 7th arrondissement.  Rue Cler was one of few streets where shops and cafes were bustling despite the holiday.

The following day I had breakfast at Café Panis and watched the people crossing the Pont au Double bridge to line up in front of Notre Dame. I visited the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie and took my time looking through the galleries of photographs.

My nephews wanted to FaceTime during my trip so they could see the Eiffel Tower live from San Francisco.  So I made a date with them at midnight one night and stood at its foot as it twinkled and glowed.

Me: “I arranged for it to twinkle during our call’.

Nephews: “Really?!”

Me: “No. That’s just what it does every night because it’s Paris and it’s beautiful and I love it here because Paris is magic’.

Café de Flore was a famous gathering place for writers and painters of past times primed for a revolution.  It was 4 blocks from my apartment and it was always a good place to start or finish the day.  I would alternate between Café de Flore, Mabillon and Café de la Mairie just down the street on the square of St. Sulpice.  I’m sure at a certain point, I went to all three in one day.

All that time spent in cafes was my chance to write in my travel journal and finally read a book my cousin gave to me years ago, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing & Life written by Anne Lamott.  It was the perfect book for the trip.  It was a metaphor for life, about a process that relies on perseverance despite an internal dialog of imminent failure. It rescues the process with a little blind faith and just enough of my kind of dry humor.

“ I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, ‘Do you think it makes my hips look too big?’ and she said to me slowly, ‘Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.’

It’s true.  We really don’t have that kind of time. A realization too easily saved for twice a year in a place far from home, but I keep trying.

My last full day, I finally made it to Versailles.  I am always wary of tourist traps on vacation after living in San Francisco for so long but Versailles is truly awe-inspiring. The grand presence of it from the bottom of the uneven stone street hill was worth just standing there for a few minutes to admire even though people were piling up in front and I didn’t know where I was supposed to get a ticket or which long line was for what.  Another great part of traveling alone is that you decide on your own what is worth a rush.

The gardens are poised to spend an entire day enjoying on their own.  Classical music played from hidden speakers and families picnicked along the greens.  I walked along the corridors of trees and finally sat on the stairs overlooking the parterres of the garden to take it all in.

That night I decided to go back to Les Antiquaires.  By coincidence I was seated at the same table with the same waiter who remembered me from my first night.  He told me that if I ever wanted to make a reservation for that specific table it is table eight.  Eight happens to be my numerology life path number.  It represents balance, harmony and trust in one’s self.  It mirrors the symbol of infinity.  It has always been a lucky number for me.  Of course it was table 8!  I told him it was my last night in Paris so unfortunately I would not be needing a reservation.  When I got up from my table to leave, I caught his eye and said goodbye. As I walked out the door he waved and said, ‘have a safe trip back to San Francisco’!  Good bye for now Paris..

Staff Spotlight: Chris Kay...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where I spent the majority of my life. It’s a small metropolitan area surrounded by five very suburban areas. Most people, myself included, grew up in those surrounding suburbs because the city was vacant and dangerous. Over the past ten years or so they’ve implemented a lot of money back into the city, lighting up tunnels, opening parks, bars, restaurants etc, which has made it a lot safer and a more enjoyable place to live. Now nearly everyone is fighting over property to be a part of its tremendous growth.

Q: Where did you go to school?

After high school I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for two years perusing a BFA in graphics design. In 2012 I transferred from UAB into the architecture program at Auburn University where I later graduated. I also had some summer stints at Jefferson State due to the fact that none of my credits transferred from UAB to Auburn.

Q: Who is in your family?

I’m the youngest of four kids – two brothers and one sister – all stubborn and raised under the world’s strongest mother. We also had a feisty little Lhasa Apso named Max. Everyone, excluding me, was born in Ruston Louisiana where my parents met. We live all over now with our partners – four are in Nashville, two in Nebraska, and my parents both live in Birmingham. Myself and my gorgeous lady moved out here to the bay in 2017. My family means the world to me.

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

Like many, I always had an interest in building things. But I never really had a plan of implementing those interests until I took a 3D sculpture studio at UAB. The professor had a unique way of looking at the world. The first day of studio he spoke about objects, and how their quality could be measured by the effect of their presence – or the way they effected the space surrounding them. Not an original thought necessarily but it really resonated with me. So much so that I set up a time to speak with him later that week. That conversation is where I learned of his previous career in architecture. After that I figured I should look further into the profession.

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

I haven’t really had enough experience in architecture to pinpoint any particular area of interest but I know right now I’m most interested in the smaller details and the accuracy involved in their design.  I like working with my hands—any tangible problem will keep me occupied and interested well past sleep deprivation.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started in early March of 2018.

Q: What makes our office unique?

My initial draw to Feldman was due to the work the company does in the residential field. Looking through the projects, there was a clear indication of uninterrupted atmosphere. There’s this unique balance between the effect of the building on its environment, and an environment on the building—I appreciated that honesty in design. But after visiting the office for the first time, the all-around engaging attitude of each person I met sealed my fate. What makes Feldman so unique is the people who work here. Everyone is incredibly intelligent and it’s exciting to come to work every day with the ability to learn from your peers.

