Staff Spotlight: Natalie Marcisz

Q: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in the East Bay – we hopped around from Fremont, to Danville, to Pleasanton.

Q: Where did you go to school?
I received my B.Arch from University of Oregon.

Q: Tell me about your family.
My dad moved to the US from Poland when he was 6. He still speaks Polish a bit, but I wish we had learned more growing up. My parents both spent most of their formative years on the East Coast. My mom moved to the Bay Area right before college, and my dad followed soon after he met her while on a business trip to the burgeoning Silicon Valley. I have one brother who is 2 years older and lives in Santa Cruz. I am lucky that my immediate family all lives close by!

Q: How did you get your start in architecture? What kind of projects are you drawn to?
My parents were very into visiting open houses when I was a kid. They were not necessarily looking to move, it was more of a curiosity and search for potential ideas to use in their own home – a Pinterest of the 90s, if you will. It was a common weekend activity for my family, and while my brother was often complaining about the prospect of yet another open house, I found myself really taking in the seemingly endless possibilities of each home. From these experiences I knew two things at a relatively young age: I was going to live in a French-style chateau with sparkling black and white tiled floors, and I was going to be an architect. Luckily, only one of those things happened.

Q: What makes our office unique?
From my experience so far, the people. Everyone has something unique to contribute to the firm, and I cannot wait to get to know everyone better once we return to the office!

Q: What is the last show you binge watched?
Currently binging Mare of Easttown. A crime drama AND my girl from Titanic? Yes, please.

Q: Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine?
Walking. It has been a very cathartic activity for me, especially during such a weird time.

Q: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Travel to Ireland and hike the coast with my Mom, complete an oil painting worth hanging, and design my own home.

Q: Have you ever won a contest or award?|
One of my most hard-won was the National Champion title with my high school dance team. We went from not even qualifying freshman year, to 1st place our senior year. It made the victory that much sweeter.

Q: What are five features you would include in your dream home?
Expansive sunset views, a large central fireplace/hearth, entertaining space that spills out into the yard, a wine dispenser, and my own natural hot spring … but I’d settle for a pool-sized hot tub.

Staff Spotlight: Drew Curran

Q: Where are you from?
I’m from Plano, Texas – a suburb of Dallas.

Q: Where did you go to school?
I did the five-year architecture program at University of Texas, Austin.

Q: Tell me about your family.
I’m the youngest of two sons – my brother is two years older than me. Both of my parents are from Detroit, my dad works in telecoms and studied engineering in college, and mom is a high school Biology teacher.

Q: How did you originally become interested in architecture?
It all started in our seventh grade humanities unit on Spanish missions. We had to make floor plan for a mission using graph paper, which was really challenging (mine was horrible) but interesting to me. That sparked my initial interest – in middle school I was really into art, and in high school I was into STEM – and it feels like working in architecture and design is a great combination.

Q: Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine?
I started playing tennis! Also, living at home in Texas, I was able to perfect my margarita recipe. I spent a lot of time watching cooking videos and cooking for my parents.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?
So far, I have only worked on remodels of single-family homes. I am interested in working on something slightly larger in scale, or maybe a commercial project.

Q: What is your favorite part about coming to work? (in person or virtually)
Hanging out with Nick (I’m one of the 3 or 4 people in the office right now)! I also have really been enjoying seeing different parts of the city while riding my bike to the office, as I am new to SF. Learning to avoid all the hills!

Q: Have you ever won a contest or award?
Yes. I’ve won concert tickets for a radio station and multiple raffles. I have been incredibly successful at the University of Michigan Dallas chapter alumni raffle – I win almost every week. I also have a seventh grade baseball trophy I’m pretty proud of.

Q: What question would you not want to be asked in an interview?
Don’t ask me about my weaknesses because I have none (just kidding).

Q: What are five features you would include in your dream home?
At least one bathroom and natural light. At most, the most expensive speaker system installed in every room, and a helipad. And of course, a comprehensive rainwater/greywater collection and filtration system and PV array, with a Passive House certification.

Q: Where are you most excited to travel next?
New Orleans – I was planning on visiting until my trip was cancelled by Covid. IMO it’s the most underrated city in America.

