Immersed – The California Houses of Feldman Architecture is an in-depth look at 20 years of the firm’s defining residential work spanning three areas: Urban, Suburban, and Rural. Feldman Architecture, a vibrant San Francisco-based studio, aims to create authentic, site-sensitive, sustainable spaces through a deeply collaborative process. This book, which includes commentary from Aaron Betsky and Daniel P. Gregory, as well as an interview with Vladimir Belogovsky, situates Feldman Architecture’s work within the northern California design canon and illustrates how the firm’s voice subtly translates across diverse geographies and contexts. Jonathan Feldman, in closing, reflects upon the values and aspirations that unify the firm’s work and inform its vision for the future.
We are proud to announce that our first monograph is slated for publication fall of 2021! We are looking forward to sharing more about the project, and continuously delighted by the genius of Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers. Revisit this page as we develop more layouts, update ordering information, and plan book signings and events!
Preorder the book here.
Summer’s greetings from the Feldman Architecture team. We are so excited to share some updates with you – especially our very own Surf House featured in this month’s issue of Architectural Digest! We are wishing you a safe, healthy, and relaxing summer. Please find our entire summer newsletter here, and a few updates below.
“But beyond any piece of art or pedigreed object, the true spirit of the house resides in the Monterey cypress that lines its walls, doors, and cabinetry. ‘It feels like we’re living inside a fine piece of furniture, crafted by artisans at the top of their field. I love to lie on the couch and just let my eye trace all the details,’ the husband raves. His wife has the final word: ‘We don’t think about the house as a place. It’s an experience. It’s peace. It feeds our souls.'”
We are elated that Surf House is featured in the July/August 2020 issue of Architectural Digest! We are so proud to share this spread with our collaborators Commune, Ground Studio, Arborica, Tucci Lighting, among many others – and very thankful for the thoughtful words from Mayer Rus and stunning images from Stephen Kent Johnson. Read the piece online here, in print here, enjoy the project on our website, look for the issue on newsstands, and find one of our favorite quotes from the homeowners above.
This quarter, we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, discussing, and planning. Below, find a statement and a series of commitments from our team inspired by recent activism fighting for racial justice. We want to share these truths and commitments with our community to start our path towards reconciliation.
Feldman Architecture stands in vigorous opposition to racism in all its forms and is committing to actionable steps towards addressing structural, societal, and implicit biases, starting with those baked into the architecture and design industries. As a firm that names both sustainability and transparency as core values, we must acknowledge the lack of both in our industry at large when it comes to racial justice.
First and foremost, we must acknowledge the truth – our country and our industry specifically are structured to uphold systems of racism. With our studio’s focus on residential design serving very wealthy clients, we also must acknowledge our privilege and complicity within this system. With only 2% of all architects currently registered in the United States being Black, we must commit to actively working to increase accessibility and to offering support and reconciliation to Black architects, students, and members of our community.
Within our firm, we have formed an antiracism focus group, which has been brainstorming actionable items we can take collectively to address areas identified as needing improvement. We aim to assemble meaningful commitments with care and integrity, and to consistently and continually hold ourselves accountable and improve upon said commitments.
Feldman Architecture will firstly address racism internally at our firm, exploring tangible ways in which implicit bias affects our lives and the lives of those around us, specifically focusing on strategies to hold ourselves accountable and strive towards antiracism. These discussions will work to empower staff to start the journey of self-reflection and support and uplift Black community members, designers, and loved ones.
In order to address the lack of Black professionals in our industry, we will work to expand our recruiting and educational outreach. We commit to making our internship program more robust – Feldman Architecture will work with organizations like NOMA to offer internships to aspiring BIPOC architects, performing outreach and building relationships with high school and college students in our community.
We believe that specifically exposing marginalized and disenfranchised students at a younger age to architectural and design opportunities can begin to address and break down the systemic barriers that have historically kept the industry homogeneous. We must take intentional action to break this cycle and work with organizations performing educational outreach in Black communities and form pathways and relationships to do so.
We will scrutinize our hiring process. Currently, Feldman Architect has zero Black employees. We aim to change that to reflect the demographics of our broader community, and therefore will commit to actively recruiting Black architects and encouraging others in our industry to do the same. We will establish relationships with HBCUs and expand and diversify our hiring process via organizational partnerships, job boards, and community outreach.
We will prioritize pro bono efforts which provide design services and consultations to organizations and nonprofits that are working towards racial justice and/or that specifically benefit Black communities. Our entire pro bono effort will be focused more closely and intentionally on serving underrepresented and minority communities.
We will aim to increase the diversity of our collaborator and consultant pool, specifically seeking out Black owned and led companies to work with and promote.
