Third Thursday June 2019: Reuben Margolin

To kick off a fun, productive, and creative summer, the team at Feldman Architecture was lucky enough to be invited into Reuben Margolin’s private studio in Emeryville, CA. Reuben, a truly gifted kinetic sculpture artist, is a longtime friend of FA, and even created a kinetic sculpture piece that’s featured in our Telegraph Hill house.

Reuben has been creating his fascinating, mathematic, ever-changing sculptures for the last twenty years, “seeking to combine the sensuousness of nature with the logic of math.” After studying English and Math at Harvard, and travelling and studying around the world, Reuben created his first series of kinetic sculptures, lovingly named the Caterpillars (which reminded us of our own work…). These enchanting creations made of thousands of pieces of wood, string, and pulleys, draw upon mathematical and natural inspiration to crawl along the floor; the piece is powered by physics, and some extra-large batteries. We watched one of his caterpillars (shown below) scooch along the floor of his warehouse, perplexing even our most seasoned architects with its complex design and artistic curvature.

From caterpillars, Reuben departed in an explosion of different artistic directions, drawing inspiration from the natural world around him, such as the sea and the wind. We asked countless questions and closely inspected and admired Reuben’s wave creations- beautiful dangling webs of string and wood that smoothly glide through complicated systems of thousands of pulleys. These structures, suspended in air, break away “from the stubbornness of the ground” and allow for a smoother motion and more possibility in terms of lateral movement.

While enjoying some beers and snacks in Reuben’s studio, Reuben patiently answered a steady line of questioning from our designers (and Tai’s kids) covering a range of topics: design, transportation, logistics, and artistic inspiration. Reuben described projects that hotels, offices, private homes, and even one dance company commissioned, outlining the sometimes comical task of commodifying his art.

We all left in a state of awe, deeply impressed by Reuben’s mathematical mind and artistic creativity- feeling inspired to bring some of what we learned into our own work (both conceptually and literally). Please find more of Reuben’s work here, and reach out if you have any questions about what you see, or would like to connect with him directly!

Staff Spotlight: Serena Brown

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up in San Jose and lived in the same house for all of my childhood. Our neighborhood was a great one for playing outdoors – in the front yard or in the street. It was one of those neighborhoods that seemed to have hordes of kids my age, which made for memorable summers. My family would come up to San Francisco some weekends and when we had visitors from out of town. I remember driving around, hitting all the popular spots, and riding the cable car. Despite my experience being largely related to the ‘touristy areas’, those trips are what made me want to move up here.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I went to Cal Poly, San Louis Obispo and studied Communications with a focus on Intercultural Communications. I chose that my major because I was told that it was basically English with more job options. That, and I love writing, speaking, and all things interpersonal.  I was especially interested in Intercultural Communications because I love to travel and the professor I had for that specific class in college was extremely inspiring. He made the subject matter engaging and interesting even for those who weren’t in the major.  My interest was furthered by my time studying abroad. I went to London for a semester my third year and traveled around as much as I could. Due to that experience, I ended up doing my senior project on reverse culture shock in expats.

Q: Tell me about your family

My mom and dad live in San Jose and I try to visit at least once a month.  My mom chose to become a stay-at-home mom when I was born and my dad stopped working when I was in 2nd grade when he got sick. They were both around at home for my entire childhood, which was a blessing and a curse! But mostly a blessing.

My sister, who is three years younger than me, is graduating from Chapman University in May. She’s adorable and currently looking for her first ever big girl job.  She studied communications and marketing as well but her interest leans more toward PR.  She’s really graphically minded and I’m the wordsmith so we’re opposites in that regard. She and I get along well, though she jokes that I “became a great big sister once I left the house.” I enjoy helping her with school projects and now job hunting. In return, she’s recently started to help facilitate my plant addiction.

Q: What is the most interesting aspect of architecture to you?

