Catching Up with the Client: The Lantern House...

On the eve of the completion of the Lantern House, Feldman Architecture and Northwall Builders welcomed friends and colleagues into the Palo Alto home to celebrate the culmination of their joint efforts.  The late-October evening was warm enough for guests to mingle on the patio and stroll out onto the lawn.  Inside, they explored the expansive basement quarters and marveled over the master bedroom’s wide windows opening over the backyard.  Among the partygoers was the home’s owner, an entrepreneur and graduate of Stanford Business School who lives and works in Southeast Asia.  He had flown in for the week to see his nearly-finished home, a trip he had made only sporadically throughout the house’s design and construction.

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Indeed, the distance between the client’s home and the Lantern House in Palo Alto had created a new kind of collaborative design process: one mediated by video conference calls and fourteen hours of time difference.   At first, these challenges seemed daunting to the Stanford alum, who had always appreciated the proximity to the projects he’d been a part of in the past.  “I actually like to crawl on the floor and look at the lines,” he explained.  “The inability to do that was very tough.”  In order to collaborate on a project without regular visits to the site, he had to “redo his psychological disposition.”

Soon, though, he learned that collaborating remotely still afforded him the ability to engage extensively in the design process.  And, he learned to trust his team from afar; “The good thing is that I had absolutely the right team,” he says.  His design team was “rockstar,” his architects were “topnotch,” and their ability to work together was their most important attribute.  Feldman Architect’s Steven Stept, in particular, he says, possessed the ability to merge multiple teams into one: “Steven thinks two steps ahead.  He also thinks like a builder.”

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Not only did the client learn that collaborating across a great distance was both possible and rewarding, but he developed new aesthetic preferences, as well.  At the start of the design process, the home’s grey color scheme was never at the top of his priorities.  Now, he’s copied the Lantern House’s palette of “greys and whites mixed in with a little bit of glass” for his office in Southeast Asia.  Similarly, he was unfamiliar with roof gardens before working with Feldman, and is now very much taken with the concept and intent on installing lights in his own.  The most impressive feature of the new house, though?  The kitchen, says the client.  “I come from a place where the kitchen is tucked away and covered.  In America, the architecture is built around the kitchen,” he observed, referencing the home’s great room that includes both cooking and living areas and opens onto a covered patio through sliding glass doors.  As the largest room in the house that is filled with natural light during the day, it is certainly the hub of the home.

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During the process of designing and constructing the Lantern House, the client learned that his work would require him to delay his move back to the Bay Area; he would have to rent the house for 2-3 years before moving in himself.  This knowledge – that he was building a house for strangers in addition to himself and that his move to Palo Alto would not come on the heels of the project’s completion –- added a new challenge to the design process.  “It’s been difficult to be detached emotionally from the project, knowing it’s going to people who will not love it as much as I would,” he explained.  On the evening of the celebration, he was left with mixed feelings – thrilled to see the physical structure built from his ideas, disappointed that, at the end of that October evening, he would leave right alongside the rest of the party’s guests.

– Abigail Bliss

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Catching up with the Client: Nicole on Fitty Wun...

“I’m just going to sit here and enjoy the noises,” reads a quote scrawled in red marker and attributed to the family’s oldest son, one of the many funny phrases salvaged from the three boys’ childhood and preserved on the wall in Fitty Wun’s kitchen as a Christmas present to their mother.   All of the quotes are goofy, both nonsensical and honest in the way that only small children can be, but this sentence in particular stands out as appropriate for the space.  From the kitchen, I look up into a three-story atrium that stretches from the ground level entry-way, through the home’s open public spaces, to the bedrooms and quiet office above.  Ringed with a steel staircase, this cavernous vertical space is often full of the clamor of boys bouncing off the walls, running their house through cycles of chaos and control, with their mother, Nicole, presiding over the activity from its central hub in the kitchen.  “The house completely deconstructs when everyone is in it, but this is a house that my kids can’t break.  We built this house to use it,” she says.