We will invite conversation and discussion. Please feel free to engage us with suggestions, ideas, or criticisms. We are dedicated to making this work a permanent part of our firm’s processes and will have blog posts updating our community on our progress as we work towards making our commitments as concrete and specific as possible within the next six months.
We are committed and open. There is much work to do and much for us to learn. Black lives matter, and always will.
Our sustainability committee is off to a productive and eventful 2020! Last week, FA Associate Ben Welty attended the Carbon Positive ’20 conference in LA, organized by Architect Magazine and Architecture 2030, meeting with some of the top studios and professionals in the nation to discuss reducing and offsetting carbon in the design world. Below, find some nuggets of wisdom from Ben – who made sure to keep us updated back in San Francisco on lessons learned.
- The original goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 is too late. If we don’t zero out our carbon emissions by 2040 and avoid a 1.5C increase in average global temperatures, we will experience a climate change that is irreversible.
- Everybody here knows we can accomplish our goals. And we’re intent to go back to our communities with this shared knowledge and make a difference. Fortunately, the design and construction industry still has the power to affect change. We drive policy decisions, advancements in technology, and public awareness.
- The production of Cement (the binding agent in concrete) accounts for 8% of total global emissions. Steel production accounts for 7%. China has poured more concrete in the last four years than the U.S. did in the 20th century. Alternative production methods will be key to us reaching our goals.
- While we’re trying to eliminate fossil fuel use in the building industry-we’re still using fossil fuel-based products (rigid insulation) to reduce our reliance on coal and natural gas. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is essentially the same material we legislated out of the food packaging industry 30 years ago.
- Hemp seems poised to play a big part in reducing our CO2 emissions moving forward as states continue to loosen hemp regulations.
- Women accounted for roughly 40% of newly licensed architects in 2019. 50% of this conference’s speakers are women, and by my estimation at least 50% of the attendees are women. So while still
underrepresented in the field their contributions in battling the global climate crisis outweighs their male counterparts.
On another note, it’s been 3 years since Feldman Architecture first committed to the 2030Challenge– joining more than 1,000 firms across the nation in a pledge to create only carbon-neutral buildings by 2030. This January, our firm was the first to report our annual progress on carbon neutrality to the AIA 2030 Commitment Design Data Exchange (DDx), enabling others to learn from our work. We hope that in sharing our processes and challenges, we can encourage transparency and prioritize leadership in reducing our carbon footprint. Stay tuned for our annual detailed report on our 2030 Action Plan, to be published soon!
Q: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Irvine, California where I spent pretty much all of my time outdoors. During the summer time it was the neighborhood swim team and bike tag and during the winter time it was soccer and baseball team. I loved playing sports- and the year round sun allowed me to play as many as possible – and it’s probably the thing I miss most about home. When I got to high school, I decided to focus on soccer competitively, but I picked up surfing – I couldn’t stay out of the water completely. For 4 years, my neighbors and I spent the weekends at surf camps, and the weeknights at the neighborhood watering hole (boba joint). The only other home I had growing up was the farmhouse my mom and her siblings grew up in. Every summer for a couple of weeks we visited the family vineyard making homemade lasagna and picking grapes, my favorite family tradition.
Q: Where did you go to school?
I moved up to the Bay Area when I started at Berkeley. I studied Economics, focused on Environmental Policy and Renewable Energy. I’ve always been super passionate about the environment and loved math- so the program ended up being the perfect fit.
Q: What was your favorite class in college?
I took a lot of amazing classes that taught me about Environmental and Energy Economics, but I was really excited to have room to take Italian as an elective. My extended family is Italian, and I’ve always wanted to become fluent in another language.
Q: Tell me about your family.
Some of my favorite family memories are the countless road trips we took while growing up. Every year we went skiing at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort. My two sisters and I got very close on these long car rides. My mom used to take us on RV trips through America’s national parks, I love how adventurous my family is when it comes to exploring new places. I was lucky enough to follow my older sister, Giortia, to Berkeley and we spent 2 years there together before she graduated and moved to San Francisco, where she now works at Lyft. My younger sister, Helena, started her second year at CalPoly Slo where she’s studying Mechanical Engineering.
Q: What is the most interesting aspect of architecture to you?
My favorite aspect of architecture is how quickly and easily it takes you to a different time period. No matter where I go, the thing that influences my experience the most is the architecture of my surroundings. I can picture what society was like at the time when a building was designed, a time when people looked up at it and considered it contemporary. Working at a modern architecture firm makes me so much more aware of architecture’s evolving nature and my interest in design.
Q: How long have you worked at FA?
I just passed the 2 month mark!
Q: What makes our office unique?
I think our office is unique in that everyone is so different. Our workforce has a noticeable diversity of background and thought, yet at the same time everyone clicks to form a larger identity that is Feldman Architecture.
Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?
