Summer 2016 Newsletter...

Greetings from San Francisco, where summer is in full swing!  Here at Feldman Architecture, the start of the season has ushered in fresh faces and new projects.  The many exciting developments include the kickoff of our first construction project in Los Angeles, a remodel in the Hollywood Hills, and the opportunity to design our first restaurant: a “fast casual” establishment featuring South Indian cuisine in Oakland’s thriving Uptown district.

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As we continue to expand our repertoire, looking forward to the projects on the horizon, we also take great pleasure in looking back at recently completed projects newly captured in photos and in print.  We are delighted to share that Ranch O|H, a modern take on the traditional ranch home located in the scenic Santa Lucia mountains, was featured in the latest issue of Dwell Magazine (see above).  The article, “A Meadow with Amenities,” showcases the design’s blend of indoor and outdoor living spaces, as well as its subtle integration of modern technology and materials into a classic typology.

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StudioSchicketanz_TMhouse

We took advantage of the season’s sunny skies to photograph three recently completed projects and are excited to share some sneak peeks with you!  Joe Fletcher expertly photographed Healdsburg 1, where the great room transforms into an outdoor pavilion with sweeping, continuous views of the village below (see above).  Joe also photographed Noe Valley 2, an urban remodel that brought an abundance of natural light, a neat floor plan, and strong connection to the outdoors to a family home in San Francisco.  Finally, Noe Valley 3’s efficient design and carefully selected materials enable the home to achieve LEED Platinum certification, and its innovative use of light, both natural and artificial, was captured by the talented Paul Dyer (see below).  We are lucky to collaborate with Paul and Joe, who continue to showcase our projects’ “good sides” time and time again.

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Earlier this spring, the office took a fieldtrip north of the city to visit one recently completed project and one in the midst of its finishing touches.  The trip gave the staff a chance to see the product of our colleagues’ hard work up close and in person.  We took a quick detour to visit Evan Shively’s showroom and wood mill in Marshall, where Evan transforms wood salvaged from landfills and demo sites into works of art, savoring the creative process and its collaborative nature along the way.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on Evan’s operation later this month!

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The FA team also hopped over to the Presidio to blow off some steam at the House of Air.  While some staff members enjoyed stringing together complex bouncing routines, others took to the dodgeball court, where they found themselves embroiled in a game of Kids vs. Adults.  Those are hard games to win, right, Matt Lindsay?

House of Air

We’d like to issue a warm welcome to Evan McCurdy, who has returned to FA full-time after his internship with us last summer, and Liza Karimova, a current architecture student at UC Berkeley who is joining us as a summer intern.  We are also happy to announce that our Feldman families have grown.   In early April, Daniel and Mollye Holbrook welcomed their daughter Ellis Anne Holbrook to the world!  A big congratulations to the proud parents and their families, and best wishes to baby Ellis, who won our hearts during her first office visit and, more importantly, the affection of Chris’ dog Briar.

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To stay up to date on all Feldman Architecture news, be sure to check out our staff blog, where the most recent entry details Anjali’s trip to Vancouver, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram!

Until next time,
Feldman Architecture

 

Vancouver in 3 Days: Where to Go, How to Get There, and What to Eat as an Architect in the City...

After five years since our move to the US, we decided it was high time that we expand our travels beyond the borders of the country. The province of British Columbia has always held a strong allure to us for its stunning landscapes and fascinating culture. So I was thrilled when the better half planned a surprise getaway to Vancouver for my birthday.  Four days felt awfully inadequate but we decided to roll with it. A short early morning flight transported us to a very warm sultry Vancouver. The airport with its wonderful First Nation sculptures and totem poles hinted at the rich history of British Columbia. A large ‘living wall’ affirmed Vancouver’s reputation for being one of the early adopters of environmental sustainability. The Skytrain took us through the suburbia to a very urban jungle that is Downtown Vancouver. We Airbnb’ed at a condo right in the heart of Gastown, one of the historic neighborhoods that is a surreal mix of high-rise buildings and cobbled maple tree-lined streets with vintage streetlights and a historic steam clock to boot!