Hmmm… There are a few interesting aspects that come to mind. One thing that I never took notice of before working here is the crazy difference of opinion that so many people have about architecture. I always thought that there was traditional, modern, and something in between but have since learned that architecture is much more faceted than I ever gave it credit for.

In the past I’d been interested in cultural differences when it came to architecture and how those differences can translate across borders. I’ve always been very appreciative of beautiful buildings when I travel.  Whenever I take photos, they are always of people, and buildings…and food.  Actually I guess that covers everything.

One thing that I would consider a new development is my understanding of architecture as trendy. I’d never thought of it that way before, but after following so many architecture influencers on Instagram… I’ve changed my mind!

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I’ve worked here for roughly one year and one month and I’m the last Staff Spotlight!

Q: What makes our office unique?

Oh man, well, I’ll just regurgitate what everyone else has said first and then give my own opinion.  The people of course. I had the best coworkers in the world at my last job and I never thought I could top that. Then I found a whole new group of people in this job and thought ‘oh, I can find awesome people even outside of Japan’!  The amount that everyone talks to each other every day is fabulous.  Everyone is always walking across the office and stopping at different desks, it’s surprising any of us get anything done! I’m pretty sure I exchange words with nearly every designer every day, even if they are just asking me where to find a specific supply in the storage room.

Q: What were you doing in Japan before joining Feldman?

I was teaching English in a small commuter city called Matsudo.  It’s in the Chiba prefecture about an hour northeast of Tokyo. I was teaching at what’s called an eikaiwa or English conversation school. My students ranged from age 3 all the way to 73, so the whole range of human existence really. I lived and worked there for a year and loved every minute.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

I like that I have a routine but also that every day is different.  I like seeing and talking to people that I am fond of.  I also like the office itself.  It’s beautiful, there’s a lot of light, it’s comfortable, and I have a big desk. I enjoy the many responsibilities that my position is in charge of, and that I get to make everyone else’s days a little bit easier.

Q: What is the last show you binge watched?

Queer Eye season three.  I recently took a weekend up to Guerneville with my boyfriend, Jeremy and we took some time to just relax in the evenings and binge Queer Eye after hiking, eating and exploring during the day.  We cry almost every episode. It’s a great bonding experience.

Q: Do you have any fun plans coming up?

I have a lot of plans! I’m 100% a planner. This weekend is the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown which I absolutely have to attend. I also have plans to go to Peru in June with my mom and sister.  We were going to do a four-day trek to Machu Picchu but now my mom’s knees aren’t doing too well so we are probably going to take the train.  I also have tickets to three music events in June, July and August.  And that’s just so far! Hopefully I can go abroad again in the fall, Jeremy and I are thinking about Iceland, South East Asia, or New Zealand.

Staff Spotlight: Bianca Mills

Q: Where are you from?

My dad was in the military so I never quite know how to answer that. I’ve lived in San Francisco longer than anywhere else, on and off since I was eight. At this point I’ve lived here for about 19 years total. I like living in the city because I’m close to most of my family, I like the unpredictable weather, and I think there’s some of the best restaurants in the country here. That, and I live in a rent controlled apartment that I’m not planning to leave anytime soon.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I started at New York University in the photography department and I graduated with a psychology degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I switched majors when I switched schools because psychology seemed a little more practical and was something I’d always had an equal interest in. While at NYU I was taking abnormal psych as an elective while most people in my class were taking electives like ‘circus’ and ‘acting,’ which were very popular.

Q: Tell me about your family?

My parents are both retired and will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year. They live in Kentfield, Marin. My dad was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army while my mother worked in retail most of my life and had a few interior design clients after she retired.

