Monterey Design Conference...

At the end of October, the entire Feldman Architecture team was lucky enough to head down to Asilomar, a beautiful conference ground, hotel, and coastal architectural wonder (designed by Julia Morgan) for three days of design, lectures, workshops, and beach-side bonding at the Monterey Design Conference– one of the most highly respected and attended biennial architecture and design conferences in the US.

The conference hosted a dynamic and engaging list of speakers. Some FA favorites included Alberto Kalach from Kalach & Taller de Arquitectura X who discussed his beautiful work in Mexico City, as well as his take on the future of urban planning, and on the other side of the spectrum, Gregg Pasquarelli from SHoP, with some incredible insights on his firm’s innovative large scale commercial work at Barclays Center and Uber headquarters. The diversity of presenters, topics, and approaches to architecture was incredible, and our designers left every session conspiring about new ideas and exciting takeaways, looking forward to applying new perspectives to our future work.

Smaller breakout sessions on topics like sound in architecture, public art, and the 2030 Challenge also provided for conversation and networking – we were able to connect with old friends and make some new from all over the world.

The grounds were tranquil and relaxing- and our team was able to take advantage of our beach-side locale by having an impromptu happy hour on the beach, and visiting a local breweries after the daily sessions ended.

While in the area, the entire team toured some favorite Feldman Architecture projects- including Butterfly House and House Ocho (the first home Jonathan Feldman ever designed). And to close out the weekend, on Sunday afternoon a small group from FA hosted a modern home tour – in which conference goers were bused into the beautiful Santa Lucia Preserve to visit Ranch OH, as well as two other stunning homes designed by Aidlin Darling and Piechota Architects. The tour ended up being a mini vacation for all involved- with some of the FA staff taking a dip in the Ranch OH pool!

Feldman Architecture was proud to be one of the only firms that sent all of their employees the conference, exposing designers and staff of every level to the newest and best ideas from the brightest in our industry. The team left with a shared sense of gratitude for our firm- and a feeling of rejuvenation and excitement to get back to work.

An Interview with David Toews of BayWest Builders...

By Serena Brown

A few months back I was given the opportunity to tag along on a site meeting to Los Altos Hills. My purpose was to interview David Toews, BayWest Builder’s superintendent on site at the Round House. I’ve been interested in this project since I started at Feldman Architecture due to its unique circular shape, and the innovative ways the various teams have tackled the challenges that come with a perfectly round form; notably David’s creation ‘The Tool’.

For the first hour or so I had free reign to explore the home, snapping photos and admiring the views. Once the meetings had finished and the walk-through was complete, David was happy to sit down with me and discuss his background in construction, as well as his excitement for this particular project. Despite his current construction expertise, David grew up in a musical family. His father was a brilliant composer who started the Cabrillo College Music Festival, though for reasons unknown encouraged David away from the musical path. David joked that he “wasn’t sure if it was due to the difficulty of the business or [his] lack of musical talent!”

At age six he was given his first tool set, which he promptly got taken away by his mother after sawing through a support beam on his front porch. During his early teen years he attended an alternative high school / college and turned his attentions toward the medical industry. He decided at 17 that medicine wasn’t for him after dropping out of college to pursue other interests. At 19 he entered his first carpentry job, but wasn’t yet thinking of it as a trade. Shortly after, he was taken under the wing of Ed Powell as a carpenters apprentice and his career in construction really began.  From Ed he learned not only the hands-on skills associated with construction, but also the values behind his way of business. As a child he had spent time with his uncle learning how to build architectural models, paint with watercolors, and generally learning how to problem solve. The time with his uncle had a huge influence on his later life, and his time with Ed reminded him of those experiences.

Following his tenure with Ed Powell, David went on to work at Pressman Construction where he learned about business management but felt the company didn’t extol the same values he’d admired in Ed. In 1986 he started his own company, built on core tenants he believed in, and ran it for 30 years. He proudly kept his clients happy but admits that despite being a good builder, he wasn’t a very good businessman. Thus, his company closed in 2016. For the past three years he’s worked under the leadership of Derek Gray, which he happily says allows him to focus on what he loves most—building.

The Round House is situated up in Los Altos Hills with views of the Bay from the kitchen and living room. The clients fell in love with this quirky circular home and later made the decision to remodel. Since the house is a perfect circle, David stressed that geometry and strict calculations were important from the get-go. He felt from the beginning that the house needed a compass to guide its construction. He told me that when he’s planning out a job, he views the building in layers, starting from the foundation all the way through framing and steel work. Getting each layer done right is what causes a project to succeed. After seeing the plans for the Round House, long before starting the project, he had a dream about the Sundial Bridge in Redding and in the morning the idea for the perfect tool dawned on him. Derek approved of his plan and after telling the owners, architects, and subs, told him he’d better build it!

‘The Tool’, a cross between a trammel arm and compass, is 16ft tall with a 45ft long boom. Its function was to properly measure the circumference of the house during the construction of its foundation and walls. It helped the team keep track of the vectors in plan and make sure each wall lined up with its counterpart. The name for ‘The Tool’ was inspired by a Russian carpenter who worked for David many years ago. He put together a complex piece of furniture without any fasteners; the through dovetail mortise and tenon connections were locked in place using a small block of wood that tapped the parts into position.  He said if you were to take it apart, save the ‘TOOL’, which he had written on the piece of wood. David laughed when he said the name stuck with him and thought he’d pay homage to the work ethic of the man who thought of it. And of course, he still has the ¼ x ¼ x 4” ‘TOOL.’  David said that while he was building it his “heart said it’ll work but [his] mind was still questioning it.” Finally though, “it just took flight.”