Steam clock

Gastown

We realized immediately that this was a city where public transportation was supreme. The ‘waterfront-town’ is densely populated with a small footprint of 44 sq. miles. Across the peninsula is North Vancouver, accessible by the sea-bus and by road. We got ourselves travel passes and set out to explore our hood, Gastown by foot. We were within walking distance to the famous 17mile SeaWall that forms the waterfront wrapping around the city. One could see the snow-capped tips of the Grouse Mountain in the distance. The SeaWall starts at Canada Place – known for its iconic Sails of Light. Right next to it is the impressive new convention center – a majestic waterfront development with a six-acre living roof, the largest in North America in a non-industrial context. We hopped on a bus that took us to the famous Stanley Park. Unlike the Golden Gate Park which is fairly introverted and embedded in the heart of San Francisco, Stanley Park fingers out from the city, thus allowing views of Vancouver that change as one walks the wall. We took trails into the park at different points alternating between dense wild shaded vegetation to emerge again at the perimeter wall delighting in a different view of the city. We exited the park and headed to our pad by bus, exhausted but excited about our dinner plans. We had reservations at the popular Forage known for it’s locally-sourced innovative menu.  It did not disappoint my vegetarian palette. We strolled back home taking in the expanses of open urban spaces between the dense high rise condos. The lights had started coming on and the city glowed, draped by the ever-present shimmering water. This was a truly urban oasis where people lived outdoors than in their cramped condos. The city felt safe.

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From Sea Wall

Stanley Park

On day two, we walked to  Medina Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant with a solid reputation for unique flavors and the best Belgian waffles in the city. We beat the long queues and got ourselves a table within the hour. Pleased with brunch, we set forth to take the sea bus to North Vancouver. We landed at Vancouver’s carnival style farmer’s market at the Lonsdale Quay – a visual treat with its fresh produce and local vibe.

Lonsdale Quay

We proceeded to our next destination- the Lynn Canyon public park with its suspension bridge and miles of hiking trails. Per our host’s recommendation, we chose Lynn Canyon over the more popular touristy Capillano Suspension Bridge park. We hiked for a few hours and then took a taxi to the foothills of the Grouse mountain. The Grouse mountain is accessible only by a gondola skyride that takes you over the forest to the a chalet on top. An alternative is the daunting but highly popular Grouse Grind hike aka ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ involving 2800 odd steps through dense forest. We took the gondola — let’s say only because we were out of time. Ahem. The chalet at the top houses a few restaurants and a theater. A short hike took us to our first sighting of two rescued grizzlies that live there. They seemed very indifferent to our presence. We walked around the chalet to capture the panoramic vistas of the city across. A bus, a sea-bus and a train took us back into the city within the hour. Soon we headed out for our Italian night — to Lupo, a Vancouver icon in the entertainment district of Yaletown. Located in a charming heritage house with interconnected rooms, the menu was limited but inspired. We concluded a fabulous birthday dinner with a creme brûlée that was to die for. We walked home. The streets and landmarks were beginning to feel familiar…

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Day three – we walked a different section of the SeaWall to board an aquabus that took us to Granville Island- an old industrial hub that has been revived by local artists who set up their workshops in these factories. Weekends draw large crowds from the city. The tiny peninsula is animated with live music and fresh food at the large public market, accompanied by shopping unique finds at the artist workshops and boutiques. We picked up a few tchotkches and set forth to the piece-de-resistance of the day, the Museum of Anthropology by the Canadian modernist, Arthur Erickson. The museum is set in the large lush campus grounds of the University of British Columbia. The campus boasts of a good number of modern buildings but the museum was the jewel in the crown. The collection focuses on artefacts of the First Nation, the Canadian Aboriginals of the NorthWest Coast, though it has an extensive ethnographic collection of cultures from around the world. The strikingly modern building cleverly reinterprets the post-and-beam architecture of the First Nation people in concrete. Staggered concrete frames are spanned by vaulted skylights that filter natural light strategically into the museum spaces. The varying heights of the vaults along with a gentle slope in the floor, gradually expands the volume of the central exhibit area. The space culminates in a frameless glass wall that seamlessly merges into the outside. The outdoor landscape is marked by a reflecting pool and a few reconstructed Haida houses with signature totem poles acting as coordinates.  We were unable to do justice to the vast collection housed in the museum but it was really the architecture that was our main focus. It inspired, and humbled, leaving us in a contemplative state of mind. Like all good museums, the MoA has a great gift shop. We picked up some wonderful prints of modern reinterpretation of First Nation art by local artists.

