Dzine SF – Medici by the Bay: A New Renaissance for Clients and Architects...

By Lindsey Theobald

A month or so ago, Dzine SF hosted an SF Design Week event entitled “Medici by the Bay: A New Renaissance for Clients and Architects.”  Jonathan was invited as a guest speaker to the luncheon panel, which also included Bay Area architects Matthew Mosey and Irit Axwelrod, as well as developer Greg Malin.  The speakers were also joined by Lissoni Inc.’s CEO Stefano Giussani, representing Pierre Lissoni and their interior design practice.  Lissoni is also a prolific furnishings designer, several pieces of which are well represented by the DZine showroom.

The panel’s discussion focused on design within SF and how it compares to the caliber of design across the world.  Topics they debated ranged from SF’s implementation of cutting edge design practices compared to Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia as well as how we as architects can push our clients out of their comfort zone to then expand our own design boundaries. They questioned how to push forward design in SF while still respecting the regional vernacular of the city, and what could potentially come next.

I was interested in much of what Irit Axelrod discussed.  She often found herself frustrated by the limits of design that local clients typically prefer.  Few clients have been willing to put total trust in her as a designer, choosing instead to play it safe and design up to known regional modernism.  Her aesthetic tends to lean towards raw, warehouse/loft spaces with modern minimalism, but she admitted that she’d be equally as interested in creating an edgy and minimalist interior within a traditional SF Victorian.  Perhaps that juxtaposition would show future clients that the two can coexist.

Jonathan was sympathetic to the struggle between the freedom of pushing design versus responding to our clients own aesthetic comfort level, as well as their pragmatic requests.  Jonathan feels that as a firm we are lucky since most of our clients are great collaborators and put a large amount of trust in us as designers.  We are able to push the envelope on design frequently, knowing that our clients’ design values align with our own, as well as with the world of architecture.

 

Staff Spotlight: Jeff Wheeler...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born in Jefferson, Iowa when my Dad was in the Air Force, but moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa in the fourth grade.  It’s located in the northwest part of the state near the Minnesota border in the midst of three large natural lakes and is a major tourist location for boating, camping, fishing and golf.  The Sioux name for the area is Okoboji and it is infamous for a Santee Sioux raiding party led by chief Inkpaduta and the resulting massacre of white settlers in the winter of 1857.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Iowa state University in Ames.  It was a very solid and practical program and not particularly weighted toward theory – it’s primarily an engineering school which probably has something to do with it.  I particularly enjoyed architecture history, which continues to influence and inform my design aesthetic.

Q: Who is in your family?

We’re a pretty small family.  I have one younger brother ten years my junior.  Mom (Karen)and Dad (Danny) were high school sweethearts and married when they were 18, but tragically, we lost my Dad when I was 12.  Mom remarried and her husband, Roger, has three kids of his own, their ages equally ranged between mine and my brother’s.  Roger has a son named Jeff too, which was pretty funny and quite confusing to callers who had to specify which Jeff they wanted to talk to.  Mom and Roger are still in Spirit Lake and most of my relatives live in central Iowa in and around Des Moines, but my brother eventually moved to California as well and lives in Belmont with his wife Cyndi and their two dogs.

Megan and I have been married for 18 years and our only son Cole is 15.  Stella is our third Bernese Mountain Dog – she comes to the office with me on occasion.  Meg is the Director of Special Events at Marin Academy High School in San Rafael and Cole is a sophomore at Sir Francis Drake High School in Marin.  We live in funky little Fairfax in Marin County.  Meg’s family is quite small as well and she is sixth generation Californian.  Her Mom comes from a family of grape farmers in Lodi and her Dad is originally from West Virginia.  Her older sister’s family lives in Fairfax too.

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

I used to deliver newspapers all around the Lakes in the summer and got to know all the cool, big houses of affluent families on West Okoboji – very much like Lake Tahoe, but with expanses of corn and soybean fields instead of pine trees and mountains – but there were also a lot of run down properties too, which I always wanted to rebuild.  A high school aptitude test signaled architecture as a potential career path, even though I really had no idea at the time exactly what that entailed.  But I managed to make it through calculus and physics to graduate in the Spring of 1986.  After a short stint drafting log houses in Wisconsin post-graduation, I packed up my Firebird and headed West for California.  I consider myself lucky that I always pretty much knew what I wanted to do and was intrepid enough to leave the Midwest and pursue life on the Left Coast.