Now that the project is past framing, the team no longer has use for ‘The Tool’. David likened it to a “dragon friend in Game of Thrones” and was sad to take it down. He hopes that he won’t have to dismantle it, and is looking at donating it to somewhere like a children’s museum. If anyone knows a good place to display it, please let us know!

When asked about the challenges he faced in this project, David had only positives to share. He mentioned how exciting it is to work on this type of job, and how he’s constantly excited to jump out of bed in the morning and come to work. You can tell that David is truly following his passion, and that problem solving is in his nature. He believes in constantly learning, adapting, and holds the view that ‘information doesn’t just fall from the sky, [he] was very fortunate to have mentors to pass on knowledge that had in turn been passed on to them.”

I want to extend a huge thank you to David for taking the time to speak with me and share his story regarding this fascinating project, and his storied career path and passions. Make sure to check back On the Boards for updates as construction on the Round House should be finishing up later this year!

Site Visit: St Francis Wood...

By Serena Brown

As a few of our projects start hitting the finishing stages, office sites visits have been popping up on our calendar. Today about half of the office gathered bright and early in St. Francis Wood to check out a home that’s set to be move-in ready within the next two weeks.

The project of interest is a full remodel of a single-family home constructed in 1916. The original designer, Henry H Gutterson, designed 83 homes in the St. Francis neighborhood, combining revival-style architecture with his own personal tastes.

Being located on a prominent double lot provides the house and yard considerable space for San Francisco. Our tour began on the bottom floor in what used to be part of the basement but has since been excavated and converted into the family room. The lower floor also houses a guest suite, office/gym, and a large playroom for the entire family with access to the backyard. Despite being lower than ground level, large clerestory windows allow for natural light to stream into the space.

After donning our paper shoe covers to protect the reclaimed teak flooring, our group headed up to the main floor to scope out the great room, kitchen, living room, and dining room. The southern wall of the great room was pushed out and a deck was added for more living space. A fireplace sits along the west wall, with ventilation sneaking up from behind the TV to the roof. A second fireplace can be found in the living room, along with a few light fixtures that got our designers talking.

The top floor houses three kids’ rooms, as well as the master suite. The color scheme throughout the house is soft and minimal, sans the creative bathroom wallpapers (our favorite was the leafy gold main powder room). Alongside the stair, a gorgeous wall of reclaimed cedar climbs steadily upwards toward the ceiling, a simple backdrop to what will soon be a beautiful chandelier.

Unlike our last office site visit, this house had so much to see. Thus, our tour “group” split off into smaller pods of people, based on interest and walking speed. Chris and I took the time to walk around the exterior as he explained the level of excavation that took place to create the lower floor. The back retaining wall is still in process and the landscape has yet to be started, but it’s easy to see how all the pieces will come together. As we were leaving, one of the client’s children appeared looking for his dad. After asking one of the construction workers if he could enter the structure, he received the answer “of course! It’s your house.” Perhaps once the finishes go up and the scaffolding comes down, it’ll feel more like a home.

It’s always interesting to see projects in different stages of construction, besides simply through photos. There are a few projects on the boards that are coming together, so hopefully we’ll visit some of those next. Stay tuned!

Russian Hill Site Visit...

By Serena Brown

The birds were waking up on a drizzly Friday morning when the staff at Feldman Architecture gathered coffee-in-hand at one of our local project sites. Conveniently located just a twelve-minute walk from our new office, the recently renovated condo sits tucked away in the rear of a shared lot on Russian Hill. The original home, built in 1895 was of a single story with a small storage attic.  In the 1930’s the home was lifted and an additional story was added below.  As part of the remodel, the attic space was lifted to create habitable space, a complete 3rd story with a cozy loft and roof deck that offers views of the entire Golden Gate Bridge.

Chris and Jess led the tour through the house, starting with the bottom story bedroom and snaking our way up the twisted staircase. Almost all rooms in the house have gorgeous floor to ceiling steel windows, crafted by Architectural Iron Works in San Luis Obispo. During our short visit, the clouds opened up to drop a quick downpour which I personally found beautiful to watch through the glass panes. The entire condo feels homey and comfortable, exactly what you’d want on a dreary day in the city. Two large dog beds sit in the corner of the master bedroom, offering a clearer picture of the cozy comfort the homeowners must experience.

Once we’d all gathered on the top floor, a group photo was taken before the rain started up once more. From our vantage point, we were able to watch the clouds get closer, and listen to the drops hitting the skylight above. Of all the things to grab the staff’s interest, the thermostat became a topic of discussion for a solid five minutes, before the group moved downstairs to discuss the merits of a glass door refrigerator. Soon after, Jeff, our in-office weatherman, notified us exactly when there was to be a break in the storm, which is when we gracefully made our exit.

Having joined the firm just three short weeks ago, this was my first experience on-site for any of our projects, completed or otherwise. I’m looking forward to visiting many more in the future, hopefully on sunnier days!