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The mythology of the First Nation and their survival despite colonization and repeated pressures to assimilate, runs strong. At the MoA, we had discovered the works of Bill Reid, a true Renaissance man who drew from his Haida roots as a sculptor, carver, goldsmith and artist. Reid was one of the pivotal figures that championed the cause of the First Nation people and gave their art legitimacy in modern history. Born to a mother who was a Haida, Bill immersed himself in their culture and became one of the leading artists of his time. We knew we had to make time to visit the Bill Reid Gallery set right in Downtown Vancouver. The next day, we chose to skip the larger Vancouver Art Gallery and visit this tiny gem instead. Tucked away in the bustling downtown neighborhood, this building though surrounded by high-rises doesn’t get dwarfed. Well-proportioned and thoughtfully detailed, the gallery is carefully curated with permanent exhibits by Bill and a few by his protégés. The silver and gold jewelry display by Reid are spectacular. The gift shop offers a varied collection of original aboriginal art. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to visit here on our last day. It felt like an appropriate homage to conclude our first venture into British Columbia.

Reid Gallery2Reid Gallery1

In a little over three days, we had gained some insights into the story of the First Nation people and into the cosmopolitan urban pulse of Vancouver, it’s most populous and popular city today. As someone born and raised in India, there was a comfortable familiarity with Vancouver’s British influences- be it describing temperature in degree Celsius, distances in kilometers or getting a ‘bill’ at the end of a meal 😉 We explored the nightlife on our last night. No vacation of ours is quite complete without a sampling of the local music scene. Gastown was perfect for our quest. We walked the streets exploring a few bars and clubs. We settled on one which had a live jazz session. It was evidently a neighborhood haunt as the regulars seemed to know each other. It wasn’t touristy. We had lucked out with warm sunny days for our entire vacation concluding with a smattering of rain as we made our exit. This was a fun trip- a teaser that had whetted our appetite for more. We knew we would be back…soon. – Anjali

Jazz Bar

Third Thursday June 2016: Steffen Kuehr...

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Sonoma-USA’s Steffen Kuehr into the office for this month’s Third Thursday presentation.  In addition to being married to our very own Leila, Steffen works to repurpose the materials discarded by local businesses and individuals in Sonoma County, fashioning their fabrics into singular new products, such as tote bags and cases for iPads.  Sonoma-USA diverts materials from landfills, designs unique products inspired by the resources at hand, and delivers the end results back into the local community.  Armed with extensive knowledge about the alarming facts concerning waste production and management in the United States, Steffen encouraged us to ”rethink waste.”  He left us both inspired by his use of design as a tool to respect and restore our natural environment and dreaming of new office messenger bags…sonomamracewaymessenger01

You can read more about Sonoma-USA’s mission and process here: http://www.sonoma-usa.com/

Third Thursday May 2016: Charles Debbas...

An architect and an academic, Charles Debbas visited us in May 2016 to share a wide variety of images and projects from his successful and varied career.  From the earliest project he shared, a flower shop in Berkeley, to the child care centers and preschool he designed for a community in Zimbabwe, to his forays into product design, each project he shared assumed its own identity, clearly catered to the client at hand.  Yet, the driving principals behind his work – a belief in the strength of simplicity, a delight in shaping the spatial experience of users, and a commitment to creating designs that activate all human senses – stood out as common across the board.  We are grateful that Charles, who has been an architect in Berkeley since 1989 and teaches at the University when not working in the studio, took some time out of his busy schedule to share his story with us.

