When a venture capital firm approached Feldman Architecture in the hopes of renovating an office space in San Francisco’s Presidio Park, the architects faced a challenge: How could they design offices fit for a firm based in innovation, one that both shapes and reacts to the most striking ideas for the future? How would they create a space where the only constant is the constant advancement of the elusive cutting edge?
On a recent afternoon, the venture capital firm’s Director of Operations walked me through the architect’s solution: a light-filled office whose materials pay tribute to the surrounding Presidio Park, fostering both calm and creativity within. It was clear that, just as the design team had refused to view the space’s pre-existing concrete structural columns as obstacles and had instead embraced them as inspiration for the space’s organization, they had welcomed the challenge of the project as a chance for creativity. “What comes through about the design,” she told me, “was that elements that may have been challenges were viewed as opportunities.”
One of the office’s strengths is a profound connection to the building’s location, where ferns cluster around the trunks of Coast Redwoods and wildflowers abound in the spring and summer. As the firm traded the dark, cramped spaces of their old offices for a space with more natural light, they were determined to create and maintain a strong visual connection with their natural surroundings. In the Presidio VC Offices, visitors are greeted in a high-ceilinged lobby, where sunlight washes in from the surrounding Presidio Park, coating the ivy of the room’s living wall with the sheen of natural light. In each direction, compression corridors branch off from the reception area. Private offices line the hallways, and the large windows on their exterior walls paired with the glass doors on their inner walls allow light to flow into the offices and through them, spilling into the compression corridor at their core. The complimentary textures of wood-paneled walls and ivy in the reception area and the trunk-like columns that progress down the office halls replicate the forest outside and its dappled glades of towering trees. The office fosters a calm productivity, void of the frantic energy that so often settles over industrious offices. “I love watching the look on people’s faces as they walk through the door,” the Director of Operations said. “Our lobby is striking and vastly different from most downtown office spaces.”
While the office’s effects are immediate, she believes it takes familiarity to fully appreciate the more subtle strengths of the design: the way it captures different views from the conference rooms and private offices, or how it frames the fog hovering over and retreating from the Golden Gate Bridge in the kitchen window. Staff members have noticed and embraced the clear visual language of the design, the dark accents repeated throughout the space, and the coherence of its palette. And, slowly, they have added their own subtle embellishments to its warm, clean canvas. A few pieces of art and silly décor elements personalize the space, but largely, the Director of Operations says, they allow the design and architecture to speak for themselves.
She appreciates that the office, created for hard-working, ambitious individuals, is anything but imposing. Its simplicity invites ideas and visitors, alike, and renders the space adaptable. For a past event in the office’s cavernous library, the firm rearranged the modular furniture to accommodate easels and cocktail tables, and, recently, they transformed the space into an intimate setting for a ‘fireside chat’ discussion. It’s an agile space, both adaptable for weekly events and prepared for the possibility of bigger changes down the line, tapping into the timelessness of the trees outside its windows.
– Abigail Bliss
In April, we had the pleasure of welcoming the two artists behind LC Studio Tutto, Sofia Lacin and Hennessey Chrisophel, into the office to speak about their large-scale public art projects. Members of the FA team enjoyed taking a break from comparing different shades of gray to learn about projects whose colors run the gamut of the rainbow. While LC Studio Tutto’s murals in tunnels, under freeways, and on the sides of silos were strikingly different from FA’s own projects in many ways, we were pleased to recognize a few shared core tenants: a careful consideration of site and integration, an attention to each client’s individual needs, and the use of natural light as a dynamic design element. Most notably, in LC Studio Tutto’s “Same Sun” project, three metal letters perched on top of a large water tank cast shadows onto its painted side below, their shadows shifting over the course of the day and throughout the year. Once each year, on the summer solstice, the shadow letters align with painted ones to spell out the phrase, “Sol Omnibus Lucet,” or “The Sun Shines Upon Us All.”
We are grateful for Sofia and Hennessey’s insights into the creative design process and the fantastic work it produces, as well as the meaningful discussion about collaboration and process that they struck up after sharing their portfolio.