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

My background is quite varied, with early experiences on Victorian remodels in San Francisco, which eventually led to managing predominantly large scale commercial and retail projects during the DotCom days for reputable mid-size firms, but I tired of navigating the politics (and the too frequent economic downturns) that come with larger firms.  Custom homes provide a lot of hands-on opportunity for unique structural and technical solutions.  We’re blessed with fabulous clients, beautiful sites and healthy budgets, so it’s a great feeling to be challenged each and every day to create wonderful and enduring architecture.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

It will be three years in February.  Before FA I was at at Swatt Miers Architects for six years.  Steve Stept was a partner there and hired me after six years at Sutton Suzuki Architects in Mill Valley.  It wasn’t too long after Steve came over to FA from SMA that he recruited me to come over as well.

Q: What makes our office unique?

Everyone here is just so normal, nice and smart.  It’s a fairly young office, which creates many opportunities to share knowledge and experiences and be a resource to help others grow as architects.  Modern project delivery is very complex and technology continues to advance at a rapid clip, so the group sense of comradery and teamwork here is something special.

Q: If you have to give up one of your 5 senses, which would you choose?

My hearing is so bad it’s like I don’t have it anyway, but music is too important to give up.  I’m primarily visual and it’s essential to what I do.  The same goes for touch – I’m constantly touching different textures of materials.  I love to cook and eat every sort of cuisine so taste isn’t really an option either.  So I’d have to say smell, which would help when I’m picking up after Stella…

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

Every day is a new opportunity to solve another set of challenges, which are rarely the same one day to the next.  Plus I love the new Firehouse spaces – it’s wonderfully conducive to thinking about and producing great architecture.  I also get to spend a fair amount of time on numerous job sites, which is still as much fun now as it was the first time I set foot on one – there’s just nothing better.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

There have always been many, not just one.  Each past office experience taught me specific lessons that molded me into the architect I am today.  Famous architects whose work I gravitate toward all have a special way with elemental materials (stone, wood, glass, steel/aluminum and concrete) and how they go together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts, which is what makes architecture so unique and incredibly satisfying as a profession.

Tom Kundig, Peter Bohlin, James Cutler, Glenn Murcutt, David Samella and Lake/Flato are living examples that I admire.  Other modern masters such as Lou Kahn, Jean Prouve, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra are equally inspiring.  They all demonstrate a great respect for the integrity of materials and how a building ages in place.  I try to emulate their examples and think about how every material can be assembled in a lasting and pleasing way.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I try to break complex problems into smaller pieces first and then focus on fundamentals (insert any sports metaphor here) and how those fundamentals then inform the appropriate technical solution – all the while with an eye toward nurturing and improving the intended design direction.  I try to achieve elemental and rational compositions that tame the inherent complexity of modern building materials and assemblies, while maintaining a sensitivity to the building trades that actually interpret and then construct our designs.

Q: What is your equivalent animal? (looks or personality)

I’ve always been a chameleon that quickly blends in and adapts to any situation.

Traversing the North Island of New Zealand...

By Tai Ikegami

This summer, I learned how to drive on the left side of the road as we covered the North Island of New Zealand on a family vacation. After spending a couple of nights in Auckland, we headed north to the Karikari Peninsula, driving through stunning sceneries along the way, and foraging for mussels at Langs Beach. There were almost too many beaches, waterfalls, caves, etc. to keep track of, but Maitai Bay was a definite standout with its picture perfect crescent beach. Luckily for us, it was the off-season so we had the beach all to ourselves!

