Staff Spotlight: Anjali Iyer...

Q: Where are you from?

I am from Bombay, India (or Mumbai as they now call it!). After working out of there for a few years, I moved to Bangalore to work with this awesome studio. This was a fresh start into small scale architecture; refreshing different from the developer-driven architecture that dominates big cities like Bombay. Bangalore was great and I met my husband there.

After five years, we moved to Prague, Czech Republic. A vacation in Prague, made me realize how much I was looking for a change, to expanding my horizons as an architect. During this trip, we both fell in love with this enchanting city – that straddled the past and present with such ease. We decided to move. For three years in Prague, we explored many parts of East Europe, made a ton of new friends, learned a new language (Czech!). Immersed in the culture of these places, as a local – we gained a new appreciation for our own roots – something one tends to take for granted in one’s native habitat.

San Francisco happened in 2011. I was ready to dive back into active practice after this sabbatical and move back to an English-speaking country. I’ve always been drawn to cities by the water and friends who had lived in SF made a strong case for it. We took a leap of faith and moved here! Eight years later, this is the longest that we’ve been in one place.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I did my schooling at St. Judes, a convent in one of the suburbs of Bombay.. Education was a huge priority for middle-class families in India. It was affordable and of reasonable quality. My parents made sure me and my siblings had access to education and a professional career of our choice. I ended up choosing architecture and went to Sir J.J.College of Architecture, the oldest architecture school in India.

The five year degree course at JJ was a big departure from the STEM focused education system of India. The course was challenging for most of us as it tries to inculcate a sensitivity; develop a sense of inquiry to navigate design decisions and an appreciation for what is aesthetic, what is beauty, why is it beautiful… All a big departure from the prescriptive nature of our early education. The scope of the course was broad – ranging from abstract principles of art, design, to scientific principles of construction through the sweeping lens of historic precedents. It took us a really long time to join the dots and make sense of the seemingly disparate aspects of the program. I do believe it takes all of those five years to understand how architecture influences, shapes and transforms everyday living.

Q: Tell me about your family

I am the youngest of three siblings. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14. My two elder brothers have been father figures in my life since. My mom lives with my eldest brother and his family in Bombay. He is a banker, and now an entrepreneur. My other brother lives in Upstate NY and is a research scientist. Having these two brilliant siblings as role models in my childhood was a huge motivation to excel like they did. We are a tightly knitted family and we try to get together at least once a year.

Suresh and I have been married for 13 years. We met through a common circle of friends in Bangalore. We’ve both grown through our travels away from home and family. He was one of those kids that knew they wanted to work with computers from a really young age. He is a software engineer and a musician.

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

After getting into architecture school, I think. Indian cities, in their chaos and density, can be overwhelming. They lack the overt picturesque, curated quality of cities in the developed world. The patterns are harder to see unless one looks hard. The energy in these spaces was always evident, but it was hard to understand what made them tick, what made one feel a certain way in a public space; a temple, a small park, or the sense of refuge behind the doors of one’s own home. Architecture school gave us the tools and the vocabulary to dissect, and articulate the experience of being in a particular space. Once one knew where to look, design was all around – manifest in forms small and big. I was mostly blind to it, prior to this formal training.

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

I tend to gravitate towards residential projects. Considering how I’ve been doing this for a long while and how I still enjoy it, it must say something about the satisfaction I get out of that typology. There is something truly gratifying about designing for a known set of people who will live out their lives in an environment that you create for them. It is this home that gives them solitude and shelter from the outside world. You nurture and sustain a relationship with the owners through the entire process. Residential design is the best kind of collaboration, – not just with consultants and the construction team but with the end users, more so than any other building typology.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started here in October 2014 so I guess around 4 years and 4 months.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I really appreciate the diversity of people and personalities in the office. I also cherish the lack of hierarchy, for the most part, which nurtures a strong sense of collaboration and lets people have their own voice. That makes for a great variety of projects that are unique and non-templated.

Q: Whats your favorite part about coming to work?