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And use it, they do.  On weekday nights, the family’s oldest son camps out at the corner of the table in the dining room at the front of the house, a pile of homework in front of him; his younger brother spreads his toys across the floor of the family room; and the third perches on one of the red stools at the kitchen island, close to his mother.  “This is where the school bus drops off.  This is my corner of the world,” Nicole says of the kitchen, where she often finds herself “flitting around, cooking, and checking on homework.”  From it, she can see through the dining room out on to the quiet Cole Valley street in one direction and into the family room at the home’s rear façade in the other.  She can call up through the atrium to any room in the house or downstairs to the family den, where cartoons of baseball parks across the country line the wall.  From her “command station” in the kitchen, she is constantly visually and audibly connected to her family; Fitty Wun is first and foremost a family house.

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The family first purchased the house in 2006, drawn to it not for the structure itself, but for the garden space behind it.  At that point in time, the house was just one floor, and all three boys shared a single room.  There was no way the structure could accommodate the family’s three boys, two cats, one dog, and active lifestyle; they began to develop concepts for the home’s renovation.  Among them were three ‘must-haves’ that remained intact throughout the entirety of the design process, and Nicole enjoyed watching her family’s visions turn into their quotidian spaces: “The process was really fun.  There was a lot of laughing.  I miss that process – the word collaborative was exactly what it was.”

While the family knew that space in the city was a luxury, their first ‘must-have’ was an open, communal living area, which they preferred to packing in extra bedrooms or bathrooms.  Today, the kids only sleep in their bedrooms; the family prefers to live together, in shared spaces, at the center of their home.  In addition to being set on an open central space, the family was intent on putting the outdoor spaces of their home to good use.  Nicole’s favorite spot in the house is its crowning green roof, and the sliding glass doors between the living room and the backyard where the boys and their friends congregate to play basketball and run barefoot are almost always open.  “That whole concept of living indoors and outdoors?” she says, “We actually do it.”  The third and final ‘must-have’ was a quiet office that would function as a pocket of calm in an active household.  The architects responded with a floating pod that hangs above the atrium and its echoes bouncing off the walls, presiding over the activity from a quiet, removed perch.  It’s where the oldest son and his father retreat to watch The Walking Dead every week; the pod has become the residence’s “man cave” as the boys grow older.  Still, their mother insists that no one in the family ever does more than “pretend to be a grownup,” and if the house has weathered well under the weight of growing boys’ feet, the family’s sense of playfulness has remained equally intact.  “Our idea of art is superheroes and Legos,” Nicole confides.

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I visited the home on a recent Wednesday morning, when a rare sense of calm had settled over Fitty Wun.  The family dog napped in the sunshine, the plastic figurines that usually lie strewn across the living room rug had been tucked away, and the home’s Hallmark swing hung still and empty.  The sunlight streamed in through one side of the atrium as we climbed the stairs towards the green roof, and by the time we descended back down towards the entryway, having explored the loft spanning the boys’ bedrooms and looked out through the master bedroom’s full height windows onto the green backyard, it filtered in through a second side, bound to peek its way through each edge of the atrium’s rim before setting.  No matter how many times the sun circles and sets, though, the home doesn’t lose its everyday, Lego-laden charm, says Nicole: “We love this house every single day.”

– Abigail Bliss

A Year In Review – Kat Hebden...


A year ago I traveled from Auckland, New Zealand to San Francisco to work as an Architectural Graduate. I had not been to America before but chose to live in one city for the duration of my stay because I hoped to experience an intimate sense of place and people in such a diverse and vast country. On a Saturday afternoon I emerged from the 24th Street Mission Bart Station into a vibrant world of color and music. What followed was an unforgettable 13 months immersed in new landscapes and communities with the opportunity to be part of an innovative and design-focused studio, Feldman Architecture. I learned so much from my colleagues, who became mentors, neighbors and lifelong friends.kat4kat2Kat1

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In between exploring the hills of San Francisco I was lucky enough to visit ten states, but California with her redwood forests, endless coastline, lakes and mountains was home. My path quickly fell off the Lonely Planet page with the overwhelming hospitality of new friends and their families. I spent my first white Christmas listening to country in Yosemite, fished the shores of Tahoe on the Fourth of July, surfed the breaks of San Diego Thanksgiving morning and hunted for matzah in the Mission. It was great to be able to celebrate each holiday once and also to be in San Francisco to enjoy other occasions such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and title wins for the Giants and Warriors.