Flower Shop, Berkeley CA

Flower Shop, Berkeley CA

Giza Museum Egypt 2002

Giza Museum, Egypt, 2002

Child Care Centers Pre-Schools Zimbabwe 2006

Child Care Centers/Pre-Schools, Zimbabwe, 2006

Ergopen

Ergopen

 

Catching up with the Client: SF Loft...

“Don’t do what’s hip.  Do what’s you,” advised one of the owners of a recently renovated SoMa loft as he stood in his new kitchen.  An executive coach to early age start-ups, he and his wife, an attorney, use the loft as an urban pied-a-terre after downsizing from Silicon Valley, splitting their time between the city and their weekend wine country home.

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Their new loft strikes a balance between modern minimalism and the kitsch of the accoutrements they’ve collected over years of travel.  It features both the crispness of uninterrupted lines in its casework and the curves of conch shells gifted from relatives, as well as an all-white palette integrated with coins of color.  These complimentary design elements are a result of extensive collaboration between the architects and the owners, and prove that strong relationships are the foundation for good design.

At the core of the collaborative design process was Steven Stept, who designed the project with his previous partner Irit Axelrod and saw it through construction at Feldman Architecture.

“Steven and I are a lot alike,” explained the start-ups coach, who situated himself at the heart of the design discussion by managing the project with the help of a superintendent in lieu of hiring a general contractor.  “We are focused and unafraid to disagree.  I can tell if something is off by an inch from 50 feet away.  It comes down to attention to detail, and Steven is absolutely zealous about that.”

Indeed, the project’s success as a coherent whole is built from thoughtful details, from a slight lift in counter height to accommodate the stature of one of the clients, to a discreet corner designed specifically with the needs of the couple’s cat in mind.

“When you’re anticipating a vision,” explained the attorney, “you see the pieces of the design, but you can’t know the usefulness of their whole until you live in it. The design functions exactly as we had intended it.”

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When the couple, first encountered the space, they were attracted to its “warehouse vibe,” reminiscent of the 1924 building’s previous stint as a printing business.  The loft’s high ceilings and abundance of concrete kept it from being a “cookie-cutter space,” but its maple floor was worn and warped, and a lack of storage would leave personal belongings exposed and the space cluttered with trinkets.  With an initial vision centered on simplicity, balance, and symmetry, the couple and their design team set out to bring the space to its full potential.

To do so, Axelrod + Stept Architects crafted a precise plan to integrate the concrete structure into a fluid design, where carefully orchestrated spaces behind a horizontal sliding door would offer privacy for the bedroom, master bath, and laundry.  The successful execution of their design incorporated carefully selected products and materials, proving the clients’ and designers’ commitment to design excellence from design vision to reality.  The end result was a striking design, based on precision and expertly executed.

The remodel pulled one of the long, narrow apartment’s walls back from its previously angled position, allowing natural light from the space’s largest window to wash down the entire length of the apartment.  The new wall is covered in sleek custom casework, whose elongated lines accentuate the loft’s length and flow into the kitchen and whose bright white offers a striking contrast to the dark wood of the loft’s floor.*  Across from the casework, horizontal slatted aluminum and glass sliding doors from the Italian designer Adielle hide the master suite and a powder room when closed, creating defined spaces within a coherent whole.  When open, the doors allow one space to flow into another, adding a sense of agility to a home characterized by rigid lines.  So, too, an Ecro-USA track fixture with LED lights running the length of the corridor, splashing spotlights onto the doors and casework, can be adjusted for both intensity and angle.  Throughout the apartment, the design team devoted careful thought to the integration of the space’s interior design and lighting, tapping into the expertise of local lighting designer Tali Ariely.**

With a new laundry and utility room, a guest Murphy bed that recedes into the casework, and extensive storage, the space remains free from clutter, and its sight lines stretch uninterrupted from one end of the apartment to the other.

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“The casework is a wonderful looking piece of architecture,” commented one of the clients. “But, more importantly, the space just became more usable.”