My sister is in marketing. She and her husband live in San Rafael with my nephews, James and William. My brother and his wife recently moved to Austin with my niece, Sadie, and nephew, Brady. My niece and nephews are my favorites. My prized possessions are a large collection of bee drawings for ‘aunt Bee’.  I spend time with them as often as I can. Living in Austin makes it difficult to see Sadie and Brady outside of FaceTime.  James and William are at the age where they seem to have sports every day that they don’t have school. I go to their games and make dates with them as much as possible.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

I’ve always enjoyed administrative positions in creative fields but I got into architecture specifically by accident. I’m both right and left brain so I’ve always been interested in creative arts as well as organizational tasks, finance spreadsheets, and human behavior. These types of roles are a way to combine the two. Also, creative professions tend to have office cultures that I fit in better with as opposed to dry, homogenized, corporate environments.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I’m coming up on my 5th anniversary in May.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I agree with what everyone else has said but don’t really want to just repeat it. I like that it’s casual and there are always different conversations going on. I like that everyone is very different but can appreciate the same sense of humor.  Our staff meetings usually include a lot of laughter.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

I like the atmosphere and that I’m able to just be myself. I can wear jeans and converse every day. I live close enough to walk to work. Feldman has a great group of people that I both respect on a professional level and also care about on a personal level.

Q: Do you have any fun plans coming up?

I actually do! I am going to Paris for the first week of June and stopping in Dublin on my way home to see The Cure at Malahide Castle!  They’ve been my favorite band since I was 14.

Q: What are the top three things on your bucket list?

To do a gorilla trek in Rwanda, to live somewhere in Europe for at least a year and to take my mom as my date to the Oscars the year I win for Best Original Screenplay.

Spring Newsletter 2019

Springtime in San Francisco

Promotions, new hires, photo shoots, and publication announcements? It must be Spring!

One of our newly photographed projects, dubbed ‘The Meadow Home’, was inspired by prominent views and beautiful slopes. The design team, made up of Lutsko Associates, Zaharias Design, Strandberg Engineering, Kim Cladas Lighting Design, Art of Construction, and BKF Engineers strove to integrate the structure into the landscape to minimize its massing within a large undeveloped meadow. Kudos to whole team for a beautiful job well done!

This designer should be a familiar face! Daniel has been an integral part of the Feldman team since 2013 and we’re thrilled to announce that this past December he became the newest Associate at our firm! With fourteen years of experience behind him, he’s continuing to excel as a project lead and is always sharing his knowledge with those around him.

In 2019 we’ve also added two more designers to the Feldman Family! Kateryna Rogynska joins us after working at Morphosis in Los Angeles, UNstudio in Amsterdam, LAVA in Berlin, and SOM here in San Francisco. She is a multidisciplinary creator with extensive experience in institutional, commercial, office, and high-rise design projects and we’re excited to have her join the team!

With two decades of experience in high value residential projects in both the Bay Area and Southern California, Jeremy Alden joins us as a seasoned Project Manger with an integrated knowledge of design and construction. He’s been living and working in the Bay Area for 6+ years, with a few of his noted projects being the Walt Disney Family Museum, San Carlos Medical Center, and Cavallo Point.

If you’ve been keeping up with our work you may have noticed an influx of projects added to our On The Boards page. Two projects in Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley respectively, Floating Bar House (top left) and Pan’Orama  (top right) broke ground last year and are continuing construction into 2019. The Pavilions (bottom left) in Atherton are nearly finished and the team is looking to wrap up at the end of April. Finally, Surf House (bottom right) down in Santa Cruz has been making great progress and has provided a wonderful opportunity for our marketing team to play with their new drone.

Started close to three years ago, one of our Pro-Bono projects is set to finish this coming May! The Playworks office near Jack London Square is a playful and whimsical space, reflective of the clients and their unique brand of recreation. Keep an eye out for this month’s issue of Registry SF for a behind the scenes look at how this project evolved and came together.

Finally, we’re happy to share that Sophia Beavis returned from maternity leave in early February and our designers participated in an in-house baby photo guessing game to celebrate. As you can see, everyone was quite amused with the results.

We have a handful of photo shoots coming up this spring and we’re excited to share new work with you all in the coming months. Stay tuned for a publication announcement next week… we’ll give you a hint, we’ve been on the cover once before!