Getting cracking on the list of items I’ve jotted down in my head for that day.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There is one person that I keep going back to, whenever I hit a roadblock and I try to imagine how he would tackle it. I worked with Edgar Demello for five years during my time in Bangalore. Edgar exemplified what it meant to be an architect- a renaissance man engaged in art, music, literature, politics – all with immense thoughtfulness, backed by a wry sense of humor. A small studio that did high quality work with a strong ethical backbone. We are best friends despite being generations apart. I aspire to be like Edgar – always engaged, always passionate.

Q: Are you a sunset or sunrise type person?

I think I’m a sunset type of person. Literally because I’m not a morning person. I still feel the possibilities at sunset even as you see the sun go down, the day doesn’t stop there.

Q: Whats your design process like?

If I had to choose  a word – contemplative, tentative. It starts with a collage of early impressions… of the site, the clients, their aspirations… Words that linger or impressions that stay when I’m recalling the site. Visuals… doodles. There is a sense of ponderous excitement before one touches pen to paper. Furious iterations. Eventually, it leads to something more free flowing and lucid .

It’s an iterative process…  zooming in and out… being really fuzzy; about letting yourself dream about what a project wants to be, darting going closer and getting excited about individual possibilities, and looking at them anew from a distance.

Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?

My Iphone. It’s my window the world. I really am not a gadget person so that is saying a lot. Being a consummate multitasker, the phone helps me stay on top of work and what’s happening outside of work, practice on the new language I am learning. I’m a power user. I used to read a lot more books before phones became prevalent, took notes the old-fashioned way. Now it’s all on my phone!

Staff Spotlight: Kateryna Rogynska...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Ukraine and later moved to Montreal for the second half of my teenage years. I am from the fourth largest city in Ukraine—Dnipropetrovsk, or the short version Dniper. My parents live in Ukraine, but my older brother now resides in San Francisco.

Q: Where did you go to school?

My Bachelor’s degree is from McGill University in Montreal. I did my Masters in Barcelona at a tiny little school that’s on offshoot of MIT called IaaC. The degree in Spain provided an off-the-hook experience that did not focus on the same content as my internships, but instead challenged another way of thinking about architecture and urban planning. What I found when I arrived was that the school was structured around a super fun media lab, where we got to play with 3D printing and Kuka robots. It was basically a warehouse filled with grown-up architecture toys.

Q: Tell me about your family.

My dad is a jack of all trades. He has worked in the financial industry, construction and metal part production, as well as helped managing a TV show in Ukraine. My mom is an engineer by education, but she ended up working in the beauty industry and has a passion for making women look and feel great.

My brother also is a jack of all trades; he started his career in sales and then soon after diverted into the technical side of that position, which led him to founding his own startup at a very young age. Now he runs a business in SF and calls Silicon Valley his home. His company develops software that helps run sales engineering teams more efficiently and increases sales revenue.

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

My attachment to architecture stemmed first from an interest in interior spaces. When my parents bought a new apartment in one of the high rises that my dad help develop some years ago, we commissioned a talented young architect to co-design the interior. Experiencing the space for the first time was very powerful to me, because I saw the immediate effect of his work on my family’s life. Parallel to that, I have always had a strong affinity for the fine arts. During middle school, I also enrolled in an art school, which entailed numerous hours of sketching, painting and sculpture per week. That experience helped to direct my life towards a career that involved combining my love for special design with the technical skills I developed during art school.

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

I, by method of deduction, have learned that while skyscrapers and large commercial projects are interesting to work on in regards to your ego and sheer complexity of the problem solving to be done, I find myself truly reveling in designing tiny parts and pieces of projects that come together in a clever way.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

About a month!

Q: Know any SF hidden gems?

The water organ in the Marina is pretty great. I also really like Lands End beach. My boyfriend recently showed it to me during a low tide, and we went star fish watching!! When waves recede, the beach becomes entirely exposed. There are massive rocks that the star fish attach to, so when the tide is low you can spot hundreds of them!

In terms of restaurants, I am a Souvla junkie. My favorite going out spot recently has been Phonobar, which is owned by one of my friends. It has a really nice loungy atmosphere and great drinks. Plus I get to DJ there.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I am yet to discover all the unique features, but what struck me from the beginning was how close-knit the team is. The leadership puts so much care towards cultivating very strong office culture. The overall successful feeling of the interior of the office was definitely an attention grabber when I came by for my first interview.