Just as the architects brought a design centered on white casework and dark floors and the clients added animation and dimension through souvenirs and select art, the character of the neighborhood had a role in shaping the loft’s design.  Just a few blocks from South Park, the loft is immersed in the energy of its growing neighborhood.  New office buildings stretch towards the sky, and at street level lines for hole-in-the-wall lunch destinations stretch around the block.  The modern aesthetic of the design anticipated the new life the past few years has brought to the neighborhood.  Yet, while it reflects the freshness of its environment visually, the loft’s thick envelope keeps the space quiet.  And, just as they find the minimalism of the space as calming rather than cool, the clients find a serenity in the apartment that sets it apart from its busy surroundings.

-Abigail Bliss

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*The corridor casework is a custom linear cabinet by Bartlett Cabinets in Oakland, CA.  The kitchen cabinetry comes from Downsview Cabinets.

** The ultimate lighting design warms the modern loft with surface mounted wall washers from Kreon, recessed linear lighting from XAL, bath wall sconces and pendant fixtures from Vibia, and wall uplight sconces from Leucos.

Spring 2016 Newsletter...

Happy Spring from Feldman Architecture, where the warm(er) weather has brought fresh faces to the FA team, new projects to our firm, up-to-date photos to the website, and extensive progress on job sites across the Bay Area.

In recent news, our Palo Alto Lantern House was featured in the April 2016 edition ofSan Francisco Magazine.  The article, entitled “Venturing Outside the Box: A modern Palo Alto home that rounds out the Edges,” delves into the creative process behind the residence’s design, revealing how a combination of aesthetic preferences and perspectives contributed to the warm modernism of the finished home.  Take a look at photographer Paul Dyer’s images of the house, newly posted on the Feldman website, to find out why it was dubbed The Lantern House (pictured above).  This summer, keep an eye out for the July/August issue of Dwell Magazine for an exclusive feature story about Ranch O|H, a modern retreat in Carmel’s Santa Lucia Preserve!

We are thrilled to share three new projects with you via the ever-growing On the Boards section of our website: Project Miller, an all-family, inspirational nature retreat with a focus on the restorative powers of nature in the heart of the Salinas Valley; Vineyard Haven, a guest cottage in coastal New England; and the Pavilion, a residence perched on a ledge overlooking San Jose (pictured below).  Stay tuned for more FA updates, including new images from our recent photoshoot of a San Franciscan loft, which capture the crisp lines and cool palette of the home (sneak peek below).

We would like to issue a warm welcome to the four newest members of our growing firm, including the talented Leila Bijan, Manli Zarandian, and Heera Basi, as well as Jeff Wheeler, Feldman Architecture’s third Associate (pictured below from left).   We are grateful for the wealth of experience and skills that they bring to the team and excited to collaborate with them on current and future projects.

Adept as they are at the drafting table, our new staff members were no match for Tai’s sons at the pool table.  The M.V.P. of our office excursion to Jillian’s was undoubtedly four-year-old Hayoto, whose knack for sneaking balls from the table brought new meaning to the concept of aggressive play (pictured below).

To learn which new hire wrote their undergraduate thesis on feminism and architecture in the 1960s, check out the new staff’s bios and portraits on Feldman Architecture’s website, and take a peek at our new group portrait, too.  The wonderful Sarah Peet managed to produce a shot that showcases all of our good sides, even if it prominently features a pair of mismatched socks.

Be sure to stay up to date with the latest Feldman Architecture news via our Facebook and Instagram (@feldmanarchitecture), where we’ll continue to post construction photos and project updates.

Until next time,
The team at Feldman Architecture

Catching up with the Client: Presidio VC Offices...

When a venture capital firm approached Feldman Architecture in the hopes of renovating an office space in San Francisco’s Presidio Park, the architects faced a challenge:  How could they design offices fit for a firm based in innovation, one that both shapes and reacts to the most striking ideas for the future?  How would they create a space where the only constant is the constant advancement of the elusive cutting edge?