Staff Spotlight: Nicholas Tedesco

Q: Where are you from?
I’m from Ventura, CA – just north of LA.

Q: Where did you go to school?
I did the five-year architecture program at USC.

Q: Tell me about your family.
I’m the oldest of three – I have a sister that’s eight years younger, and a brother that is five years younger than me. My parents are both from Chicago and moved to California before I was born, so all my siblings and I grew up in Ventura. I come from a big Michigan family, so my attending USC was a little contentious (my dad played football at Michigan).

My wife is from Ft. Lauderdale, we met studying abroad in Barcelona when we both were students at USC. We lived in LA for four years after graduating, and then moved up to SF, and this year we’re making the move to Marin.

Q: How did you get your start in architecture?
When I was in high school, I was a very serious violinist, and was planning on going to music school – until I started exploring where that could take me professionally, which didn’t excite me. I started exploring other creative fields and admired our family friend who was both a big-time surfer and a successful residential architect – I thought he had the most amazing life.

Q: What makes our office unique?
Even though I haven’t been at FA too long, the first thing I noticed was a really nice office culture, everyone I’ve met and worked with is super welcoming. It seems like a great group of people who genuinely want to spend time together.

Q: Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine?
I was able to buckle down and finish my ARE’s – then found a lot more time to surf.

Q: Favorite SF hidden gem?
I spend a lot of time surfing at Ocean Beach, which I feel is a really underrated part of SF. I like hanging out at the Mucky Duck in the Sunset.

Q: What are five features you would include in your dream home?
I would have an epic wine cellar, a half-pipe or full-on skate park, a climbing wall, a music room, as well as both mountain AND ocean views.

Q: Where are you most excited to travel next?
I want to do a trip to Chile and Argentina to go hiking and drink wine in Patagonia. I also would love to visit New Zealand!

Third Thursday – John Bela

For a virtual springtime addition of our Third Thursday series, we were happy to hear from urbanist, environmentalist, and UC Berkeley and CCA Lecturer John Bela about his many accomplishments and realizations surrounding the ways in which we interact with public and urban spaces. Currently, he serves as a Partner & Director at Gehl Studios, but prior to that, he co-founded Rebar Group during his time at Berkeley, and in a studio space in the Mission birthed a handful of ideas that we have become quite familiar with today, many of which have become increasingly important due to COVID social distancing.

Bela expressed his interest in the intersection between the formal and informal construction of urban spaces, framing examples as centralized and decentralized hierarchies, touching upon how we humanize skyscrapers and big cities. Where these things overlap create a true ecosystem – like the metrocables connecting the city center to mountainous villages in Medellin, and the half-abandoned Luxury tower in Caracas, now occupied by informal settlements. Not glorifying the informality, but finding the sweet spot between strategic and tactile, Bela introduced us to his ideas of urbanism, and the mindset that fostered his experiments.

Rebar produced a series of thought provoking ideas – including Bushwaffles, or soft, bright pink, inflatable wearable buffers between wearers and the hard urban landscape.

“Sold to the public via a vending machine, it is a piece of modular inflatable urban furniture – a pillow to sit on, float on, tie and wrap around you. Through strings it can be connected to other Bushwaffles. Two could form a mattress, three could be a sofa, and more could become a great seating area for a party in the park with friends.”

Interested by flexible urban spaces, Bela along with Rebar investigated an idea based around the shortest-term lease money can buy in a city – metered parking spaces. In the spirit of “user-generated urbanism”, Bela and his colleagues created some of the first parklets in metered parking spaces in San Francisco’s Mission District – introducing a completely new urban space into the typology. Working with Third Thursday favorite Reuben Margolin, Rebar created mobile parklets that traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood, parking spot to parking spot, loaning temporary green spaces to city blocks.

What started as a social experiment has taken a new meaning in a public health crisis – parklets in 2020 have provided reprieve from COVID social distancing protocols, restaurant closures, and feelings of isolation. The Parklet is now a permittable urban space, and has bridged an urgent need, as well as changed the fabric of cities globally.

