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,
On the heels of our joint success at the 2015 LEAP Sandcastle Contest, where we joined forces with ZFA, PCH, and the students of Jefferson Elementary to build a Jabba the Hutt sand monstrosity, Stefan Thuilot visited our office to share some insight and images of some more elegant projects. Many of the projects Stefan shared were carefully crafted garden designs for private residences, and their understated aesthetics seemed both carefully planned and natural, engaging with the original site instead of supplanting it. Using fire and water as dynamic design components, Steven weaves disparate elements of each garden puzzle into a coherent whole to heighten the sensory experience it offers.
Stefan’s exploration of indoor-outdoor living spaces requires extensive collaboration with architects like FA itself, and it was interesting to take a peek at the opposite side of that back and forth.
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.
Early morning van ride to the Livermore Start.
Our friends at Murray Engineers, Renaissance Stone Care & Waterproofing, Von Clemm Construction & VIA hosted an event that invited approximately 50 local tradespeople/bicycling enthusiasts to ride Stage 3 of the Tour of California before the pros hit the course. About 50 participants were shuttled from the Los Altos for a 7am start in Livermore. The ride was fully supported with rest stops, lunch on top of Mt. Hamilton and VIP access at the Finish Line of the stage. Finishing a couple hours ahead of the pros gave everyone time to change clothes, enjoy food and drink, relax, watch the remainder of the race on TVs, cheer on the Pros at the finish line and the enjoy the festival. I enjoyed a well-earned post ride meal of (9) tacos, multiple desserts, (3) cokes, and 2 quarts of water. Here are some photos from the day.
– Chris K.
Invited attendees (Architects, Engineers, Builders, Contractors)
View from the backside of Mt. Hamilton looking back towards Livermore.
Andy Murray being interviewed by Frankie Andreu.
Chris and Andy at the finish line after completing 77miles and 8000ft of climbing.
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.
World Cup fever is upon us – so we hope you are enjoying the ‘kick-off’ of summer as many of us are with the occasional office break to view the action and root on our favorite teams. Speaking of action – the firm had plenty of activity, exposure, and several new faces join us this past spring.
In April, the Butterfly House in the Santa Lucia Preserve was featured on the cover of Dwell Magazine. We are thankful for the beautiful coverage of the project with a wonderful story by Emily Thelin and fantastic photos by Joe Fletcher. To celebrate, the Feldman team hosted a party at the Barrel House in San Francisco, an amazing former speakeasy, with dinner and drinks by Dosa and music by Cure for Gravity.
We are excited to announce LEED Gold status has been achieved for the Salamander House in the LEED for Homes program. Congratulations to our Salamander clients and design team for embarking on this challenging but rewarding path to certification! Feldman Architecture has now managed its 5th LEED certification, 4 Platinum and 1 Gold, with several more homes currently in the USGBC’s system.
Upcoming this fall, as a part of the AIA San Francisco’s Architecture in the City festival in September, the Fitty Wun House will be featured on the AIA Home Tours as one of several homes opened to architecture aficionados to tour on the weekend of September 20-21st. This yearly event can sell out so don’t miss this opportunity for a fun-filled day of architectural adventure. Please visit the AIA website at www.aiasf.org/hometours for tickets.
Finally, we are excited to welcome 3 new staff members to the firm. Ben Welty, originally from South Carolina, brings several years of high-end residential experience and Jessica Gill, a recent graduate from RISD and Reed College hailing from across the Bay in Berkeley, are already busy working on a variety of new commissions. Bianca Mills joined as our new Office Manager and with several years of experience in architecture and related creative fields is a wonderful addition to our team. This summer, we are also hosting Pavan Vadgama from UC Berkeley who is completing a summer course on Professional Practice which includes working in our office. We also note that his FIFA bracket is perfect to date; he has picked all of the winners so far! To celebrate the new members of the firm, Brett Moyer hosted a party at his lovely remodeled Eichler home in Marin where everyone enjoyed the sun, drinks and delicious food while getting to know our new colleagues.
We look forward to working with many of you throughout 2014. Enjoy your summer!