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!
From the Iron Chef competition to the rejuvenating Third Thursdays, every part of my experience at Feldman Architecture this summer has been a thrilling challenge from start to finish, especially the occasional morning maneuvers through all of the office dogs.
Diving into a proposal for a project during my second week was an effective way to be put under the spotlight and face the real world. An unmatched opportunity to witness the progression of a collaborative design process, the many projects I helped out with were a true test to my ability to overcome challenges.
I would like to thank everyone, and especially Humbeen, for helping me learn through my stumbles and falls, and for making my experience so fun. I accrued a multitude of skills and a plethora of knowledge during the two and a half months of working at Feldman Architecture. For instance, I can now confidently say that I know how to disable the office alarm without frantically pressing all of the buttons. It has been a real pleasure to be a part of such a vibrant work environment.
Thank you for being such a wonderful team, I hope that I can cross paths with all of you in the near future. It has been a pleasure to get to know all of you !
Just around the corner from our office, on a quiet stretch of Montgomery Street lined by brick facades and a procession of leafy trees, William Stout Architectural Books has offered a quiet refuge and resources to the neighborhood for twenty years. With over 20,000 American and international titles in the fields of architecture, art, urban planning, graphic and industrial design, furniture design, interior design, and landscape architecture, the discreet bookstore has become both a neighborhood staple and tourist destination.
Bill Stout, the store’s eponymous founder, began as an architect and still “lives, eats, breaths design and architecture,” according to Carolina, an expert in design publications and a store employee. Over thirty years ago, Bill began bringing architectural books back from Europe for friends, and eventually turned the hobby into the business that it is today, which includes a publishing company for talented architects with little exposure. Bill’s passion for design has attracted equally passionate employees; Carolina comes from a family of designers and printers, and she studied Graphic Design in college.
Her colleague, Ian, used to practice design fulltime, and before becoming an employee at William Stout, he was a customer. Indeed, many of the store’s customers are professionals in the industry who come to William Stout in search of inspiration or insight. Ian describes them as “people who use the books for function rather than leisure,” and says that the comment he hears the most often is “I wish I had more time!” Not only do customers wish for more time to pour over the many volumes on the crowded shelves lining the stores walls and creating aisles in the center of the crowded space, but they are also often required to make a return visit to tap the considerable knowledge of the store’s employees like Ian and Carolina. William Stout has become a networking tool, or “directory,” the pair says, and they are often asked to recommend professionals as resources or consultants for their customers. As it grew to become a cultural hub, the store’s clientele expanded to include tourists, as well. “It’s a destination,” Carolina explains. “You come here just like you would go to the MOMA.”
While the clientele has changed over the decades, the passion behind the business and the bones of the operation have remained true to their original forms. Even the rise in digital publishing has done little to curb the store’s success. Carolina believes that they experience of thumbing through a book, its “tactility” and “intimacy,” is too different from browsing a publication online for the two media to be in competition.
With a treasure trove of monographs on talented architects, complete with stunning images and well-honed text, it is challenging for a publication to stand out on the shelf and in the mind of the reader. According to the pros at William Stout, though, there are a few qualities that make a publication compelling. “Type is essential,” says Ian, whose own favorite book in the collection, Manuals 1: Design and Identity Guidelines, explores examples of graphic design from companies and institutions who capitalized on the science behind what makes a certain font, layout, or color scheme more compelling. Monographs published in an architect’s prime, or even as promotional material for newer firms, can be just as successful as books published at the end of an architect’s career. “Both have great energy” explains Carolina, “It’s the enthusiasm and confidence of the younger architects versus the experience and wisdom of the more accomplished ones.” She finds herself drawn to collections that exhibit a “formidable character,” identifying Louis Kahn as engaging individual who maintained the same level as artistry in words as he did in his designs; if the architect’s a compelling person, his or her book will be, too.
