‘Paris is Always a Good Idea’...

By Bianca Mills

“There are two kinds of travelers. There is the kind who goes to see what there is to see, and the kind who has an image in his head and goes out to accomplish it. The first visitor has an easier time, but I think the second visitor sees more.” – Paris to the Moon, Adam Gopnik

I have always valued the experience of traveling alone and in May I went to Paris by myself for a week.  I had been to Paris twice before and on those trips I had lit candles in the Sacre Coeur and watched the sunset from its steps overlooking the city, visited the graves of my favorite artists resting in Pere Lachaise and walked through the expansive tunnels taking in the gravity of the history of the Catacombs.  This trip was a somewhat spontaneous venture for the gluttonous purposes of beauty, solitude, food & drink, as well as finally making it to Versailles.

This time around I was more comfortable trying to use my high school level French. My ‘bonjour’ must have been pretty convincing because I got full rambling sentences as a response on my first day, thus abruptly ending the fantasy that I am practically bilingual.  I had rented an apartment on a side street near St. Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement. Arriving jetlagged and happy, I spent my first night having dinner at a familiar place, Les Antiquaires, the restaurant where I had spent my 40th birthday on my previous trip.  I tucked into a small table between a group of Canadians celebrating birthdays and a group of Austrians on a layover, all of whom would soon adopt me and befriend each other.  A few of them individually shared their stories with me of visits to San Francisco, a love affair that ended in Paris, and the hope of a new baby. As new friends, we wrapped up our dinner by inflicting a red wine saturated version of ‘Que Sera Sera’ on the other patrons, which seemed totally appropriate at the time.  That night, I walked back to my apartment in misty rain with no umbrella, a relaxed smile and tired, happy tears running down my face.  It was the kind of magic that I regularly only imagine.  It was charmed.  It was perfect.

My first two full days in Paris were quiet.  It was over a holiday and most of the city was closed.  The weather was beautiful so I just walked.  I went through the 6th and 7th arrondissement.  Rue Cler was one of few streets where shops and cafes were bustling despite the holiday.

The following day I had breakfast at Café Panis and watched the people crossing the Pont au Double bridge to line up in front of Notre Dame. I visited the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie and took my time looking through the galleries of photographs.

My nephews wanted to FaceTime during my trip so they could see the Eiffel Tower live from San Francisco.  So I made a date with them at midnight one night and stood at its foot as it twinkled and glowed.

Me: “I arranged for it to twinkle during our call’.

Nephews: “Really?!”

Me: “No. That’s just what it does every night because it’s Paris and it’s beautiful and I love it here because Paris is magic’.

Café de Flore was a famous gathering place for writers and painters of past times primed for a revolution.  It was 4 blocks from my apartment and it was always a good place to start or finish the day.  I would alternate between Café de Flore, Mabillon and Café de la Mairie just down the street on the square of St. Sulpice.  I’m sure at a certain point, I went to all three in one day.

All that time spent in cafes was my chance to write in my travel journal and finally read a book my cousin gave to me years ago, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing & Life written by Anne Lamott.  It was the perfect book for the trip.  It was a metaphor for life, about a process that relies on perseverance despite an internal dialog of imminent failure. It rescues the process with a little blind faith and just enough of my kind of dry humor.

“ I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, ‘Do you think it makes my hips look too big?’ and she said to me slowly, ‘Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.’

It’s true.  We really don’t have that kind of time. A realization too easily saved for twice a year in a place far from home, but I keep trying.

My last full day, I finally made it to Versailles.  I am always wary of tourist traps on vacation after living in San Francisco for so long but Versailles is truly awe-inspiring. The grand presence of it from the bottom of the uneven stone street hill was worth just standing there for a few minutes to admire even though people were piling up in front and I didn’t know where I was supposed to get a ticket or which long line was for what.  Another great part of traveling alone is that you decide on your own what is worth a rush.

The gardens are poised to spend an entire day enjoying on their own.  Classical music played from hidden speakers and families picnicked along the greens.  I walked along the corridors of trees and finally sat on the stairs overlooking the parterres of the garden to take it all in.