On a recent afternoon, the venture capital firm’s Director of Operations walked me through the architect’s solution:  a light-filled office whose materials pay tribute to the surrounding Presidio Park, fostering both calm and creativity within.  It was clear that, just as the design team had refused to view the space’s pre-existing concrete structural columns as obstacles and had instead embraced them as inspiration for the space’s organization, they had welcomed the challenge of the project as a chance for creativity.  “What comes through about the design,” she told me, “was that elements that may have been challenges were viewed as opportunities.”

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One of the office’s strengths is a profound connection to the building’s location, where ferns cluster around the trunks of Coast Redwoods and wildflowers abound in the spring and summer.   As the firm traded the dark, cramped spaces of their old offices for a space with more natural light, they were determined to create and maintain a strong visual connection with their natural surroundings.  In the Presidio VC Offices, visitors are greeted in a high-ceilinged lobby, where sunlight washes in from the surrounding Presidio Park, coating the ivy of the room’s living wall with the sheen of natural light.  In each direction, compression corridors branch off from the reception area.  Private offices line the hallways, and the large windows on their exterior walls paired with the glass doors on their inner walls allow light to flow into the offices and through them, spilling into the compression corridor at their core.  The complimentary textures of wood-paneled walls and ivy in the reception area and the trunk-like columns that progress down the office halls replicate the forest outside and its dappled glades of towering trees.  The office fosters a calm productivity, void of the frantic energy that so often settles over industrious offices.  “I love watching the look on people’s faces as they walk through the door,” the Director of Operations said.  “Our lobby is striking and vastly different from most downtown office spaces.”

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While the office’s effects are immediate, she believes it takes familiarity to fully appreciate the more subtle strengths of the design: the way it captures different views from the conference rooms and private offices, or how it frames the fog hovering over and retreating from the Golden Gate Bridge in the kitchen window.  Staff members have noticed and embraced the clear visual language of the design, the dark accents repeated throughout the space, and the coherence of its palette.  And, slowly, they have added their own subtle embellishments to its warm, clean canvas.  A few pieces of art and silly décor elements personalize the space, but largely, the Director of Operations says, they allow the design and architecture to speak for themselves.

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She appreciates that the office, created for hard-working, ambitious individuals, is anything but imposing.  Its simplicity invites ideas and visitors, alike, and renders the space adaptable.   For a past event in the office’s cavernous library, the firm rearranged the modular furniture to accommodate easels and cocktail tables, and, recently, they transformed the space into an intimate setting for a ‘fireside chat’ discussion.  It’s an agile space, both adaptable for weekly events and prepared for the possibility of bigger changes down the line, tapping into the timelessness of the trees outside its windows.

– Abigail Bliss

Third Thursday April 2016: LC Studio Tutto...

In April, we had the pleasure of welcoming the two artists behind LC Studio Tutto, Sofia Lacin and Hennessey Chrisophel, into the office to speak about their large-scale public art projects.  Members of the FA team enjoyed taking a break from comparing different shades of gray to learn about projects whose colors run the gamut of the rainbow.  While LC Studio Tutto’s murals in tunnels, under freeways, and on the sides of silos were strikingly different from FA’s own projects in many ways, we were pleased to recognize a few shared core tenants: a careful consideration of site and integration, an attention to each client’s individual needs, and the use of natural light as a dynamic design element.   Most notably, in LC Studio Tutto’s “Same Sun” project, three metal letters perched on top of a large water tank cast shadows onto its painted side below, their shadows shifting over the course of the day and throughout the year.  Once each year, on the summer solstice, the shadow letters align with painted ones to spell out the phrase, “Sol Omnibus Lucet,” or “The Sun Shines Upon Us All.”

We are grateful for Sofia and Hennessey’s insights into the creative design process and the fantastic work it produces, as well as the meaningful discussion about collaboration and process that they struck up after sharing their portfolio.

Bright Underbelly

Bright Underbelly

Contagious Color

Contagious Color

Same Sun

Same Sun

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Sofia Lacin and Hennessey Christophel

Third Thursday March 2016: Christian Rodatus...