In 2005, Rebar started Park(ing) Day – a global, public, participatory art and design activism project. It is a day where people across the globe temporarily repurpose street parking spaces and convert them to tiny parks and places for art, play, and activism. Park(ing) Day is Friday, September 17, 2021.

Catching up with the Client: San Mateo Transformation

Last week, we caught up with Katie Morgenroth, a new client working on a remodel in San Mateo. We were struck by her talent as a designer and the ease at which she was able to communicate ideas with our team, allowing the project to move smoothly and to satisfy everyone’s vision. Katie spoke with us about the intersection of her work as an industrial designer and the collaborative relationship she has developed with our design team.

How did you find Feldman Architecture and what made us the right fit?
We did a fair amount of looking at architects online and through home tours which helped inform the style and feel we wanted to pursue. Dezeen, Wallpaper, Dwell and Pinterest helped us crystallize common themes we liked. Architecture, like product design, is a form of art, with many layers and feelings that merge together. A common pattern in the homes we loved was an airy and effortless aesthetic that blended architecture and nature. Also, for us, sustainability was very important. The fact that FA can design gorgeous, sculptural looking buildings with a sustainable ethos really drew us in. We very much wanted our home to feel in harmony with the land and have a real sense of place. That is one of the things that attracted us to our home when we first bought it – the building itself is unassuming, but is very private and on a property with trees and natural landscaping. We wanted an architect that would accentuate the home’s natural setting. I also gravitated to the tone of voice that the firm used to describe the work – FA seemed approachable even before we met.

Is collaboration important in your career? How has your experience of design in your professional life crossed over to this project?
Collaboration is essential in my career, I have learned, many times over- that we cannot do anything successfully alone. As an Industrial Designer, we need the expertise of engineers, UX designers, project managers (and many more) to make a product magical and achieve the best possible outcome.

At work, the last year has required us to adapt to new ways of collaborating – allowing us to design together, apart. We use shared virtual sketchbooks to pass ideas back and forth and update each other with new information. Matt, Steven, Lindsey and I have borrowed this workflow and it’s been great. We are all able to be very visual and communicate efficiently – we can easily align on what we are hoping to achieve. If I have a circle in my head and they have a square, we can easily share what we are thinking and sync up.

In terms of our work with FA, I’ve really enjoyed walking around the property with Matt and Steven and observing as they flip between creative and technical aspects of design. That is specifically why we wanted to hire an architect like FA, I have a certain aesthetic that I really want to achieve, but without that expert intuition of how things are made, I knew we would never be able to achieve the final outcome we hoped for. Because of my background, I am able to go that layer deeper with Matt and Steven, building off their ideas and at times developing alternate concepts in CAD. It’s been a fun process. Matt and Steven have really encouraged the collaboration and I’ve personally learned so much from their perspectives.

Describe your experience working with Steven and the FA team. What stands out as successful in the process?
One thing we really appreciated was how FA was able to expedite the process by quickly assembling a team to suit the goals and needs of our project. It was clear early on that FA has strong relationships and trust built up across the industry. On our project, we were able to fold in a lighting designer, structural engineer, and landscape architect quickly and have kept the whole thing on track. We are submitting for permit now!

We were really impressed by the google slide presentation you made to introduce the project to our team. You clearly spent many hours thinking about this project before you started to look for an architect.  And, we love how you have kept this live document as a way to communicate your feedback to design meetings and discussions. Describe your process when selecting your preferred schemes, finishes, etc.
When we design a product at work, we are always careful about proportions, form, materials – so I am very used to working with different layers. When working on our project, I am very conscious of the materials, light, and views in addition to the flow between spaces – if there are too many rich focal points it’s hard to appreciate anything in isolation. Choosing what to accentuate or tone down in each space has been the most challenging and interesting part of this process.

We like the exposed wood ceilings, lighting details, casework, and views – but we want to be able to see that all in the same frame, and peel back whatever is too extra and doesn’t work. We have been pretty consistent in some areas- finding a quiet material palette for the project, so that when we introduce furniture, flowers, decorations and art into the house, we are bringing in beauty and life as opposed to extra clutter. Sometimes what pulls everything together is the omission of things; simplicity can really bring harmony.

