Jess & Heera’s Japan Adventures...

Last year, two of our designers had the chance to travel to the Land of Rising Sun. Jess visited with her husband Chris in September, while Heera and Ben made the trek at the end of October. While both couples had differing itineraries, they all chose to visit Tokyo and Kyoto during their respective whirlwind tours. Jess and Heera then chose their favorite aspects of each city and crafted a beautiful snapshot of their unique adventures in Japan.

Tokyo – Heera Basi

One of my favorite experiences traveling in Tokyo was visiting the Inner Garden at the Meiji-jingū, or Meiji Shrine. This garden was a tranquil and peaceful oasis in the middle of a bustling city. Originally built in 1920, the Meiji Shrine is one of Tokyo’s grandest Shinto shrines. The grounds are extensive, occupying roughly 170 acres in the middle of the city. The entry into the shrine grounds is impressive as you pass through 40 foot tall Tori gates made out of cedar marking the transition between the city and the shrine. As you walk along the tree lined pathway that leads to the shrine, the garden is off of a small side path that would be easy to overlook. The Emperor Meiji designed an Iris Garden here for the Empress Shoken. Once inside the garden there are a variety of smaller pathways to meander through. Along with the Iris garden, there is a beautiful tea house, a pond with koi fish, Kyomasa’s well, and several little pavilions where you can sit and enjoy the scenery. The garden attracts far fewer tourists than the shrine itself so it is a great place to tuck away for a relaxing stroll and a peaceful break from the city!

Tokyo – Jess Stuenkel

Tokyo is an amazing place where outside of every metro station looks to be its own metropolitan hub, eccentrically designed skyscrapers stand proud, and you are never far from the most delicious noodles. But after a few days feeling like tiny fish in the big city, we decided to venture an hour North just outside of Tokyo to Ōmiya. It was mid-week on a day with a gloomy sky endlessly threatening rain but the town was nevertheless a little oasis. Known as the Bonsai Village, Ōmiya was formed by a collection of professional bonsai growers who moved from Tokyo in 1925 in search of clean air and spacious land for their bonsai collections and life’s work. When the village was formed it had rules including that you had to own a minimum of 10 bonsai and open your bonsai garden up to the public. Although these rules no longer apply, the village maintains a sense of calm and greenery that is impressive. There are still around seven major Bonsai gardeners remaining with large garden shops, still practicing bonsai cultivation in the village. All of these gardens are open to the public to enjoy and even watch the bonsai masters at work. But perhaps the thing I found most impressive is the idea that to be a bonsai gardener transcends a lifetime. The oldest bonsai we saw was estimated to be 1000 years old, carefully cared for by generation after generation. Each bonsai is not the work of one gardener, but by an entire lineage of those dedicated to this ancient craft.

Kyoto – Heera Basi

Visiting Kyoto can be overwhelming as there are so many important and impressive temples to see. My favorite temple by far was the Genkoan Temple. Located in the foothills in the Northern part of the city, this small Buddhist temple was originally built in 1346. This temple is known for its “bloody ceilings”. The ceiling is comprised of wood floorboards that are stained in the blood of fallen samurai. In the 1600’s, these samurai were defending a castle that was under siege. Faced with overwhelming odds and impending defeat, the samurai committed ritual suicide rather than be taken by their enemies. The blood-stained floorboards from this castle were then installed as the ceilings in several temples, including the Genkoan Temple, as a way to honor and offer peace to the souls of the fallen samurai. You can still see the footprints of these soldiers on some of the boards. One of the other predominant architectural features here are the two main windows, one circular and one square. Located side-by-side, the rectangular window on the right is known as the “Window of Confusion” representing the suffering and passage humans go through in life. The circular window on the left is the “Window of Enlightenment” which represents the Zen concept of the universe and enlightenment beyond the suffering of mortality. The windows offer a view out to temple’s gardens, which were gorgeous in the fall with the leaves changing color. Visitors to the temple can sit on the floor and meditate in front of these windows. It is a bit of a trek to get up to this part of the city, and on the way to the temple we discovered Klore bakery which is just down the road. It is a small unassuming place, but the French-style pastries here were some of the best I’ve ever had! I highly recommend visiting this temple as it is less touristy and off the beaten path. Like the inner garden of the Meiji Shrine, it offers a peaceful experience and space for contemplation.

Kyoto – Jess Stuenkel

My favorite day in Kyoto was spent on the West side of town in the Arashiyama district. The tourism websites tout the experience of first hand encounters with snow monkeys, and photos within the tall groves of bamboo in the Arashiyama Bamboo forest. The monkeys were admittedly adorable, and the bamboo forest was indeed beautiful despite the gaggles of tourists with the same itinerary. But having completed these two activities we continued on to search out a shrine that looked to be a decent walk way, in the foothills of the surrounding mountains. We exited the far side of the bamboo forest, and after walking quickly away from the masses of people, our path became obvious. It was much less a street, and more a promenade that wove itself around the neighborhood, touching the entrances of temple after temple. In between, a picturesque residential area was dotted with small shops filled with handmade ceramics, tiny owl figurines, indigo wares, and yes, noodles. The residences, both large and small were complete with perfectly weathered woods, natural stone, and the most beautiful roofs. We walked slowly, making time to take in the colors, textures, sounds, and smells. We quietly debated which temples we had time to investigate beyond peering through the gates, or down their tree-lined entrance paths. We did pay visits to a couple of temples in the area and they did not disappoint. Each was completely unique, perfectly sited, and exquisitely crafted. The whole area melded the natural & man made into something completely harmonious and thoroughly enjoyable.