In addition to being a good friend of Feldman’s Ahlam Reiley, Christian Rodatus is the Executive Vice President of Enlighted, a company providing the technology to make smart sensors, networked lighting systems, and the Internet of Things viable options for commercial buildings.  Forward-thinking and continually developing, Enlighten’s tools provide information about the activity in a building at given time and harness that information to enhance the experience of the building’s users.  For example, sensors detect daylight and dim lights to reduce energy, or analyze the current temperature to scale back on heating or cooling.  Christian’s presentation made clear the profound implications this technology has for the reduction of energy and resource consumption in large, commercial buildings, and it was exciting to learn how buildings are becoming increasingly responsive to their users.

Rows of office workers working on computers with data streaming

PC: Getty Images/Ikon Images

 

 

Barcelona: The Common Ground between Gaudi and Tapas...

This fall my wife and I traveled to Barcelona with a contradicting agenda:  Relaxation and exploration.

05_Park Guell

We’re no strangers to Western Europe, but neither us had made it to Spain in our previous travels.  We decided to stay in the city for a full week, wanting to sink in and get to know Barcelona.  The only items on our agenda were to relax and gain a renewed perspective.

We stayed at a small apartment on the edge of the Eixample and Gracia districts with ceramic tile floors and a vaulted brick ceiling.  Heavy wood French doors opened onto a small balcony that had enough room for a cafe table and chairs.  The street below buzzed with cars, scooters and pedestrians.

02_Apartment

The Eixample was once a middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of the dense Gothic quarter.  In recent years, it has become home to high-end retail and trendy dining.  The neighborhood scale is defined by large blocks and tree-lined boulevards that terminate in octagonal intersections intended to provide increased openness and ventilation.

01_Barca birds eye

In sharp contrast, the Gracia to the north is an energetic, unpredictable neighborhood. Many streets are scaled to fit only pedestrians or scooters.  Dense blocks of cafés and markets open up into unexpected plazas with children playing and adults socializing.  The Gracia feels like a tight-knit community   ̶  a city within a city.

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The northern tip of the Gracia is capped by Antoni Guadi’s Park Guell.  The park reflects Gaudi’s naturalist style and free-form organic tile mosaics.  At first glance, the park resembles a greatest hits album.  All of Gaudi’s architectural styles fit neatly into one park.  A closer look reveals an artist in his prime experimenting with organic shapes and skewed structural forms.

04_Park Guell

Later, we found Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion tucked among stately civic buildings.  Van der Rohe’s flawless modern details provided a few quiet moments and a lot of inspiration.  The pavilion is constructed primarily with steel, stone and marble slabs  ̶  heavy materials that paradoxically achieve lightness, texture and a unique warmth.

07_Barca Pavilion 06_Barca Pavilion

We explored the city’s culinary scene alongside its architecture and found that both traditions are deeply rooted in history.  Tapas and pastries rule the streetscape.  Every block of the city seems to boast a beautiful pastry shop and multiple cafes spilling onto the sidewalk, where residents enjoy their ritual late-afternoon beers and salty snack

Just as Gaudi experimented in his work, many local chefs in Barcelona are taking risks by studying food on a molecular level and reassembling tastes and textures into something modern yet familiar. Bodega 1900, located in the Poble Sec neighborhood, presents itself as a classic Vermuteria – a casual gathering place for tapas and Vermouth.  Chef Albert Adria, a stalwart in molecular gastronomy, uses modern cooking techniques to recreate classic tapas in unexpected ways.  Though many of Adria’s dishes are conceived through the lens of modern technique, they remain soulful and deeply rooted in Barcelona’s culinary history.

Experimentation seems vital to the Catalan capital; Barcelona remains vibrant by respecting its collective history and embracing artists that forge a new path forward.

On our final morning in Barcelona, we embraced the spirit of experimentation by emptying our pockets of all our spare Euros and purchasing enough pastries to cover our small kitchen table.

 

 

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