What aspect about your project excites you the most?
Because of how beautiful the property is, we want to focus on bringing the outdoors in without breaking the bank. We have been able to be creative with budget constraints – for instance, we would have loved floor-to-ceiling windows, but we are able to achieve that effect in different ways by looking at the intent and taking a few steps back. As one example, the existing entryway is dark and enclosed, but by pushing the door out a few feet and placing a large window at the end of the hallway, we are able to achieve a similar effect that a floor to ceiling window would have given us.

Working with the FA team, we identified a few choices we really liked – high asymmetric skylights, a bold spine at the center of the building and powerful indoor-outdoor moments. We also have been enjoying exploring casework concepts that give the home a muted, warm, modern feeling. The combination of the geometric elements of the house with a natural palette help accentuate the outdoors and the beautiful oaks on the property. I am also excited to be able to reuse parts of the existing structure, making the project as sustainable as possible.

As the designer of the family, how do you integrate your children and husbands needs and opinions into the design process?
It’s pretty funny – and kind of a joke between my husband and I. We always want to feel like we are collaborating, but it’s also really nice to have clear roles. My husband and I have known each other since we were 18 – he is a financial advisor, and I am a designer. I very much trust him on the money side of things, and he lets me lead design decisions, but if there are aspects of the project he cares about – he will most definitely let me know.

We also love involving our kids in the design process – I want them to be able to be messy and rambunctious, so we have been specifically selecting resilient materials, I don’t want our house to feel too precious. I like to give them tile samples and rough ideas and see how they react – let them really feel materials and interact with the process.

An Update from Feldman Architecture’s JEDI Committee

As we turn the corner into 2021, our team wanted to provide an update on the work we are doing behind the scenes to uphold our commitment to racial justice. Last fall, Feldman Architecture solidified a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, consisting of five FA staff members, which since then has been meeting weekly. In the last quarter of 2020, the committee lead an internal analysis of Feldman Architecture’s procedures, handbook, hiring processes, and submitted a series of recommendations to improve upon these and other areas of our firm as a whole. Our internal assessment felt like a logical place to start, and also lead us to a few important realizations. We first made the decision to enlist help with our DEI efforts from a third party – we are in the beginning steps of working with Humanize Us All to complete an internal assessment of our firm, and engage in an all staff and leadership DEI training that will help us improve as an organization, reflect on our firm culture and mission, and make our efforts to engage our community more impactful.

The committee also realized that as a passionate group filled to the brim with ideas and lofty goals, we will best serve our mission with focused work in specific areas. This quarter, the JEDI Committee will be investing significant time and resources in educational outreach and internship programs for BIPOC students. As a start, the committee will be mentoring a high school student connected with our firm through AFSF, and will be exploring design, software, sustainability, and other aspects of what it means to work in architecture with her. We are also working on crafting summer internship opportunities, as well as beginning to engage in pro bono work at an East Bay school.

At the end of the quarter, we will follow up with another blog post to report our findings, share our progress, and hold ourselves accountable. Please feel free to reach out with comments, suggestions, or questions.

2021 Firm Monograph

Immersed – The California Houses of Feldman Architecture is an in-depth look at 20 years of the firm’s defining residential work spanning three areas: Urban, Suburban, and Rural. Feldman Architecture, a vibrant San Francisco-based studio, aims to create authentic, site-sensitive, sustainable spaces through a deeply collaborative process. This book, which includes commentary from Aaron Betsky and Daniel P. Gregory, as well as an interview with Vladimir Belogovsky, situates Feldman Architecture’s work within the northern California design canon and illustrates how the firm’s voice subtly translates across diverse geographies and contexts. Jonathan Feldman, in closing, reflects upon the values and aspirations that unify the firm’s work and inform its vision for the future.

We are proud to announce that our first monograph is slated for publication fall of 2021! We are looking forward to sharing more about the project, and continuously delighted by the genius of Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers. Revisit this page as we develop more layouts, update ordering information, and plan book signings and events!

Preorder the book here.