At Feldman Architecture, we feel lucky to have such a rich resource just around the corner, available for insight or inspiration on any day of the week. It is clear that Bill Stout’s passion for the intersection of design and books both casts a legacy that will remain meaningful for decades to come and extends to his employees. As I step back across the shop’s threshold and into the sunshine of Montgomery Street, I catch Carolina pulling a definitive guide to graphic design off of the shelf for a customer at the front of the store. Flipping through its pages, slowing to show its glossy images to the woman at her side, she smiles. “This is kind of like the Bible,” she says.
Greetings from San Francisco, where summer is in full swing! Here at Feldman Architecture, the start of the season has ushered in fresh faces and new projects. The many exciting developments include the kickoff of our first construction project in Los Angeles, a remodel in the Hollywood Hills, and the opportunity to design our first restaurant: a “fast casual” establishment featuring South Indian cuisine in Oakland’s thriving Uptown district.
As we continue to expand our repertoire, looking forward to the projects on the horizon, we also take great pleasure in looking back at recently completed projects newly captured in photos and in print. We are delighted to share that Ranch O|H, a modern take on the traditional ranch home located in the scenic Santa Lucia mountains, was featured in the latest issue of Dwell Magazine (see above). The article, “A Meadow with Amenities,” showcases the design’s blend of indoor and outdoor living spaces, as well as its subtle integration of modern technology and materials into a classic typology.
We took advantage of the season’s sunny skies to photograph three recently completed projects and are excited to share some sneak peeks with you! Joe Fletcher expertly photographed Healdsburg 1, where the great room transforms into an outdoor pavilion with sweeping, continuous views of the village below (see above). Joe also photographed Noe Valley 2, an urban remodel that brought an abundance of natural light, a neat floor plan, and strong connection to the outdoors to a family home in San Francisco. Finally, Noe Valley 3’s efficient design and carefully selected materials enable the home to achieve LEED Platinum certification, and its innovative use of light, both natural and artificial, was captured by the talented Paul Dyer (see below). We are lucky to collaborate with Paul and Joe, who continue to showcase our projects’ “good sides” time and time again.
Earlier this spring, the office took a fieldtrip north of the city to visit one recently completed project and one in the midst of its finishing touches. The trip gave the staff a chance to see the product of our colleagues’ hard work up close and in person. We took a quick detour to visit Evan Shively’s showroom and wood mill in Marshall, where Evan transforms wood salvaged from landfills and demo sites into works of art, savoring the creative process and its collaborative nature along the way. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on Evan’s operation later this month!
The FA team also hopped over to the Presidio to blow off some steam at the House of Air. While some staff members enjoyed stringing together complex bouncing routines, others took to the dodgeball court, where they found themselves embroiled in a game of Kids vs. Adults. Those are hard games to win, right, Matt Lindsay?
We’d like to issue a warm welcome to Evan McCurdy, who has returned to FA full-time after his internship with us last summer, and Liza Karimova, a current architecture student at UC Berkeley who is joining us as a summer intern. We are also happy to announce that our Feldman families have grown. In early April, Daniel and Mollye Holbrook welcomed their daughter Ellis Anne Holbrook to the world! A big congratulations to the proud parents and their families, and best wishes to baby Ellis, who won our hearts during her first office visit and, more importantly, the affection of Chris’ dog Briar.
To stay up to date on all Feldman Architecture news, be sure to check out our staff blog, where the most recent entry details Anjali’s trip to Vancouver, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram!
Until next time,
An architect and an academic, Charles Debbas visited us in May 2016 to share a wide variety of images and projects from his successful and varied career. From the earliest project he shared, a flower shop in Berkeley, to the child care centers and preschool he designed for a community in Zimbabwe, to his forays into product design, each project he shared assumed its own identity, clearly catered to the client at hand. Yet, the driving principals behind his work – a belief in the strength of simplicity, a delight in shaping the spatial experience of users, and a commitment to creating designs that activate all human senses – stood out as common across the board. We are grateful that Charles, who has been an architect in Berkeley since 1989 and teaches at the University when not working in the studio, took some time out of his busy schedule to share his story with us.
Flower Shop, Berkeley CA
Giza Museum, Egypt, 2002
Child Care Centers/Pre-Schools, Zimbabwe, 2006
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,