– Feldman Architecture


Staff Spotlight: Jeremy Alden

Q: Where are you from?

I was grew up on a farm outside of Albany, Oregon, in the self-proclaimed grass seed capital of the world. We had sheep, cows and chickens, which was a lot of work when I was growing up. I spent the good portion of my childhood on the business end of a shovel.  I lived in the same house for most of my childhood, but we eventually bought the bigger house next door and moved in there.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I did my fresh year at the University of San Francisco and then finished my undergrad at the University of Oregon. For my Masters, I attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

At USF I majored in advertising design while at U of Oregon I pursued fine arts with a concentration in photography as well as landscape architecture. I worked as press photographer in college and really enjoyed that medium. However, I didn’t want to be a press photographer my whole life and found landscape arch compelling. At Pratt I studied industrial design with a focus on furniture and ceramics.

Q: Who is in your family?

I have a brother and a sister, both younger. My wife, Simran, and I have a three year old named Caden. Siman is a real estate agent for Vanguard and Caden is a Senior Vice President at Twitter (well not really – he goes to preschool).

My brother is a mechanical engineer and my sister is a physical therapist. They live in Eugene and Portland. Fun fact: my mom and dad were on the amazing race, season 19. They went far, but didn’t win. If you ever want a traumatic experience, watch you parents bodybuilding on national television.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

From a young age, I was fascinated with building things.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I like balancing bold creative visions with high client expectations and working with contractors and subcontractors that are highly knowledgeable.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

Just over a month.

Q: What makes our office unique?

It’s very different from my former office. It’s full of light and air and collaborative design conversations.

Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?

I’m at a point right now where I’m learning about the firm, its processes, and developing relationships with colleagues; all of which I enjoy.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?


Q: What’s your design process like?

Lots of ideation to begin. Followed by practical assessment and refinement.

Q: When was the last time you did something for the first time? What was it?

I rode a camel for the first time in November because my son wanted to. This was in the UAE. It was short and sweet. Much like this interview.

Q: Have you ever won a contest or award?

Yes, I was Mr. San Francisco Movember 2009. Movember happens in November and is a fundraiser for prostate cancer research. To participate, you grow a mustache and attend a party. At the party there’s a costume contest and I rocked it!

Staff Spotlight: Anjali Iyer

Q: Where are you from?

I am from Bombay, India (or Mumbai as they now call it!). After working out of there for a few years, I moved to Bangalore to work with this awesome studio. This was a fresh start into small scale architecture; refreshing different from the developer-driven architecture that dominates big cities like Bombay. Bangalore was great and I met my husband there.

After five years, we moved to Prague, Czech Republic. A vacation in Prague, made me realize how much I was looking for a change, to expanding my horizons as an architect. During this trip, we both fell in love with this enchanting city – that straddled the past and present with such ease. We decided to move. For three years in Prague, we explored many parts of East Europe, made a ton of new friends, learned a new language (Czech!). Immersed in the culture of these places, as a local – we gained a new appreciation for our own roots – something one tends to take for granted in one’s native habitat.

San Francisco happened in 2011. I was ready to dive back into active practice after this sabbatical and move back to an English-speaking country. I’ve always been drawn to cities by the water and friends who had lived in SF made a strong case for it. We took a leap of faith and moved here! Eight years later, this is the longest that we’ve been in one place.

Q: Where did you go to school?

I did my schooling at St. Judes, a convent in one of the suburbs of Bombay.. Education was a huge priority for middle-class families in India. It was affordable and of reasonable quality. My parents made sure me and my siblings had access to education and a professional career of our choice. I ended up choosing architecture and went to Sir J.J.College of Architecture, the oldest architecture school in India.