That night I decided to go back to Les Antiquaires.  By coincidence I was seated at the same table with the same waiter who remembered me from my first night.  He told me that if I ever wanted to make a reservation for that specific table it is table eight.  Eight happens to be my numerology life path number.  It represents balance, harmony and trust in one’s self.  It mirrors the symbol of infinity.  It has always been a lucky number for me.  Of course it was table 8!  I told him it was my last night in Paris so unfortunately I would not be needing a reservation.  When I got up from my table to leave, I caught his eye and said goodbye. As I walked out the door he waved and said, ‘have a safe trip back to San Francisco’!  Good bye for now Paris..

Staff Spotlight: Chris Kay...

Q: Where are you from?

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where I spent the majority of my life. It’s a small metropolitan area surrounded by five very suburban areas. Most people, myself included, grew up in those surrounding suburbs because the city was vacant and dangerous. Over the past ten years or so they’ve implemented a lot of money back into the city, lighting up tunnels, opening parks, bars, restaurants etc, which has made it a lot safer and a more enjoyable place to live. Now nearly everyone is fighting over property to be a part of its tremendous growth.

Q: Where did you go to school?

After high school I attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham for two years perusing a BFA in graphics design. In 2012 I transferred from UAB into the architecture program at Auburn University where I later graduated. I also had some summer stints at Jefferson State due to the fact that none of my credits transferred from UAB to Auburn.

Q: Who is in your family?

I’m the youngest of four kids – two brothers and one sister – all stubborn and raised under the world’s strongest mother. We also had a feisty little Lhasa Apso named Max. Everyone, excluding me, was born in Ruston Louisiana where my parents met. We live all over now with our partners – four are in Nashville, two in Nebraska, and my parents both live in Birmingham. Myself and my gorgeous lady moved out here to the bay in 2017. My family means the world to me.

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

Like many, I always had an interest in building things. But I never really had a plan of implementing those interests until I took a 3D sculpture studio at UAB. The professor had a unique way of looking at the world. The first day of studio he spoke about objects, and how their quality could be measured by the effect of their presence – or the way they effected the space surrounding them. Not an original thought necessarily but it really resonated with me. So much so that I set up a time to speak with him later that week. That conversation is where I learned of his previous career in architecture. After that I figured I should look further into the profession.

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

I haven’t really had enough experience in architecture to pinpoint any particular area of interest but I know right now I’m most interested in the smaller details and the accuracy involved in their design.  I like working with my hands—any tangible problem will keep me occupied and interested well past sleep deprivation.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

I started in early March of 2018.

Q: What makes our office unique?

My initial draw to Feldman was due to the work the company does in the residential field. Looking through the projects, there was a clear indication of uninterrupted atmosphere. There’s this unique balance between the effect of the building on its environment, and an environment on the building—I appreciated that honesty in design. But after visiting the office for the first time, the all-around engaging attitude of each person I met sealed my fate. What makes Feldman so unique is the people who work here. Everyone is incredibly intelligent and it’s exciting to come to work every day with the ability to learn from your peers.

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

Aside from my previous answer; the opportunity to see up to three doggos at one time.

Q: What do you like to do for fun outside of the office?

I like to build things. I also like rock climbing and soccer. I enjoy working on mechanical things too, specifically motorcycle engines though I don’t have a motorcycle anymore. I built two bikes the year prior to moving out here; five days before I moved I finally got one of them running. But I had to sell them both before I left Birmingham. When my girlfriend and I left Alabama we sold everything we had. We put the remainder of our stuff in a 4×4 carriage, shipped it off, and flew out here. So if anyone out there wants to donate a bike…

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

The person who has taught me the most is a long haired Fabio-esque man named Kyle D-Agostino, also known as “The Sausage Emperor”. I say this reluctantly knowing that if he ever reads this article, his boastuous nature will never let me forget it. Kyle was the architectural director at Appleseed Workshop where I worked before moving to the bay area. He taught me a lot in both architecture and in life.

Q: What’s your design process like?