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

Right now it’s learning and feeling like I can always get constructive feedback on what I am doing. It’s very encouraging, and makes me want to work and learn even more!

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I am not the type of person who has one role model for life, but there is a French architecture studio, called StudioKO, that I came across about a year ago. They do work predominantly in Morocco while being based in Paris. They successfully manage to mesh ever so refined classical Parisian design elegance with the rough and colorful Moroccan terrains. The final product is really cool—you should definitely check it out!

Q: What’s your design process like?

My process starts with trying to understand the problem as much as I can by collecting all the pieces of information available. My mind constantly oscillates between analytical and messy artistic, so I tend to need to gather as much as I can to be able to start the process.  Later on, it’s about the big ideas. I like to write them down. Then, identify the moves and proceed into sketching/modeling, or whichever media makes the most sense at the moment.

Q: What is the strangest/most unique food you have ever eaten?

First off, I can tell you about the threshold I was not able to cross- which is fried crickets served on mole in Mexico City. My friends eagerly dove into the plate and enjoyed the crackling sound of crushing cricket skins, while I was curious, but also slightly disturbed.

I did try frog legs which were pretty okay. I would say the grossest thing that I am supposed to like since I am Ukrainian, but don’t, is raw pig fat. The dish consists of very dense pig fat that’s been marinated, smoked and salted but not cooked in the traditional way. It is definitely a relic of the past that I cannot imagine enjoying now.

Staff Spotlight: Laura Knight...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up Winchester Massachusetts, it’s a ways northwest of Boston. It’s a lovely little town, very New England, a bit unforgiving in winter though.

I moved to California in early spring of 2018 and I love it here, it’s everything I wanted it to be. I was really enamored with the vernacular of residential design in the Bay and in SoCal. There are so many beautiful projects being developed in a wide variance of design motif and scale (especially residential projects which are my main interest as a designer) compared to the Northeast.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Boston Architectural College. The projects I developed there were very focused on the needs of the city, of its residents, how to improve their lives and the design language of the city as a whole. Even if the work was very abstract and never realized that locality gives you a feeling of purpose and fulfillment.

Q: Tell me about your family

I grew up closest to my grandparents. My grandmother worked in real estate and my grandfather is a photographer. I learned about film photography from him when I was very little (probably spent too much time in his darkroom with all those chemical…).

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

I distinctly remember one car ride into Boston when I was very little (probably about four) we drove through the financial district and I was in awe of all the beautiful buildings… Towering glass boxes, Gothic inspired stone structures, beautiful churches. I think that’s when I first fell in love with design.

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

The bulk of my work experience is in large scale residential design but my passion as a designer will always be small scale residential projects. One client, one vision, and a process of refinement to make something beautiful and functional.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I joined the team at the end of November 2018 so a little over a month and a half. But I should have joined a lot sooner!

Q: What makes our office unique?

Incredibly beautiful design, a wonderfully curated project portfolio, and a very welcoming atmosphere.

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

The projects I’m a part of right now are amazing and I feel privileged to contribute to their design. I’m seasoned in BIM management and I’d like to become a crucial asset to the firm in that respect – someone people can depend on to keep things running smoothly.

Q: Are you passionate about anything?

I’ve enjoyed film photography since I was little. I dabble in lots of hobbies: furniture design, sketching, piano, astronomy, physics, world affairs… Maybe I’m too unfocused!

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I’d say designers like Toyo Ito and Zaha Hadid. Toyo Ito is very mathematical in his design and I think there’s a lot of beauty in that. I take a lot of personal inspiration from studio Nendo in Japan, there is a wonderful thoughtfulness and childlike curiosity to their design.

I’m also personally inspired by traditional Shinto design and carpentry- there is an event in Japan every decade or so called Shikinen Sengu in which the same temple is torn down and rebuilt using the same ancient carpentry methods, it’s definitely on my bucket list.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Lots of sketching and iteration, refinement of ideas, I also enjoy working with physical models whenever possible.  Architects are detectives in a way, every program has a design truth waiting to be uncovered.

Q: What superpower do you wish you had?

Probably flight, for travel and photography purposes. It’d be a dream to get a bird’s eye view in any city I visit.

Staff Spotlight: Johnny Lemoine...