We headed back down south after a few days, passing back through Auckland and further south to check out the glowworm caves in Waitomo, followed by Hobbiton. I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies but the Hobbit village was a big hit with the kids. The set is meticulously designed, and includes what was at the time the most expensive movie prop in history – a fake tree. The original tree was taken down between the movies so they had to construct a fake tree to match, with every leaf carefully hand painted. And I thought architects dwell on details too much…

We then explored the areas around Lake Rotorua, before heading over to the Karangahake Gorge and Coromandel Peninsula where we kept seeing more stunning sceneries, many reminiscent of northern California but much more dramatic, grand, and lush – plus you see a lot more sheep. Geysers and natural hot springs were some of the highlights from this area. At Hot Water Beach, visitors who arrive at low tide can dig a pit on the beach and enjoy the ocean front natural hot spring until the tide comes back in.

New Zealand is a beautiful place with hospitable people. We are already planning another trip to explore the South Island the next time.

Before heading back to SF, we traveled to another place where cars drive on the left to spend some time with the family and eat good food. Here are a few fun extracurricular activities we explored while in Japan:

MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM teamLab Borderless

teamLab Borderless:
I had seen the works of teamLab a few times before, in the US and Japan, but this was definitely the largest by far. It’s basically a 10,000-square meter indoor amusement park filled with their greatest hits.

Archi-Depot:
Part gallery, part model maker and storage service, this place typically has interesting architecture related exhibits all year around. There was one show on Corbusier and another one showcasing architectural models from select architects in their 30’s. Very inspiring.
https://archi-depot.com/
https://www.instagram.com/archi_depot/

Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum:
Mori Museum was hosting a very well done exhibit on the history of Japanese architecture. It did a fabulous job of mapping out a very concise picture of the evolution of the architecture in Japan, from very traditional to the arrival of the west/modern and to the modern architecture Japan is now well known for. Having only studied architecture in the US, it really helped to connect the dots from my perspective.

Tanihata Kumiko Ramma Showroom:
I also had the chance to visit the showroom of Tanihata. Kumiko is an amazing woodworking technique that dates back to the Asuka Era (600-700 AD) wherein hundreds of small wood parts are precisely cut and fitted together to form an intricately patterned wood screen, called ranma, without any use of fasteners or adhesives. We hope to have it incorporated into one of our projects as a privacy screen for the master bath.

Fall Newsletter 2018...

Welcome Autumn!

Photo shoots, office-outings, and many staff vacations have defined our summer this year. We’re all happy to welcome in the fall and prepare for the holiday season. First however, we have to get through SF summer!

Photo by Meg Messina Photography

Many of our projects were professionally photographed in recent months and this past August we updated our staff profile pics as well! Our newer staff members were given the chance to pose for their professional head shots and the entire team finally sat down for an updated group photo. As you can see, no staff portrait is complete without one of our wonderful office dogs! We’d like to thank Meg Messina for once again capturing our good sides and for being such a delight to work with.

Our Studio Assistant, Serena Brown, was recently promoted to Marketing Coordinator and has been enjoying giving her role new life in the form of brainstorming marketing campaigns, organizing staff events, and all things social media related!  We encourage anyone interested in collaborating in marketing ventures, press releases, publications, award efforts, etc. to introduce yourself to Serena at sbrown@feldmanarch.com.

We’re excited to share that our Twin Peaks project won bronze in the 2018 Master Design Awards. More photos from this San Francisco remodel are featured in a recently released Metropolis Magazine article, found HERE.

Photo by Joe Fletcher Photography

A number of our hands on staffers have been hard at work these past couple of months transforming a chair for Chairity 2018. Chairity is an annual event hosted by Project Color Corps and Raphael House to raise money for the local community. Over 20 design firms from the San Francisco area come together each year to transform their assigned chair and give it new life.

Our firm’s “Sculptchair” is an experimental exploration of the cushioned seat, which features interchangeable chair tops as a playful ode to our interaction with the sitting surface. While molding concrete into fabric, and engraving the original upholstery pattern into the seat, we have literally and figuratively pushed and pulled at the limits of comfort, treating the seat as an object in itself. All chairs will be auctioned off Thursday, October 11th. Stay tuned for a post about our creative process and the final results!