I think the way to design anything is to first identify the problem. Then boil that problem down to its fundamentals and start from there. This is the easiest way for me to understand something well enough to confidently design a solution.

Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self having lived your life up until now?

Read more than The Iceberg Hermit.

Living Future ’18: Designing Solutions...

By Ben Welty

This past May I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon, to attend the Living Future 2018 unConference, an annual gathering, now in its 12 year, that is hosted by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The ILFI is best known as the administers of the sustainable design certification program, The Living Building Challenge (LBC), which is widely considered the most difficult green building certification to achieve. A Seattle based collaborative, they’ve emerged on the scene in recent years as a challenger to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and it’s more commonly known green building certification program, LEED.

While still somewhat considered grassroots in relative comparison to the scale of the USGBC and LEED, as interest and participation in the LBC has grown, so has the reputation of the ILFI and the conference itself. The quantity and diversity of the seminars was evidence of this, as the content avoided going stale and structured themes afforded attendees the opportunity to define their own paths without fear of getting lost in the shuffle of what can sometimes feel like convention center musical chairs. Taking this approach I chose to hone my focus on the somewhat familiar but complex topic of water conservation and policy, while also exploring the less commonly known field of Biophilic Design.

The water issue is complex. It’s the only necessity of life for which humans are in direct competition with every living organism that surrounds us. Compounding this are the difficulties we seem to face when it is made abundant, as it oftentimes remains unsuitable or insufficient for human consumption. 11% of the world’s population are currently without access to clean water while 25% do not have access to proper sanitation. Yet even in the most arid of places we’ve learned to harness it, treat it, consume it and release it back into the environment in a symbiotic relationship with land not necessarily suitable for human habitation. So why the struggle?

Simply put, we have the tools to solve the issue of water scarcity but our policies and practices do not currently support this. These points were made clear as one after another passionate speakers made their cases for water conservation, policy and equity, each noble in cause and abundant in information. However, there did seem to be a lack of a common thread between the extremes of the spectrum to tie it all together. For instance, I could not help but feel a disconnect between the conversations surrounding the obstacles of building modern, private residences in arid climates and the struggles of the city of Detroit as they deal with a public water crisis in their marginalized communities. This underscored a social chasm that is the widening gap of privilege vs. poverty, an issue that is manifesting itself at local, national and global levels. But this in no way diminishes the importance of the individual conversations themselves, because as world populations continue to grow and climate change tightens its grip, water scarcity is quickly becoming one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century.

One possible design solution to this growing problem could be found in the concepts of biophilic design, whose modern incarnation is still somewhat emerging in the broader field of sustainable design. I found Living Future ‘18 to be a great platform for these concepts, as I imagine this group is far too often passed off as hippies-cum-scientists selling the idea of nautilus shell living as a means to saving the planet. But that would be cliché, as its core tenets that combine nature and design in order replicate natural processes in the built environment have shaped a movement that, for the most part, has avoided its mission coming off too literal (Read more about biophilic design and the ILFI’s initiative HERE). This point was made clear at the beginning of nearly every seminar I attended on the subject, a sign that they’re conscious that the stigma still exists. That said, the content by and large proved otherwise and as building technology advances and sustainable living engrains itself into the social conscious, it’s predictable that these interests would be widely embraced by the design community. The results of this is a broad catalogue of well-designed, contemporary buildings whose numbers continue to grow. No longer is “good design” exempt from incorporating sustainable features. In fact, good design and sustainable design are becoming synonymous, if we’re not there already. So, moving forward, I’m anxious to see whether or not biophilic design assimilates into our contemporary design language as fluidly as sustainable design has over the past two decades.

While the breadth of the Living Future conference pales in comparison to the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild Conference, the quality, knowledge and passion of the speakers did not fail to impress. And though this year’s group of exhibiting product vendors leaves much to be desired, I trust that the list of participants will become more robust in the years to come as more manufacturers survive the strict vetting process that is a perquisite to attending. So, as the ILFI and its unConference enter its formative teenage years, I anticipate (and hope) that the next step in its growth will be largely subsidized by the design and building industries themselves, as it continues to undergo the transition from admirable ideology to established principle.