Sofia Lacin and Hennessey Christophel
In addition to being a good friend of Feldman’s Ahlam Reiley, Christian Rodatus is the Executive Vice President of Enlighted, a company providing the technology to make smart sensors, networked lighting systems, and the Internet of Things viable options for commercial buildings. Forward-thinking and continually developing, Enlighten’s tools provide information about the activity in a building at given time and harness that information to enhance the experience of the building’s users. For example, sensors detect daylight and dim lights to reduce energy, or analyze the current temperature to scale back on heating or cooling. Christian’s presentation made clear the profound implications this technology has for the reduction of energy and resource consumption in large, commercial buildings, and it was exciting to learn how buildings are becoming increasingly responsive to their users.
PC: Getty Images/Ikon Images
This fall my wife and I traveled to Barcelona with a contradicting agenda: Relaxation and exploration.
We’re no strangers to Western Europe, but neither us had made it to Spain in our previous travels. We decided to stay in the city for a full week, wanting to sink in and get to know Barcelona. The only items on our agenda were to relax and gain a renewed perspective.
We stayed at a small apartment on the edge of the Eixample and Gracia districts with ceramic tile floors and a vaulted brick ceiling. Heavy wood French doors opened onto a small balcony that had enough room for a cafe table and chairs. The street below buzzed with cars, scooters and pedestrians.
The Eixample was once a middle class neighborhood on the outskirts of the dense Gothic quarter. In recent years, it has become home to high-end retail and trendy dining. The neighborhood scale is defined by large blocks and tree-lined boulevards that terminate in octagonal intersections intended to provide increased openness and ventilation.
In sharp contrast, the Gracia to the north is an energetic, unpredictable neighborhood. Many streets are scaled to fit only pedestrians or scooters. Dense blocks of cafés and markets open up into unexpected plazas with children playing and adults socializing. The Gracia feels like a tight-knit community ̶ a city within a city.
The northern tip of the Gracia is capped by Antoni Guadi’s Park Guell. The park reflects Gaudi’s naturalist style and free-form organic tile mosaics. At first glance, the park resembles a greatest hits album. All of Gaudi’s architectural styles fit neatly into one park. A closer look reveals an artist in his prime experimenting with organic shapes and skewed structural forms.
Later, we found Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion tucked among stately civic buildings. Van der Rohe’s flawless modern details provided a few quiet moments and a lot of inspiration. The pavilion is constructed primarily with steel, stone and marble slabs ̶ heavy materials that paradoxically achieve lightness, texture and a unique warmth.
We explored the city’s culinary scene alongside its architecture and found that both traditions are deeply rooted in history. Tapas and pastries rule the streetscape. Every block of the city seems to boast a beautiful pastry shop and multiple cafes spilling onto the sidewalk, where residents enjoy their ritual late-afternoon beers and salty snack
Just as Gaudi experimented in his work, many local chefs in Barcelona are taking risks by studying food on a molecular level and reassembling tastes and textures into something modern yet familiar. Bodega 1900, located in the Poble Sec neighborhood, presents itself as a classic Vermuteria – a casual gathering place for tapas and Vermouth. Chef Albert Adria, a stalwart in molecular gastronomy, uses modern cooking techniques to recreate classic tapas in unexpected ways. Though many of Adria’s dishes are conceived through the lens of modern technique, they remain soulful and deeply rooted in Barcelona’s culinary history.
Experimentation seems vital to the Catalan capital; Barcelona remains vibrant by respecting its collective history and embracing artists that forge a new path forward.
On our final morning in Barcelona, we embraced the spirit of experimentation by emptying our pockets of all our spare Euros and purchasing enough pastries to cover our small kitchen table.
Because we just can’t get enough of Jody Pritchard and Kristin Peck, co-founders of Pritchard Peck Lighting, while collaborating on our own projects, we invited the duo into the office for February’s design presentation. The pair wowed us with both their portfolio and their rapport; their back-and-forth banter and clear compatibility shown throughout their visit.
One of their projects that stood out from the pack was the ACT Strand Theater. Kristin and Jody talked us through the inspiration, design, and details of the project, featuring anecdotes and a side-by-side comparison of a rendering and the reality. Instead of glossing over a wide variety of projects, they honed in on a select few, and walked us through their creative processes from start to finish.
When an image of the façade of the ACT Strand Theater, illuminated from the inside at night, appeared on our conference room screen, we, too, felt a sense of having seen the pieces of the puzzle come together and resolve into something magnificent.
ACT Strand Theater
Epic Systems Campus