From Hanoi to Ha Long Bay...

By Evan McCurdy

In a search for a country where cheap beer is as ubiquitous as the beautiful landscapes, Jenna and I found ourselves heading to Northern Vietnam. Touching down in Hanoi marked my first time in Asia and I couldn’t have been more excited to navigate a city of seven million motorbikers. Our time spent in Hanoi was solely dedicated to drinking cold beer to survive the heat, and bouncing from one street food stand to the next, eating our way around the city.

There is something amazing about any city that can provide you with pho, noodles, bbq’ed skewers, and coffee within any given 100 foot radius. We spent days exploring the many lakes, night markets, coffee shops and temples of Hanoi. I also gained a new level of confidence in my ability to walk through intersections filled with hundreds of motorbikes, just assuming they will find a way to spare my life.

After eating a lifetimes worth of street food in just a few days, we hopped on an overnight train that took us further North into the mountains of Vietnam. We trekked through Sa’Pa’s rice fields and stayed with a local H’mong family. The next day we continued up towards a tiny village outside of Lao Cai, just along the Northern border of the country. We stayed with a local family for several days to explore the rural mountains, motorbike through rice fields, and eat traditional Vietnamese dinners with our host family.

We took a train back down to Hanoi and made our way out to the coast to see Ha Long Bay, known for its impressive rock formations. After hours of different ferrys and boat rides, we arrived at a floating fishing village in a remote region of the bay. The tradition of floating fishing villages goes back hundreds of years for families that live on Ha Long Bay. Every day we would kayak around the maze of islands, beaches, fisherman, and floating houses. At night, we came back to home cooked seafood, rice wine, and long games of Uno, the national pastime of Vietnam.

I have never felt more like Anthony Bourdain than I did during those two weeks in Vietnam.

 

 

Traveling the Iberian Peninsula...

By Serena Brown

Initially we’d planned to go to Italy. I’d visited the country twice before, but my sister is studying abroad in Florence until mid-December and visiting her seemed like the perfect excuse to jet off to Europe at the end of the year. As the months went on however, I felt pulled in a different direction and decided to travel to places unknown rather than familiar.  My boyfriend Jeremy has never been to Europe, but Spain has been at the top of his travel bucket list for years. Together we decided to do 11 days in Portugal and Spain, embracing the warm weather, vivid culture, and delicious food the Iberian Peninsula has to offer.

On September 15th we touched down in Lisbon—exhausted, excited, and on my part, moderately queasy thanks to a questionable airplane meal.  Portugal was surprisingly easy to navigate due to the legality of Uber and the fact that most people we encountered spoke English. Our AirBnB was positioned up in the hills of Alfama, one of the city’s oldest districts, home to twisting cobbled streets and hidden artisan shops. Just up the hill from our apartment was a beautiful Mirador, or lookout point. Our driver made a point to take us there first to “understand the beauty of the city you have just arrived in.”

Lisbon is sometimes referred to as the ‘San Francisco of Europe’ though perhaps it should be the opposite due to their dates of conception. Regardless, I quickly noticed the similarities. Both cities are built on various hills, have a famous red bridge, and Lisbon’s Tram 28 is strikingly similar to San Francisco’s cable car. We learned later that Lisbon’s iconic red bridge was not built by the same architect as our own Golden Gate, but rather by the same firm that built the neighboring Bay Bridge.

The next few days were spent exploring the city; getting lost down its small streets, and eating amazingly delicious Portuguese food, paired with wine of course. On our second day we took a day trip to the nearby city of Sintra, known for its abundant palaces and gorgeous hilltop views. We were able to visit three landmarks during our day trip: The National Palace, Moorish Castle, and Pena Palace. The latter two were the most impressive, boasting well preserved walls and turrets, breathtaking views, and in the case of Pena Palace, more colors and tiles than I’m used to seeing in estates back home. Since all the palaces are positioned up in the hills above the old town, there’s a handy tourist bus for getting around. That’s not to say we didn’t walk our fair share of stairs and hills before heading back to Lisbon for dinner.