My favorite part about coming to work is being around so many motivated people. Everyone at Feldman is here because they love what they are doing and understand that it’s important. This group mentality is a really great environment to be in every day and is what keeps our office culture fresh.
Q: What is the last show you binge watched?
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – one of my new favorites!
Q: Do you have any fun plans coming up?
Saving up to do some traveling! I haven’t been, but I know my next destination is South America.
By Serena Brown
A few months back I was given the opportunity to tag along on a site meeting to Los Altos Hills. My purpose was to interview David Toews, BayWest Builder’s superintendent on site at the Round House. I’ve been interested in this project since I started at Feldman Architecture due to its unique circular shape, and the innovative ways the various teams have tackled the challenges that come with a perfectly round form; notably David’s creation ‘The Tool’.
For the first hour or so I had free reign to explore the home, snapping photos and admiring the views. Once the meetings had finished and the walk-through was complete, David was happy to sit down with me and discuss his background in construction, as well as his excitement for this particular project. Despite his current construction expertise, David grew up in a musical family. His father was a brilliant composer who started the Cabrillo College Music Festival, though for reasons unknown encouraged David away from the musical path. David joked that he “wasn’t sure if it was due to the difficulty of the business or [his] lack of musical talent!”
At age six he was given his first tool set, which he promptly got taken away by his mother after sawing through a support beam on his front porch. During his early teen years he attended an alternative high school / college and turned his attentions toward the medical industry. He decided at 17 that medicine wasn’t for him after dropping out of college to pursue other interests. At 19 he entered his first carpentry job, but wasn’t yet thinking of it as a trade. Shortly after, he was taken under the wing of Ed Powell as a carpenters apprentice and his career in construction really began. From Ed he learned not only the hands-on skills associated with construction, but also the values behind his way of business. As a child he had spent time with his uncle learning how to build architectural models, paint with watercolors, and generally learning how to problem solve. The time with his uncle had a huge influence on his later life, and his time with Ed reminded him of those experiences.
Following his tenure with Ed Powell, David went on to work at Pressman Construction where he learned about business management but felt the company didn’t extol the same values he’d admired in Ed. In 1986 he started his own company, built on core tenants he believed in, and ran it for 30 years. He proudly kept his clients happy but admits that despite being a good builder, he wasn’t a very good businessman. Thus, his company closed in 2016. For the past three years he’s worked under the leadership of Derek Gray, which he happily says allows him to focus on what he loves most—building.
The Round House is situated up in Los Altos Hills with views of the Bay from the kitchen and living room. The clients fell in love with this quirky circular home and later made the decision to remodel. Since the house is a perfect circle, David stressed that geometry and strict calculations were important from the get-go. He felt from the beginning that the house needed a compass to guide its construction. He told me that when he’s planning out a job, he views the building in layers, starting from the foundation all the way through framing and steel work. Getting each layer done right is what causes a project to succeed. After seeing the plans for the Round House, long before starting the project, he had a dream about the Sundial Bridge in Redding and in the morning the idea for the perfect tool dawned on him. Derek approved of his plan and after telling the owners, architects, and subs, told him he’d better build it!
‘The Tool’, a cross between a trammel arm and compass, is 16ft tall with a 45ft long boom. Its function was to properly measure the circumference of the house during the construction of its foundation and walls. It helped the team keep track of the vectors in plan and make sure each wall lined up with its counterpart. The name for ‘The Tool’ was inspired by a Russian carpenter who worked for David many years ago. He put together a complex piece of furniture without any fasteners; the through dovetail mortise and tenon connections were locked in place using a small block of wood that tapped the parts into position. He said if you were to take it apart, save the ‘TOOL’, which he had written on the piece of wood. David laughed when he said the name stuck with him and thought he’d pay homage to the work ethic of the man who thought of it. And of course, he still has the ¼ x ¼ x 4” ‘TOOL.’ David said that while he was building it his “heart said it’ll work but [his] mind was still questioning it.” Finally though, “it just took flight.”
Now that the project is past framing, the team no longer has use for ‘The Tool’. David likened it to a “dragon friend in Game of Thrones” and was sad to take it down. He hopes that he won’t have to dismantle it, and is looking at donating it to somewhere like a children’s museum. If anyone knows a good place to display it, please let us know!
When asked about the challenges he faced in this project, David had only positives to share. He mentioned how exciting it is to work on this type of job, and how he’s constantly excited to jump out of bed in the morning and come to work. You can tell that David is truly following his passion, and that problem solving is in his nature. He believes in constantly learning, adapting, and holds the view that ‘information doesn’t just fall from the sky, [he] was very fortunate to have mentors to pass on knowledge that had in turn been passed on to them.”
I want to extend a huge thank you to David for taking the time to speak with me and share his story regarding this fascinating project, and his storied career path and passions. Make sure to check back On the Boards for updates as construction on the Round House should be finishing up later this year!