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.

Feldman Architecture’s Open (Fire)House!...

By Serena Brown

A little planning goes a long away, and a lot of planning makes for a great event! A few weeks ago we hosted our first Open House Fundraising Event in our new design studio. This has been my project since I started here at Feldman so it was especially satisfying to see it all come to fruition. We invited a number of industry friends and colleagues to visit our newly renovated space and help raise money to benefit those affected by the North Bay fires, in conjunction with Rebuild Wine Country.

Before the big day, our office underwent a transformation. The materials library was converted into our Raffle Hall, with all the gifts that had been graciously donated to us from businesses all around the bay on display. We were given tickets to various museums around the city, gorgeous designer furniture pieces, books and items from local shops, and even a signed Kevin Durant jersey! Overall, a respectable haul.

Our main office space remained largely unchanged, besides the conversion of my desk into the main bar and a raffle ticket station tucked against the far wall. In the days following the event, I kept a pack of wet wipes handy for leftover alcohol stickiness. The upstairs landing housed our second bar and candy station, as well as a few standing tables for mingling and conversation. As the night went on, the main floor became increasingly crowded, thus we did our best to encourage people upstairs to enjoy the view.

We were lucky enough to have Matt Wrobel come by to play two gorgeous guitar performances. My only regret is that there were so many voices that his music got almost completely drowned out! We’ll have to have him back once again for a more intimate gathering. We were also happy to learn that our summer intern Parker has a knack for photography and was able to take snapshots throughout the event. To see some photos and get a glimpse of our new space, head over the Flikr album HERE.

Every staff member had their assigned post for the evening which made the event flow smoothly and my stress levels remain neutral, a rare feat for any event planner! I was happy to see our guests and designers alike mingling, laughing, scouting out raffle prizes, and generally having a wonderful time. The raffle drawing occurred at the conclusion of the evening, and while everyone was able to collect their prizes in the end, I do wish I had thought to get a mic for the announcements. Our golden ticket winner chose to head home with a beautiful bench from Leverone Design. The highly coveted KD jersey ended up going home with someone who had only put one ticket in the jar! Lucky indeed.

Thanks to everyone’s enthusiasm and generosity, we were able to raise $8,500 for our cause. Our goal was set at $10,000, but we had the unfortunate coincidence of hosting our event the same night The Warriors were playing game 4, so perhaps we missed out on a few super-fan guests! I really enjoyed hosting such a fun party in our new space and I hope to do it again in the future.

If anyone is still interested in supporting our cause and donating to Rebuild Wine Country, you can find more information on their website HERE.

Third Thursday April 2018: Jefferson Mack Metal...

By Serena Brown

Asking myself where to properly store a custom fire pick in my apartment was never really a question I’d anticipated asking. However it’s exactly the mental discussion I found myself in after spending an enjoyable and informative evening at Jefferson Mack Metals.

For our most recent Third Thursday, the office was invited to participate in a blacksmithing demonstration with Jefferson in his San Francisco workshop. As a full-time blacksmith, he is dedicated to creating beautiful, unique, honest pieces, rooted in the traditional aspects of metal working. Our experience was equal parts learn by demonstration and learn by doing, as we were able to take part in creating our own metal art with the help of the talented workshop designers.

The evening began with a meet and greet over charcuterie, followed by a quick gallery tour. Jefferson Mack is known for innovative metal design, the more “out-there” the better. The small room was filled with delicate sculptures, wall pieces, and serpentine furniture. Our designers were particularly drawn to an upright pendulum, situated at the front of the garage workspace. As we admired the array of pieces, Jefferson explained the history of his practice and the different collaborations that had occurred over the years. In conjunction with Aaron Gordon Construction Inc., he hosts monthly workshops similar to the one we attended in order to allow suppliers and clients alike to get a taste of the process behind their requested pieces. He’s also worked with various artists and other creatives to forge everything from gazebos to cutlery!

Before beginning the hands-on portion of the evening, Jefferson sat us down for introductions and an explanation of the process. Then, in groups of three we began forging our fire picks. To begin, the steel metal rod was heated in one of their few furnaces to a temperature of about 2246 degrees Fahrenheit. Together with a resident blacksmith, we each hammered the tip to a point, bent it over an anvil at a 90 degree angle, shaped the handle, and added decorative twists.

Since our group was only 10 large, each interaction felt extremely individualized. I was able to spend as much time as I desired hammering, twisting, and perfecting my piece. The atmosphere was lively and comfortable, and not as hot as I’d expected! The entire process took a little over an hour, leaving plenty of time for chatting and refreshments at the conclusion of the evening.

Before departing, we were able to watch Jefferson in action, forging delicate spirals out of the hot metal with seemingly little effort at all. He also passed around a few small pieces from his gallery, and opened the floor to questions. The conversation focused around the history and background of blacksmithing, at what age each artist started, how long an apprenticeship generally lasts, and what metals they typically work with at the shop.

At around 8pm it was time to leave and we were all struck with a similar thought: Would BART or an Uber be a more appropriate mode of transportation home while carrying a newly forged fire pick? We were split on the answer.

Our experience at Jefferson Mack was warm and inviting in more ways than one and a truly beneficial experience to designers and office assistants alike! Now all that’s left is finding a fireplace or planning a company camping trip to use our new tools! We invite you to learn more about their fantastic studio and the craft that they’ve mastered on their website!

Thank you so much for having us Jefferson and we look forward to collaborating with you in the future!

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Filoli Photo Journal...

By Liza Karimova

The tour begins! Here we see the front facade of the 1920’s house. It was based on the Muckross house in Ireland, as an attempt by the owner to make their daughter and Irish husband live in America. Only the front 2 columns were made out of marble to cut costs, and all materials are locally sourced. The walls are 4ft thick and hollow in the middle. Fi-lo-li is short for Fight, Love, Live, words that the original owners lived by.

Many of the rooms in the house, just like this one, are replicas of famous libraries and chambers from all around Europe.

The house is known for it’s numerous charcoal portraits by John Singer Sargent.                                             To avoid disturbing the line of sight, the light switches are hidden in the columns!

There are 16 acres of gardens!

Thousands of tulips are planted every year. Right now they are in full bloom.

The garden remains mostly unchanged from what it was in the 1920’s. Except for the addition of an olive tree grove, and some fruit and vegetable species.

Irish yew trees are strategically scattered around the garden to anchor the view.                                                                                          Hairy tulips!

Percy, the only inhabitant of the gardens!

To learn more about Filoli and how to plan your own visit, head on over to their website!