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My friends taught me how to shoot, how to shuck an oyster and crack a crab, how fast to run from each wildlife species and the intricacies of football. How to go forward on a horse and backward on a kayak and to be more adventurous, confident and spontaneous. I learned of site, materiality, climate and craft. The intent of the pilot visa I was issued is to encourage cultural exchange between our countries. I could not have imagined how much I would learn and now carry with me from this experience. The photos I have included are of California but remind me of the people I shared the memories with. I would like to thank everyone at Feldman Architecture for their support, incredible generosity and for every opportunity and experience they gave me.

Kia ora is a Te reo Maori greeting also used to give thanks and feels fitting here.

Kia ora friends,

Kat

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Third Thursday November 2015: Peter Yu...

In November, we had the pleasure of welcoming Peter Yu of Yu Structural Engineers into our office for an engaging presentation about his past and current single-family residential, multi-unit residential, and commercial structures.  Peter and Steven had collaborated extensively during Steven’s tenure at his prior firm, and it was great for the rest of the office to be introduced to Peter and his body of work.

While the projects that Steven and Peter had collaborated on were elegant, modern residences, the highlight of Peter’s presentation was more fantastical in nature:  a treehouse home.  The house, comprised of three separate structures, required Peter and his team to build a 60 ft artificial tree capable of supporting a fully-functional family home.  Starting with clay models and working their way up to the life-sized final product, Peter’s team tackled the challenge of making their clients improbable dream home a reality.  Thanks for sharing, Peter!  We are so impressed.

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The Broad Museum...

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I recently had the opportunity to visit the Broad Museum, a contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles, during its first few weeks of opening. I suppose it is only in our youth that we consider actions that require us to leave the comfort of our beds, drive for six hours, and arrive in a city at 5:00 AM for the sole reason of visiting a museum.

With no tickets, our only recourse was to wait in line. We thought we had arrived early. We also thought it was autumn. We were wrong on both counts. People actually cheered when an attendant emerged from the building pushing a cart full of water bottles.

Standing outside, it struck me that the museum’s building will inevitably draw its context from the neighboring Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The contrasts seem clearly intentional: containment vs accumulation, repetition vs fragmentation.

 

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Within the museum, there is a very simple, but experientially, very strong differentiation between the lower and upper floors. I would liken it to the Titanic: the dark, subterranean underbelly of the engine room almost defies belief that just a few floors above, people are dancing in a sparkling, luminous ballroom.

In the lobby, the dark walls have been molded perfectly smooth. And within this polished surface, the gentle slopes and curves of the wall give way to a singular void, where people are swallowed whole to be led upward. It’s not merely a simple change in elevation; one quite literally emerges from the cave below into a place of light.

– Humbeen

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Fall 2015 Newsletter...

At Feldman Architecture, fall has brought new projects, exciting progress on continuing projects, and opportunities for community engagement ranging from red carpet events to fun on the beach in sunny San Francisco.
We’re thrilled to announce that multiple Feldman projects achieved national recognition this season!  The Butterfly House received the American Architecture Award for 2015, a prestigious honor bestowed by the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies on the best new buildings designed by American architects.  Both Creekside House (above) and Fitty Wun (right) were honored in the 2015 Remodeling Design Awards – Check out the interviews with the architects and clients here andhere.  Fitty Wun won its category’sGrand Prize and was praised for its open and creative design.  The whimsy of the home’s renovation was also recognized by the 2015 Builder’s Choice/Custom Design Awards.
In September, Jonathan walked the red carpet as a co-chair of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) Designs Auction (below). The evening featured fine art, fashion, and furniture created by Bay Area artists and designers in a silent auction to support HIV/AIDS research and direct patient care.  Jonathan was delighted to be a part of DIFFA’s initiative, which has raised and granted over $40 million to benefit men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS and to support preventative education for at-risk individuals.
The whole Feldman team and our families spent a day at the beach for this year’s cinema-themed LEAP Sandcastle Contest (below).  Working with students from the Jefferson Elementary School, and with our teammates at Peninsula Custom Homes, ZFA Structural Engineers, and Thuilot Associates, we created a wonderful sand monstrosity in the form of Jabba the Hutt.  Our sculpture was a huge success, and our team raised over $10,000 to support LEAP’s educational programs in music, dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, and architecture in over twenty-five Bay Area elementary and middle schools.
In October, we had a great time celebrating our Palo Alto Lantern House and the team involved with its design at the house itself (left).  Another project, an extensive remodel of a stately Victorian home, was featured in the Junior League of San Francisco’s 21st Annual Homes Tour; the Footsteps in the Fog Tour led participants through Presidio Heights, revealing the history, interior design, and architecture of local private homes.  On a tour of our own office, students from the AIA student group at UC Berkeley learned about the firm’s sustainable practices and technology tools.
Finally, we are pleased to welcome two new staff members to the firm.  Matt Lindsay joins Feldman Architecture with a wealth of local and international experience ranging from fine furniture making and wood construction in coastal New England to large institutional projects in the United Arab Emirates.  Abigail Bliss is recent graduate of Amherst College (Jonathan’s alma mater!) who is fine-tuning our marketing texts and boosting our social media presence.  We want to wish a warm welcome to warm winters to these two East Coast transplants!
We are grateful for this season’s successes and excited to see what the next few months will bring!