The five year degree course at JJ was a big departure from the STEM focused education system of India. The course was challenging for most of us as it tries to inculcate a sensitivity; develop a sense of inquiry to navigate design decisions and an appreciation for what is aesthetic, what is beauty, why is it beautiful… All a big departure from the prescriptive nature of our early education. The scope of the course was broad – ranging from abstract principles of art, design, to scientific principles of construction through the sweeping lens of historic precedents. It took us a really long time to join the dots and make sense of the seemingly disparate aspects of the program. I do believe it takes all of those five years to understand how architecture influences, shapes and transforms everyday living.

Q: Tell me about your family

I am the youngest of three siblings. I lost my dad to cancer when I was 14. My two elder brothers have been father figures in my life since. My mom lives with my eldest brother and his family in Bombay. He is a banker, and now an entrepreneur. My other brother lives in Upstate NY and is a research scientist. Having these two brilliant siblings as role models in my childhood was a huge motivation to excel like they did. We are a tightly knitted family and we try to get together at least once a year.

Suresh and I have been married for 13 years. We met through a common circle of friends in Bangalore. We’ve both grown through our travels away from home and family. He was one of those kids that knew they wanted to work with computers from a really young age. He is a software engineer and a musician.

Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?

After getting into architecture school, I think. Indian cities, in their chaos and density, can be overwhelming. They lack the overt picturesque, curated quality of cities in the developed world. The patterns are harder to see unless one looks hard. The energy in these spaces was always evident, but it was hard to understand what made them tick, what made one feel a certain way in a public space; a temple, a small park, or the sense of refuge behind the doors of one’s own home. Architecture school gave us the tools and the vocabulary to dissect, and articulate the experience of being in a particular space. Once one knew where to look, design was all around – manifest in forms small and big. I was mostly blind to it, prior to this formal training.

Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I tend to gravitate towards residential projects. Considering how I’ve been doing this for a long while and how I still enjoy it, it must say something about the satisfaction I get out of that typology. There is something truly gratifying about designing for a known set of people who will live out their lives in an environment that you create for them. It is this home that gives them solitude and shelter from the outside world. You nurture and sustain a relationship with the owners through the entire process. Residential design is the best kind of collaboration, – not just with consultants and the construction team but with the end users, more so than any other building typology.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started here in October 2014 so I guess around 4 years and 4 months.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I really appreciate the diversity of people and personalities in the office. I also cherish the lack of hierarchy, for the most part, which nurtures a strong sense of collaboration and lets people have their own voice. That makes for a great variety of projects that are unique and non-templated.

Q: Whats your favorite part about coming to work?

Getting cracking on the list of items I’ve jotted down in my head for that day.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There is one person that I keep going back to, whenever I hit a roadblock and I try to imagine how he would tackle it. I worked with Edgar Demello for five years during my time in Bangalore. Edgar exemplified what it meant to be an architect- a renaissance man engaged in art, music, literature, politics – all with immense thoughtfulness, backed by a wry sense of humor. A small studio that did high quality work with a strong ethical backbone. We are best friends despite being generations apart. I aspire to be like Edgar – always engaged, always passionate.

Q: Are you a sunset or sunrise type person?

I think I’m a sunset type of person. Literally because I’m not a morning person. I still feel the possibilities at sunset even as you see the sun go down, the day doesn’t stop there.

Q: Whats your design process like?

If I had to choose  a word – contemplative, tentative. It starts with a collage of early impressions… of the site, the clients, their aspirations… Words that linger or impressions that stay when I’m recalling the site. Visuals… doodles. There is a sense of ponderous excitement before one touches pen to paper. Furious iterations. Eventually, it leads to something more free flowing and lucid .

It’s an iterative process…  zooming in and out… being really fuzzy; about letting yourself dream about what a project wants to be, darting going closer and getting excited about individual possibilities, and looking at them anew from a distance.

Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?

My Iphone. It’s my window the world. I really am not a gadget person so that is saying a lot. Being a consummate multitasker, the phone helps me stay on top of work and what’s happening outside of work, practice on the new language I am learning. I’m a power user. I used to read a lot more books before phones became prevalent, took notes the old-fashioned way. Now it’s all on my phone!