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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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/
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.
A quick report from my visit of “Sou Fujimoto: FUTURE OF THE FUTURE” exhibit at Gallery-Ma in Tokyo.
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.
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.
As you may have noticed if you venture to our office, many of us enjoy listening to music while we work. Some people like the background noise, some of us like how different music can break up the day, and others use headphones as a “Do Not Disturb” sign. We thought it would be interesting to share what we’re all tuned into from time to time. This edition is for those times when we really need to hunker down and get stuff done. Choices ran the gamut from classical to pop to post-rock and beyond. So here it is, The Feldman Architecture Focus Mix:
Loud Pipes – Ratatat (Bridgett)
Angel – Massive Attack (Hannah)
Division – Moby (Caroline)
La Femme d’Argent – Air (Jonathan)
The Richest Man in Babylon – Thievery Corporation (Hannah)
Golden Arrow – Darkside (Nick)
Brill Bruisers – The New Pornographers (Daniel)
All Things Must Pass – George Harrison (Aaron)
Red Eyes – The War on Drugs (Daniel)
Everything In Its Right Place/Maiden Voyage – Robert Glasper (Tai)
Attaboy – Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile (Humbeen)
The Well-Tempered Clavier (Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major), performed by Glenn Gould – J.S. Bach (Kevin)
Some folks couldn’t narrow it down to one song, so here are a few Pandora stations and albums people often have playing:
Cat Power (Caroline)
M. Ward (Caroline)
Arcade Fire (Caroline)
Lana del Rey (Lindsey)
Franki Valli (Steven)
John Legend (Steven)
Floating Coffin – Thee Oh Sees (Jess)
23 – Blonde Redhead (Jess)
Check Your Head – Beastie Boys (Chris)
Restorations – Restorations (Ben)
Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit Japan and traveled to many Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Kyoto is located in an inland river valley and is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges. Many of the temples I visited are situated on the outskirts of the city at the base of the mountains where the city ends and the forest begins making for an incredible contrast between urban and rural space. In a way, these temples are a transitory space with one foot in nature and the other in setting is perhaps best described in the Japanese concept of ma, which can mean blankness or distance. Ma is a transitory experiential concept; for example, it is the silence between sounds which gives shape to music.
The focal point of many of these temples is a garden with a large open space and meandering paths. The temples themselves surround these open spaces, which can consist of ponds or dry landscape gardens, or karesansui , and are highly manicured. While these gardens are essentially courtyard spaces, they are never seen in isolation from nature. Often, a view from the engawa, or veranda, of a temple will extend from the garden to the mountains or city beyond which demonstrates the concept of shakkei or borrowed scenery. The karesansui are so detailed that attention is paid to the scale and coloration of the millions of tiny white rocks and sculpted moss that resonate when seen against the fine backdrop of the trees or buildings beyond.
These gardens cultivate an appreciation of ma and therefore an awareness of one’s own consciousness. Like viewing a painting, they are meant to be viewed from afar and are physically inaccessible. Walking through the temple grounds, the emptiness of the gardens heightens one’s awareness of the physicality of the structures themselves and the details of construction in the same way the color blue when placed against the color red highlights the redness of red and vice versa. In this way, the ma of these gardens makes nature more natural and the cities more concrete.