2018 Summer Newsletter...

Hello Summer! Hello New Projects!

This year’s spring season brought rain to the bay area, allowing the beauty of many of our projects to flourish. Lush landscapes called for professional photo shoots and we’re happy to announce that we’ll be unveiling four newly photographed projects in the next few months!

Pictured below is one of our Palo Alto homes, lovingly coined The Sanctuary.

Photo by Joe Fletcher Photography

As many of you know, we hosted an Open House at the end of May to benefit those affected by the North Bay fires. We’re pleased to say it was a wonderful success and we were able to raise $8,500 for our cause while spending time with our colleagues and friends. If anyone is still interested in donating, please visit Rebuild Wine Country’s donation page.

For those of you who have not had a chance to visit our new Firehouse Design Studio yet, never fear! We’ll hopefully be hosting more events and presentations later this year.

This summer we’ve been excited to welcome not one, not two, but three interns to our office! Parker joined us in mid-May and was a great help in preparing for our Open House. He’s currently going into his second year at Syracuse as an Architecture student.

Ying arrived next in June through an internship program at UC Berkeley. She’s been delving into a couple projects around the office and working closely with fellow UC Berkeley alum Evan.

West is our youngest intern this summer having just graduated high school.  He’ll be attending Drexel University in the fall as a Mechanical Engineering major and is being exposed to the ins and outs of the design profession.  He’s been working with our Studio Assistant Serena, sitting in on staff, client, and consultant meetings, and gathering general exposure to all facets of our office

Every season is awards season, and this past spring was especially kind to us.

dosa by DOSA was awarded a Gold Nugget Merit Award for Best Commercial Project under 20,000sqft as well as the Best Commercial Architecture Practice – California & Best US Hospitality Design Project Award from the BUILD 2018 Architecture Awards.

One of our newly completed projects, Twin Peaks, won the Chrysalis National Award – Whole House Remodel over $700k. Stay tuned for more photos and information coming soon!

As a firm, we are committed to staying current in areas of design, innovation, and sustainability. Our designers frequently attend nation-wide professional conferences, trade shows, lectures and seminars in search of innovation. Just this year, we have participated in the Getting to Zero National Forum, the Living Future UnConference, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), and multiple Design Weeks in different states!

Summers are also for weddings and we happily congratulate Rebecca Hora and her husband Ryan Gilbert who were married in a beautiful ceremony in Connecticut just last weekend! Currently relaxing on a beach somewhere in Tahiti, she’ll be back in the office mid-July. Congratulations to you both!!

Here’s to taking on the second half of the year. We hope everyone keeps the positive momentum going and we hope to see you all soon!

– Feldman Architecture

Staff Spotlight: Michael Trentacosti...

Q: Where are you from?

I was born just outside New York City, in a small town called Nyack. I lived there the majority of my life before leaving to go to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I ended up staying in Boulder for one year after school, five years in total. I then moved to Astoria Queens for four months before packing up everything and moving out west to San Francisco. I’ve been here now for a year and half.

Q: Tell me about your family

Both my parents went to culinary school and were chefs for a while. My dad started “Cater to You Food Service” which specializes in farm to table school lunches for high end schools in new tri-state area. My sister also works for his company as the head of event coordination.

My mom is a dietician who specializes in food medicine. Basically she looks at how food can be used as a substitute and how a lot of the issues that society deals with today can be cured by food rather than medicine. It’s based around the idea that if you’re eating healthy and on a specific diet you can combat or prevent diseases. She does this in conjunction with curating meal plans for students at the schools I mentioned before. She also volunteers on New York City Board of Education to teach less privileged individuals in city schools about cooking and basic nutritional facts.

Q: Please visually describe your personality

I have to think about this one… Okay imagine you walk into a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in New York City. The place is packed but you walk through to the kitchen. You push through the door and everyone in there is yelling at each other, but not in a demeaning way, think collaboration. It looks and sounds like chaos, but organized chaos. A first glance you may get the impression that it’s loud and crazy and disorganized but in reality it’s a very methodical and orchestrated craziness that ultimately produces something desirable in the end.