Third Thursday October 2015: Stefan Thuilot...

On the heels of our joint success at the 2015 LEAP Sandcastle Contest, where we joined forces with ZFA, PCH, and the students of Jefferson Elementary to build a Jabba the Hutt sand monstrosity, Stefan Thuilot visited our office to share some insight and images of some more elegant projects.  Many of the projects Stefan shared were carefully crafted garden designs for private residences, and their understated aesthetics seemed both carefully planned and natural, engaging with the original site instead of supplanting it.  Using fire and water as dynamic design components, Steven weaves disparate elements of each garden puzzle into a coherent whole to heighten the sensory experience it offers.

Stefan’s exploration of indoor-outdoor living spaces requires extensive collaboration with architects like FA itself, and it was interesting to take a peek at the opposite side of that back and forth.Portola Valley Residence (1) Jepson Residence 2 ad-01_1500-60 ru-2_1400-45

A Sukkah in the City...

This past weekend, a team of volunteers from the Congregation Emanu-El gathered to realize Jonathan’s sukkah design in the temple’s courtyard.  Constructed for the Jewish festival of Sukkot, a sukkah is a temporary hut intended to replicate the wilderness dwellings built by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt to the Holy Land.  Traditionally, a sukkah has three sides, branches for a roof, and serves as a space for eating, gathering, and sometimes sleeping during the holiday.  Always, the roof should be thin enough that one can see the stars from within the dwelling.

Like traditionally simple sukkahs, Jonathan’s design celebrates the harvest with modesty.  Twelve burlap panels are suspended in the temple’s courtyard, rising in height as they slope up around the fountain at the space’s center and towards the doors of the temple itself.  Each constructed of four slender wooden beams creating a rectangular frame for the burlap, the panels billow and bend gracefully in the wind and leave bold, geometric shadows on the bricks below.

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“We challenged a group of architects to design a sukkah using creative form and the whole courtyard,” Rabbi Jonathan Singer explained to me on Saturday, emphasizing his desire to expand upon the temple’s previous smaller, wooden structures and create a site open to the entire community.  Even during its construction that afternoon, the suspended panel design proved inclusive; with direction from Jonathan and the other architects present, families stapled the burlap screens’ sides to the wooden beams and knelt to tuck uneven edges beneath the frame.  A congregation member and his son had stopped to help on their way to a soccer game, another woman had dedicated her entire afternoon to the project, and a mother ran to pick up another staple gun with her son in tow.  Rabbi Singer himself pulled a pair of scissors from his pocket to help the volunteers, saying “In the season of our joy, we remember with humility not to compartmentalize ourselves from nature.”

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The sukkah will remain in place for the duration of the holiday, which ends on Sunday, October 4th.  For more creative sukkah designs, check out this gallery of entrants in 2010’s Sukkah City competition, which selected 12 designs to be constructed and displayed in New York City’s Union Square Park: http://www.sukkahcity.com/

– Abigail

Update: The sukkah continues to welcome the community with great success throughout the holiday.  Sunday evening, a crowd of people enjoyed fulfilling the mitzvah of eating in the sukkah, and the courtyard has since hosted preschool breakfasts, staff lunches, the congregation’s Youth Education family day, and Wednesday night’s Women’s Group gathering.

Summer 2015 Newsletter...