Q: Where are you from?

I’m from a small city right outside of beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. I’d move back to Boston in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the excruciatingly cold and ruthless winters. I don’t have an accent, but I can definitely do a pretty stellar one when I have a beer or two, or when I’m around my family. Go Sox, guy.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to Massachusetts College of Art + Design in downtown Boston for architecture. I met some of the most incredibly talented people there, and some of my best friends. It’s truly a special place that fosters pure, unimpeded creativity, and was definitely a place that let me discover myself. I loved my time there, until it was time to see the rest of the world. I then made a huge leap across the country for the first time in my life and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene (without ever visiting, like most of my travel decisions). It was the best decision I had ever made. It was a huge culture shock and change, but in a really lovely way. I picked up my first of many road bicycles. Now, if you ask anybody that knows me, you’ll find that pretty much everywhere I go I have a bike by my side. Eugene and the whole of the Pacific Northwest is an incredible and weird place to live.

I moved to San Francisco (ahem… actually Oakland, which I still live in and completely adore) in 2014, after spending a year working in England. I was living and working southeast of London in Kent. Our architecture office was small—only five folks, and I met some of my favorite people there as well. I definitely miss the city and its culture, and the fact that there was something going on every single day and night. If you look at any of my sketches, you can probably guess why I love that city so much. In any corner you could find something so old, beautifully stunning, and completely filled with juicy and captivating stories behind it. Never a dull moment in old Londontown.

Q: Who is in your family?

I have three sisters and two brothers—there are six of us total and I’m in the upper middle. I loved growing up in a huge family. Lots and lots of fights, but lots and lots of love as well. Our ages range a lot, almost 20 years! My mom used to be an ultrasonographer but she just went back to school for nutritional health, so now when I head home to visit I’m drinking gallons of homemade elderberry syrup and strange healthy concoctions. Go mom! My stepfather is an electrician, and my father is a carpenter, and they both run their own businesses.

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

I grew up around craftsmen and table saws. My father was a carpenter and his father before him was a craftsman as well. Everyone was always making things around me and that led me to wonder things like “how does this toy work, how does this bike work, how does this building work, how does this city work, and so on?!” I became obsessed with design and the mechanics of things without knowing when or where it happened, it was just who I was. There was never really a LEGO moment or go to a big city moment like other designers have, the feeling was just always there.

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

I would say the ones where I’m able to actually have a big role in conceptual design, all the way to detailing and seeing the project be built throughout. I’ve done some murals for projects before, and graphic design and other art throughout. I like the projects where I get the most experience from the entire project and I love to push every ounce of creativity into them. I like to get my hands dirty in every role, whether that be architecture or art, I don’t really see a difference.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

One year!

Q: What makes our office unique?

I definitely learn something from everyone every single day, which is inspiring. Everyone seems to love what they’re doing and that just pushes our designs further and makes them a little more progressive and beautiful each day. Everyone is very detail oriented, which is excellent. Also we work in a cool building with fire poles and some killer light.

Fun story– I started at Feldman when this office was still under construction. My first interview was supposed to be here at the new office, but instead I went to the old one (thanks, Google). I biked up from Mountain View from a project I was working on and thought I was going to arrive with time to spare and so I could cool down. But I ended up biking across the city as quickly as I possibly could have and showed up dripping sweat because I biked so hard to get here. But I got the job! Kudos to the FA team for dealing with a profusely sweating candidate.

Q: What are some of your nicknames?

Johnny is my nickname, my real name is John. Some people call me Malcolm, which is my middle name. Ever seen “Malcolm in the Middle?” Growing up until college, some people called me Johnny Man for some reason… I don’t know why.

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

Since I live in Oakland, taking the ferry and biking every day is pretty incredible. I see gorgeous views on my way here. Showing up to a light filled office is also nice. I would say having a great project to work on every day is pretty incredible as well. Sometimes I’ll be on Pinterest looking for inspiration images, and then later realize that image was one of our projects here, so I guess I’m in the right place!