A few of our designers chose the summer and fall seasons to take trips overseas. Tai and his family traveled to Japan and New Zealand, while Jess and her husband Chris also visited the land of the rising sun. Evan and his girlfriend Jenna traveled to Vietnam where they took stunning photos of both the bustling cities and gorgeous scenery. Serena and her boyfriend Jeremy jetted off to Europe to explore cities around Portugal and Spain, visiting six different cities during their eleven day trip! Be sure to watch out for posts on all of these exciting trips on our blog!

Finally, we are happy to announce that Sophia and Charlie welcomed a new bundle of joy to their family this month. Henry was born on October 1st and his new parents are over the moon!

As the holiday season approaches, we wish all of you good cheer and hopefully low-stress. From our family to yours, have a wonderful rest of the year!
-Feldman Architecture

Staff Spotlight: Nick Polansky...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up between Fairfax in west Marin County and North Beach here in the city. I spent most of my time growing up in the woods, exploring creeks, mountain biking, and playing on rope swings we put up.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Berkeley for undergrad and MIT for Graduate work. I actually was in an engineering academy in high school where I learned to use CAD to design robots, gizmos and bridges. The CAD skill landed me an internship with a landscape architect doing cad plans and helping design a wetland revitalization plan. I ended up getting a BA in architecture and a minor in Landscape architecture when I was at Berkeley. I guess you could say I came to architecture from the outside. A systems based approach. Architecture to me is an object in the landscape and part are part of a larger ecosystem. MIT expanded on this working at the scale of the city to the scale of the electron. MIT was intense and amazing. It’s like I was in the future; an optimistic future.

Q: Tell me about your family?

My mom met my dad at a non-profit ad agency where she was the art director/graphic designer and my dad was the creative director. They both still work in the non-profit sector. My dad grew up in North Carolina, my mom in Southern California. I have an older brother who lives in Oakland with his wife, who’s a floral artist, and their six month old daughter Ellia. He works for a non-profit travel agency that takes kids from inner city neighborhoods and schools to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The program is called Global Glimpse. Most students return having gotten their first glimpse of a global identity and they go on to use that story in application essays for college. I love my family. I love being an uncle. They keep me in the Bay Area.

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

I came to architecture through landscape architecture and honestly I came to landscape architecture through skateboarding. This was the urban side. When I was young, I was looking for every opportunity; nooks, crannies, rails, gaps, ledges, ramps; every details of the environment to interact with. It taught me about transition and continuity; fluidity and freedom in space. This same choreography translates into my interiors and how the human body moves.  I discovered Lawrence Halprin while skating the Justin Herman Plaza and his studies with dance were really inspiring. It really got me interested in landscapes and later the social and political aspects of public space. That, in conjunction with engineering projects in high school helped set me up to see how design works across all scales. Architecture seemed like a perfect place to view that range from, from the technical, social and environmental.

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

Good projects are really dependent on the people and the way we communicate, the expectations of the clients and how comfortable we are in the unknown. In the end, what we are doing has never been done before. The better understanding of the forces shaping the project, the easier it is to listen and respond with what is appropriate and natural, elegant and effortless. The project itself can be anything from the design of a fork to a whole city block. I love experimental art projects as well that test perception and experience. These act as tests for larger architecture environments. Those can get really interesting. I also like making sculptures our or wood, steel, and concrete, exploring the unknown purely through intuition.

In this office I’ve worked on a range of projects, everything from offices, restaurants, and residential remodels and ground up homes. Each of them is different and I like that diversity. The office is about the process of creative production; the evolution of an idea. The restaurant is about performance, acting as a stage like a theater. The residential projects are my favorite because they will last and be loved. Love to me is the essential element of sustainability. That is what makes it last for generations.

 Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started June 15th of 2015. 3 years.

Q: What makes our office unique?

I think it’s the collaborative atmosphere, the ethics behind the type of work we do, the type of clients we get to work with, the dogs, and the positive and diverse perspectives. We truly value each other.

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

The vibe.

Q: If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

I already live everyday like it’s my last. LOL. Gather my loved ones, climb a mountain, meditate and prepare for the afterlife.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

Alonzo King. Charles and Ray Eames. MLK.