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

Aside from my previous answer; the opportunity to see up to three doggos at one time.

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of the office?

I like to build things. I also like rock climbing and soccer. I enjoy working on mechanical things too, specifically motorcycle engines though I don’t have a motorcycle anymore. I built two bikes the year prior to moving out here; five days before I moved I finally got one of them running. But I had to sell them both before I left Birmingham. When my girlfriend and I left Alabama we sold everything we had. We put the remainder of our stuff in a 4×4 carriage, shipped it off, and flew out here. So if anyone out there wants to donate a bike…

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

The person who has taught me the most is a long haired Fabio-esque man named Kyle D-Agostino, also known as “The Sausage Emperor”. I say this reluctantly knowing that if he ever reads this article, his boastuous nature will never let me forget it. Kyle was the architectural director at Appleseed Workshop where I worked before moving to the bay area. He taught me a lot in both architecture and in life.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I think the way to design anything is to first identify the problem. Then boil that problem down to its fundamentals and start from there. This is the easiest way for me to understand something well enough to confidently design a solution.

Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self having lived your life up until now?

Read more than The Iceberg Hermit.

Living Future ’18: Designing Solutions...

By Ben Welty

This past May I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon, to attend the Living Future 2018 unConference, an annual gathering, now in its 12 year, that is hosted by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The ILFI is best known as the administers of the sustainable design certification program, The Living Building Challenge (LBC), which is widely considered the most difficult green building certification to achieve. A Seattle based collaborative, they’ve emerged on the scene in recent years as a challenger to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and it’s more commonly known green building certification program, LEED.

While still somewhat considered grassroots in relative comparison to the scale of the USGBC and LEED, as interest and participation in the LBC has grown, so has the reputation of the ILFI and the conference itself. The quantity and diversity of the seminars was evidence of this, as the content avoided going stale and structured themes afforded attendees the opportunity to define their own paths without fear of getting lost in the shuffle of what can sometimes feel like convention center musical chairs. Taking this approach I chose to hone my focus on the somewhat familiar but complex topic of water conservation and policy, while also exploring the less commonly known field of Biophilic Design.

The water issue is complex. It’s the only necessity of life for which humans are in direct competition with every living organism that surrounds us. Compounding this are the difficulties we seem to face when it is made abundant, as it oftentimes remains unsuitable or insufficient for human consumption. 11% of the world’s population are currently without access to clean water while 25% do not have access to proper sanitation. Yet even in the most arid of places we’ve learned to harness it, treat it, consume it and release it back into the environment in a symbiotic relationship with land not necessarily suitable for human habitation. So why the struggle?

Simply put, we have the tools to solve the issue of water scarcity but our policies and practices do not currently support this. These points were made clear as one after another passionate speakers made their cases for water conservation, policy and equity, each noble in cause and abundant in information. However, there did seem to be a lack of a common thread between the extremes of the spectrum to tie it all together. For instance, I could not help but feel a disconnect between the conversations surrounding the obstacles of building modern, private residences in arid climates and the struggles of the city of Detroit as they deal with a public water crisis in their marginalized communities. This underscored a social chasm that is the widening gap of privilege vs. poverty, an issue that is manifesting itself at local, national and global levels. But this in no way diminishes the importance of the individual conversations themselves, because as world populations continue to grow and climate change tightens its grip, water scarcity is quickly becoming one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.

One possible design solution to this growing problem could be found in the concepts of biophilic design, whose modern incarnation is still somewhat emerging in the broader field of sustainable design. I found Living Future ‘18 to be a great platform for these concepts, as I imagine this group is far too often passed off as hippies-cum-scientists selling the idea of nautilus shell living as a means to saving the planet. But that would be cliché, as its core tenets that combine nature and design in order replicate natural processes in the built environment have shaped a movement that, for the most part, has avoided its mission coming off too literal (Read more about biophilic design and the ILFI’s initiative HERE). This point was made clear at the beginning of nearly every seminar I attended on the subject, a sign that they’re conscious that the stigma still exists. That said, the content by and large proved otherwise and as building technology advances and sustainable living engrains itself into the social conscious, it’s predictable that these interests would be widely embraced by the design community. The results of this is a broad catalogue of well-designed, contemporary buildings whose numbers continue to grow. No longer is “good design” exempt from incorporating sustainable features. In fact, good design and sustainable design are becoming synonymous, if we’re not there already. So, moving forward, I’m anxious to see whether or not biophilic design assimilates into our contemporary design language as fluidly as sustainable design has over the past two decades.

While the breadth of the Living Future conference pales in comparison to the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild Conference, the quality, knowledge and passion of the speakers did not fail to impress. And though this year’s group of exhibiting product vendors leaves much to be desired, I trust that the list of participants will become more robust in the years to come as more manufacturers survive the strict vetting process that is a perquisite to attending. So, as the ILFI and its unConference enter its formative teenage years, I anticipate (and hope) that the next step in its growth will be largely subsidized by the design and building industries themselves, as it continues to undergo the transition from admirable ideology to established principle.

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