Happy summer from Feldman Architecture! This summer brings new projects, fresh faces, and a surprising amount of hot weather in San Francisco. Our new endeavors are a diverse group of projects ranging from residential projects in Santa Cruz, Tiburon, Los Altos Hills, and Menlo Park to a civic installation to a commercial kitchen.

The Summer issue of Luxe Interiors + Designcurrently on stands features our Spring Ranch project on the cover. The article focuses on the sustainable features such as rammed earth and thoughtful configurations that promote passive heating and cooling throughout the year. The ultimate goal of an environmentally conscious structure that marries into the landscape is part of what makes this house special and the orientation frames the sweeping views toward the owner’s 500-acre ranch.

This month, the IIDA Northern California Chapter is hosting a tour of our Presidio VC Offices to celebrate the project winning an Honor Award in their 2015 awards program. We continue to be overwhelmed by the response to our premier commercial endeavor. The tour will be led by the project architects and spaces are available through the IIDA website if you would like to attend.

In other news, spring was the optimal moment to capture two recently completed projects within the context of mature landscaping in Carmel and Portola Valley. The Portola Valley Ranch shoot is a new residence on our website and above is a sneak peek at the Carmel house.

On September 24th, Jonathan will be co-chairing the DIFFA Designs fundraising event, presented by Roche Bobois. DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting Aids) has granted more than $41 million to organizations nationwide that provide direct care for people living with HIV/AIDS and preventative education for those at risk. Jonathan is delighted to take part in an evening for such a good cause.

The Feldman crew is excited to announce that we are once again taking part in the LEAP Sandcastle Contest in October, teaming up with Peninsula Custom Homes, ZFA Structural Engineers, and Thuilot Associates. This year’s theme is “Sand Cinema” and our team is known as the Coastbusters!We love being able to utilize our experience in the field of architecture and collaborate with colleagues for such a great cause. We will be getting our hands dirty and supporting students from Jefferson Elementary School again this year in NorCal’s largest sandcastle building contest on October 10th at Ocean Beach. A big fundraising event is in the works for September so stay tuned! You can find out about more team fundraising activities as the details develop or donate by visiting our LEAP team page here.

In an effort to properly showcase the talented crew behind the firm we had an in-house photo shoot to have new staff photos taken and a group shot of the entire team! We were actually able to get one shot where nobody blinked including our mascot Briar Wu. We will be updating our staff pages as soon as Jonathan decides which version of his ‘blue steel’ he likes best.
We would like to give a big welcome to two new employees, Ahlam Reiley and Nick Polansky. Ahlam is a licensed, LEED architect with commercial and residential experience in the Bay Area and in the Middle East. Nick is an MIT graduate and designer with residential and restaurant experience who recently completed an artist-in-residence program at Autodesk Pier 9. Their range of talent is an exciting addition to the Feldman team.
We’d also like to officially acknowledge our summer intern, Evan McCurdy (above left). He joined us from UC Berkeley’s Bachelor of Architecture program. We gave Evan a well-rounded glimpse of the life of an architect. When asked about the highlights of his experience at Feldman, Evan said, “FA has put me on 13 different projects, taken me on numerous site visits and thrown me into several client meetings. I have learned a great deal here as the fly on the wall, but even more as a man on a horse. Thanks for the horseback ride FA.”

Have a wonderful rest of your summer, and we’ll see you in the fall!

Sou Fujimoto Exhibit...

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A quick report from my visit of “Sou Fujimoto: FUTURE OF THE FUTURE” exhibit at Gallery-Ma in Tokyo.

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You can see the rigor/seriousness for the exploration of new and unconventional ideas in these models, but you can also see that there is a sense of humor and curiosity in his approach, and I really enjoyed that duality. Some of the models looked like ideas only kids would come up with: a pine cone as a shelter?

You also saw ideas being recycled/reimagined/reinvestigated. In some instances, parts of models were literally repurposed and reincorporated into the subsequent iteration of the study models. Forms were derived from these explorations, but the explorations were never just for the sake of form-making.

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I have seen a number of great exhibits in this space over the years but I found this one to be extra special. It helped that they had amazing contents to work with, but I was really impressed with the presentation. The two rooms and the courtyard were filled with a series of study models. The scales of the models worked really well with the scales of the spaces, and the models were curated to tell a very concise visual story of  the Sou Fujimoto’s philosophy through the evolution in his design.

– Tai

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