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

I noticed when I was really young that most kids my age were obsessed with dinosaurs, but I was obsessed with construction. To preface this story, I was an avid snowboarder when I was a kid, but didn’t have daily access to quality snowboarding parks. I took it upon myself to build snowboard parks in my friends’ backyards as a hobby. Half the time I had no idea what I was doing, I was just a young kid screwing plywood together and making things out of it. I don’t think the experience necessarily got me into architecture, but I did develop an interest in design and building things.

As I grew older I developed even more of a passion for building. When I eventually went to college, I had a few friends in architecture related majors. I used to see their work, ask them about what they were doing, and eventually I grew an interest in it as well. It actually didn’t dawn on me until graduation that all of these things (liking construction, the snowboard parks) came full circle and built off of each other.

My passion for construction as a young child was ultimately where my interest in design stemmed from and curated through the years. It grew from an interest in construction to a love of architecture.

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

Definitely detail-oriented residential. I like to curate space based off of a particular need of an individual. I believe that residential projects are the most customizable and the most interesting. They really come down to detailing and I personally find a lot of interest in how the details of a building come together.

Q: How long have you worked at FA?

3 weeks!

Q: What makes our office unique?

For one, the office itself. Being in an old firehouse means the space has a lot of history and culture, especially for this area. It seems like it’s a pretty symbolic building in the Polk Gulch district. I like how there’s a ton of natural light in the office as well. I feel like in a lot of traditional offices there’s more of an objective towards the work rather than the space, which makes sense. But the space we work in here; it’s inspiring.

Everyone’s attitude towards each other in the office is also pretty unique, no one is trying to compete and everyone is working with each other. There’s this office bond that allows everyone to be themselves, be open to conversations, and communicate in a friendly manner. We have this ability to be professional yet causal with one another.

Lastly, the level of experience that every individual brings to the table is different. Each individual inputs their own strengths into the project but is also given the opportunity to learn something new every time.

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

Learning something new every day. In a lot of jobs, you kind of settle into a routine 8-5 position doing the same thing every day. We repeat a lot of things here, but everything that gets repeated is customized to someone’s needs. There’s always a chance to learn something new. Even through repetition, we can use that previous experience to ultimately become a better architect.

Q: Do you have a professional role model?

I have a few.

First, Olson Kundig by Jim Olson & Tom Kundig. I enjoy the level of detail that they input into all of their projects. They have an uncanny ability to look at something that’s often designed the same way and turn it over on its head in a way that’s interesting, yet simple.

I also respect MacKay Lyons-Sweetapple Architects Limited. Brian Mackay Lyons has an interesting way of looking at landscape and at how space interacts with nature and connect it to what a client is looking for. That’s not always seen in architecture. Most of his work is local to where he’s from but it’s so well developed that he’s established a name for himself worldwide.

Allied Works is the third one, they have a unique ability to define spaces. They often choose a really untraditional material palette that interacts well with whatever the space is intended for. They do it in such a manner that it doesn’t take away from the actual space, rather it’s supplemental to how it functions, which I think is really important in architecture.

Q: What’s your design process like?

Having a background in environmental design, I tend to look heavily at the site to begin with. The characteristics of the site help define the space for me. It’s kind of a trickle down method from there. I rely a lot on client feedback and intentions, meshing those two together into something schematic. From there I just continue to refine the project.

Q: What’s something you’re proud of?

I guess this a multi-faceted question. I’m proud of where I came from. I’m a “New Yorker” and I carry that with myself. One of the first things I do when I introduce myself is say I’m from New York. I think it sums up a lot of aspects about me.

I’m proud of the decisions that I’ve made as a young adult to get me to where I am today. What I mean by that is my decision to move out west with no real family out here and my decision to pursue architecture has ultimately helped me follow my aspirations.

Welcome West!...

Our third and final intern has just arrived! West will be joining our office for about six weeks this summer to assist in projects and learn as much as possible about our office culture. He just graduated from The Bay School of San Francisco and is on his way to study Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. West lives in Marin and enjoys biking Mt. Tam, swimming, and spending time with friends in the city.