As Flamenco is to Seville, Fado is to Lisbon. Restaurants with performances of the traditional Portuguese melancholy ballads can be found throughout the old town. Jeremy and I had made reservations at Senor Vino’s and were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed the show. The restaurant’s intimate setting paired with a fabulous meal and hauntingly beautiful music made for a wonderful night. The following day was our last full day in Lisbon so we took advantage of the numerous free walking tours and learned some history. Free walking tours can be found throughout most major cities in Europe, with the guides requesting tips as compensation at the end. Our tour lasted about 3hrs and took us all over the neighborhoods of Alfama and the lesser known Mouraria, with our guide giving us an extensive but enjoyable lesson on the city’s history. A highlight of the tour was trying the city’s famous Ginja, a cherry liquor, at a local laundromat.

Leaving Lisbon we flew to Spain, landing in Seville where we spent about four hours visiting the Cathedral and Giralda Tower before hopping on a train to Granada. Our time in Granada was largely spent walking and eating. The first day we visited the famous Alhambra, getting happily lost in its expansive gardens and beautiful palaces. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get tickets to the Nasrid Palaces for the same day, but instead found an evening tour for the following one. If anyone is planning to visit Granada anytime soon, I recommend buying all tickets in advance! That evening we instead sought out a tapas bar recommend by a few girls in our hostel. The wait was long but the food was worth it. Plus, we made a detour for takeaway churros on our way back home.

Day two found us seeking out graffiti in the district of Realejo. There we saw many murals by the famous local spray-paint artist Raul Ruiz, also known as ‘El Niño’.  At around 5pm we found ourselves on yet another walking tour which took us up into the hills behind the city to the old town of Sacramonte. This neighborhood used to be home to the Gypsys and still holds reminders of its past. Vagabonds, drifters, and artists still live in some of the old cave dwellings in the hills, having outfitted them with solar panels, water tanks, and occasionally walls and floors as well. We were lucky enough to visit one such cave due to the owner’s relationship with our tour guide. It was definitely a trek to make it to his home, high in the hills above Granada’s city center. Afterwards, our group was able to catch the sunset from the steps of a nearby church, watching the last rays of the day hit the roofs of the city and walls of the Alhambra before drifting down behind the mountains.

As I’d mentioned before, we had secured a night tour of the Nasrid Palaces for that evening, so we essentially had to book it down the ‘mountain’ (I’m reluctant to say hill because it felt so high), across the city, and up once more to the Alhambra, all in about an hour. We made it, but our legs paid the price the following day. I’m happy though, that we made the effort, because the palaces were as absolutely breathtaking as everyone had claimed. The detailing of the walls, tiles, and floors were so exquisitely made. The ceilings looked as if they were carved out of soap, rather than stone, and the colors shone even more vividly in the surrounding darkness. Even through our exhaustion we were able to appreciate the immense care and devotion that went into creating the beautiful space and I would have loved to visit once more to see it in the daytime as well.

The next day we left Granada and headed back to Seville. Our limited schedule meant that we really only had one day to see the sights in the city, so we fought through the heat and our tiredness to visit Real Alcazar. Even after seeing the beauty of the Nasrid Palaces in Granada, I was still blown away by the craftsmanship of this palace. I was especially excited to walk around the gardens since they were a filming location for the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones.  Of course that evening we had to see a Flamenco show, being in Seville, and partake in some local dishes before getting a good night’s rest for the next long day ahead.

For our final full day in Spain, we took a day trip to the small village Sentenil de las bodegas and the town of Ronda. One of the eight Pueblos Blancos (white villages) of the northern part of the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga in southern Spain, Sentenil de las bodegas is worth a trip all its own. Named after its once flourishing wineries (bodegas) the village is uniquely built into the rock faces that surround it, having been hollowed out by the river years and years ago. Many of the small shops are carved into the hillside, creating streets of cave-like structures. The two main roads, Cave of Sun and Cave of Shadows, are lined with tapas bars, bakeries, and bars. This specific town has been on my travel bucket list for some time now, and I was happy to finally see it in person.

After leaving the Pueblos Blancos, we drove to the mountaintop city of Ronda, famous for its placement above a deep gorge. The gorge splits the city between its old town and new town, with the two connected by a large stone bridge called Puente Nuevo. The first thing we did upon arrival was hike down into the gorge, just far enough to get a view of the bridge from below. We also saw people rappelling down the waterfall beneath it—notes for next time! Walking around the city led us to many gorgeous viewpoints overlooking the impressive gorge and surrounding valleys. Since we’d stopped here for lunch we popped into a local tapas bar to sample some of the fare. I wish we’d had more time to explore the city, as well as more energy, since before we knew it, it was time to head back to Seville.

The final days of our trip were spent flying back to Lisbon and onward to San Francisco. The trip felt both exceedingly short and quite long, as we’d packed many cities and activities into just over a week. Generally when I travel I try to see as much as I can and this trip was no different. It was a welcome respite from the day-to-day routine of work and play, but I definitely felt like I needed a vacation from my vacation upon returning home. If anyone is interested in seeing further photos from my trip, I invite you to visit my VSCO page for my chosen favorites. As always, leaving the country always gives me the travel bug so my next trip is already on the books—I’ll be trekking to Machu Pichu with my mother and sister next June! Stay tuned!

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.

‘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..

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.

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