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

A lot of the professors I had in undergrad and grad school were beautiful souls. They were simply inspiring. Marshall Audin back at MassArt would often pull all-nighters with you because he truly cared about the next generation of architects. He had a huge heart. I still get beers with these people when I head home, so they’re certainly still my role models.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Hmmmm…explosive. It definitely starts with my hands and sketching. Lots and lots of sketching. Nothing linear about it. I’m a very visual person, so I think I’m a better communicator with ink than I am through speech. Getting as many sketches down on a piece(s) of paper as I possibly can is a must. After that I research and study a lot. I try to figure out the history of what it is I’m designing for, its context, its users, its environmental and social impact, and most importantly, its soul and why it wants to be there (or doesn’t). The fun part is bringing all that in and tying it all together into a concept. I’m a very three-dimensional designer and very conceptually driven.

Q: What’s the most useless superpower you can think of? (eg. You can throw a key at any lock and it will immediately go in, but you have to physically turn it to unlock it)

The most useless superpower I can think of would be:

The power to slightly moisten any inanimate object from a distance by just looking at it. Or the power to turn into an everything bagel. Or the power to sneeze cracked goose eggs. Or the power to clap with my eyelashes at events. Or the power to write down useless superpowers at any given moment.

Staff Spotlight: Jess Stuenkel...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Hawaii but grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My family actually lived in San Francisco for two years before moving to the Midwest. Growing up, I never truly felt Midwestern. We’d do things like eat avocados and papayas and my mom shopped at the local co-op, all things I equated to San Francisco and Hawaii as a kid. I think feeling like I was from here was what drew me back.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan for undergrad and studied theatre arts with a focus on set design. I almost minored in biology and French—I was one class short for both of them. After living in SF for a couple of years, I decided to go to California College of the Arts to get my Masters of Architecture. In my mind it seemed like a natural progression. I saw the connection as being about creating a vision, spatial relationships, and design at a human scale. I also liked that I would be able to engage with ideas of sustainability through architecture.

Q: Who is in your family?

My two parents and one brother who is six years younger than me. My brother, who I convinced to move to San Francisco after college, lives a few blocks from me which is awesome. My parents recently moved to Doha, Qatar from Michigan. My dad is in the midst of creating the college of Health and Life Sciences at Hamad Bin Khalifa University.

My partner Chris and I got married last September. He’s also an architect with a focus on school design. We met in architecture school but initially bonded over climbing.

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

I think I’ve always had an interest in architecture but it took me a while to think about it as a career. As a kid, I always loved traveling to the ‘big cities’ and oohing and ahhing at all the buildings. I can’t remember exactly when it started but I’ve always wanted to live in a warehouse. I think the idea first came to me when my family visited Cleveland and drive through the old industrial district. The old buildings had so much character and looked they had so much potential for new life!

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

I really enjoy the small buildings. I like small houses where I can really focus on how the design concepts carry throughout each aspect of the design and then nailing the details.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Since 2010. I worked at one other firm for about 3 months, and then came to FA, so I would say I’ve essentially gained most of my professional skills here.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think the openness, collaboration, and ability to create your own path, and focus on things that are exciting to you, is unique. Also to be able & expected to work on every part of a project.

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

The people. J I think it’s a really good group of people and your coworkers can definitely make or break the workplace.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Iteration. I like the testing of ideas. Coming up with a concept or idea and tracking it through all the different parts and scales of the project, then refining or revising that same concept so that it’s even stronger. It’s a cyclical process.

Q: What is something that you don’t like that everyone else seems to enjoy?

Pop culture references. It’s not that I have a dislike for pop culture, it’s just that I don’t really care to follow it at all. In terms of celebrities and memes and all that stuff that literally everyone else knows—I’m usually in the dark.

Q: What kind of music would you choose for the soundtrack of your life?

I would say my childhood is the Rolling Stones, middle school & high school consisted of a lot of  90s alt rock radio. Later in  high school I became an emo / Indie kid which carried me through college. More recently I’ve been into the local garage rock scene like Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, and King Tuff.  Of course as goes with all music, the scene is ever evolving and I’m excited to see what’s next. I guess that’s more of a history of the soundtrack to my life, but there you go.

Staff Spotlight: Jeff Wheeler...

Q: Where are you from?

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

Q: Where did you go to school?

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

Q: Who is in your family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

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

Q: What makes our office unique?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

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

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

Q: What’s your design process like?

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

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

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

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