Q: What’s your design process like?

It’s intuitive and rational simultaneously. I really like to set up frameworks that allow flexibility and the spontaneity of life to occur within. The initial design problem is defining the problem and the constraints. There is a system that governs the structural, infrastructural, and formal language of the architecture while the social space is organic, soft and flexible. I need to set up rules that give me freedom. It is a harmony of materials, space and time, structure, climate, air and light and the unexpected experience of discovery. Every story is different and it’s constantly evolving.

Q: What question would you not want to be asked in an interview?

If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?

Third Thursday September 2018: Fyrn...

By Chris Kay

­­­As architects and designers, part of our job is helping our clients pick quality materials for their homes. When it comes to furniture, it pays to put our hands on the products so we can feel the quality of the materials firsthand. When we suggest a chair for a home, the hope is that that chair will not only blend seamlessly into our design but will also stand up to the tests of time – or the tests of your labradoodle thinking they deserve a place at the table.

A few months back before I made my way to Feldman, I came across one of these chairs. Just a stone’s throw away in the heart of the mission is a company that exuberates these qualities. I found Fyrn while searching through job listings. In researching the company, I was immediately drawn to their website and its immaculate portrayal of the line of furniture they are producing. There “Stemn” line is a modern rendition of the classic American Hitchcock chair, retaining the simplicity of the original chair but completely rethought to meet the demands of today’s production needs. Though totally unqualified for their “CNC Programmer/Machinist” listing, I reached out to Fyrn in hope of learning more. To my surprise, the two head honchos responded in kind and we set up a time to meet. I met Ros and Dave at Sightglass, which seemed to be a precautionary vetting location to make sure I wasn’t a patent spy with ill intentions. Whatever I said instilled enough trust in them to walk me over to the workshop – or toy store, depending who you ask. All I can say is that my tour of the space forever changed the way I think about furniture production and how I can strive for the same values that Fyrn instills in their furniture in my own work.

Fast forward a few months and I find my way to Feldman. When I heard about our Third Thursday program I jumped at the opportunity to share what I had been shown in the Fyrn laboratory.

For our most recent Third Thursday, the Feldman team headed over to the mission with cheese and beer in hand to meet the makers at Fyrn. Upon arrival we were greeted by their team in a newly remodeled space lined with examples of each and every piece of their furniture line. Our designers quickly took to testing as we gathered around, sitting on each version of the Stemn line. As everyone got settled, partners Ros and Dave began to tell us about the line and how it came to be. At the heart of their work is a desire to bring people together through a system that changes the relationship between people and the objects they choose for their homes. The thing about Fyrn’s furniture is not that it is flat packable, but that the entire system is modulus and uses minimal connections across the line. This makes the it easy to put together but also easy to replace an individual part if something were to ever break – which is unlikely due to the shear quality in the materials they use. The Stemn line was designed with this intention and hopes of, “moving people away from a disposable culture by creating a sense of connection between people, place and materials”. This is a mentality that most architects can agree with.

We continued our tour through to the workshop where the real operations take place. As we walked around the space, Ros and Dave walked us through the everyday processes of creating their product. Their organization quickly became apparent as they explained their operations from one step to the next. In San Francisco, space is sparce. To deal with this, Fyrn’s shop is in a constant state of flux as heavy machinery, equipment, and material move through the space to accommodate each process of the production. The lack of space partly influences the design of the products themselves. Flat packable furniture comes with the perks of being flat storable as well. So each small piece of the Stemn system has its place in a custom storage solution further displaying the ingenuity of the designers at Fyrn.

What sets Fyrn apart in my eyes is their attention and patience in designing a piece of furniture that meets today’s needs for fast paced production while maintaining the quality of a handmade chair built to last through generations. These heirlooms allow people to connect with one another through the familiarity of an uncommon object – not dissimilar to the intentions of an architect and their building.

Thank you Fyrn for allowing us to see your process. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

If you would like to learn more about Fyrn, you can go to their website or follow them on Instagram @fyrn_sf

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