Q: Where are you from?
I’m from a small city right outside of beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. I’d move back to Boston in a heartbeat if it weren’t for the excruciatingly cold and ruthless winters. I don’t have an accent, but I can definitely do a pretty stellar one when I have a beer or two, or when I’m around my family. Go Sox, guy.
Q: Where did you go to school?
I went to Massachusetts College of Art + Design in downtown Boston for architecture. I met some of the most incredibly talented people there, and some of my best friends. It’s truly a special place that fosters pure, unimpeded creativity, and was definitely a place that let me discover myself. I loved my time there, until it was time to see the rest of the world. I then made a huge leap across the country for the first time in my life and attended the University of Oregon in Eugene (without ever visiting, like most of my travel decisions). It was the best decision I had ever made. It was a huge culture shock and change, but in a really lovely way. I picked up my first of many road bicycles. Now, if you ask anybody that knows me, you’ll find that pretty much everywhere I go I have a bike by my side. Eugene and the whole of the Pacific Northwest is an incredible and weird place to live.
I moved to San Francisco (ahem… actually Oakland, which I still live in and completely adore) in 2014, after spending a year working in England. I was living and working southeast of London in Kent. Our architecture office was small—only five folks, and I met some of my favorite people there as well. I definitely miss the city and its culture, and the fact that there was something going on every single day and night. If you look at any of my sketches, you can probably guess why I love that city so much. In any corner you could find something so old, beautifully stunning, and completely filled with juicy and captivating stories behind it. Never a dull moment in old Londontown.
Q: Who is in your family?
I have three sisters and two brothers—there are six of us total and I’m in the upper middle. I loved growing up in a huge family. Lots and lots of fights, but lots and lots of love as well. Our ages range a lot, almost 20 years! My mom used to be an ultrasonographer but she just went back to school for nutritional health, so now when I head home to visit I’m drinking gallons of homemade elderberry syrup and strange healthy concoctions. Go mom! My stepfather is an electrician, and my father is a carpenter, and they both run their own businesses.
Q: When did you first develop an interest in architecture?
I grew up around craftsmen and table saws. My father was a carpenter and his father before him was a craftsman as well. Everyone was always making things around me and that led me to wonder things like “how does this toy work, how does this bike work, how does this building work, how does this city work, and so on?!” I became obsessed with design and the mechanics of things without knowing when or where it happened, it was just who I was. There was never really a LEGO moment or go to a big city moment like other designers have, the feeling was just always there.
Q: What kinds of projects do you most enjoy working on?
I would say the ones where I’m able to actually have a big role in conceptual design, all the way to detailing and seeing the project be built throughout. I’ve done some murals for projects before, and graphic design and other art throughout. I like the projects where I get the most experience from the entire project and I love to push every ounce of creativity into them. I like to get my hands dirty in every role, whether that be architecture or art, I don’t really see a difference.
Q: How long have you worked at FA?
Q: What makes our office unique?
I definitely learn something from everyone every single day, which is inspiring. Everyone seems to love what they’re doing and that just pushes our designs further and makes them a little more progressive and beautiful each day. Everyone is very detail oriented, which is excellent. Also we work in a cool building with fire poles and some killer light.
Fun story– I started at Feldman when this office was still under construction. My first interview was supposed to be here at the new office, but instead I went to the old one (thanks, Google). I biked up from Mountain View from a project I was working on and thought I was going to arrive with time to spare and so I could cool down. But I ended up biking across the city as quickly as I possibly could have and showed up dripping sweat because I biked so hard to get here. But I got the job! Kudos to the FA team for dealing with a profusely sweating candidate.
Q: What are some of your nicknames?
Johnny is my nickname, my real name is John. Some people call me Malcolm, which is my middle name. Ever seen “Malcolm in the Middle?” Growing up until college, some people called me Johnny Man for some reason… I don’t know why.
Q: What’s your favorite part about coming to work?
Since I live in Oakland, taking the ferry and biking every day is pretty incredible. I see gorgeous views on my way here. Showing up to a light filled office is also nice. I would say having a great project to work on every day is pretty incredible as well. Sometimes I’ll be on Pinterest looking for inspiration images, and then later realize that image was one of our projects here, so I guess I’m in the right place!
Q: Do you have a professional role model?
A lot of the professors I had in undergrad and grad school were beautiful souls. They were simply inspiring. Marshall Audin back at MassArt would often pull all-nighters with you because he truly cared about the next generation of architects. He had a huge heart. I still get beers with these people when I head home, so they’re certainly still my role models.
Q: What’s your design process like?
Hmmmm…explosive. It definitely starts with my hands and sketching. Lots and lots of sketching. Nothing linear about it. I’m a very visual person, so I think I’m a better communicator with ink than I am through speech. Getting as many sketches down on a piece(s) of paper as I possibly can is a must. After that I research and study a lot. I try to figure out the history of what it is I’m designing for, its context, its users, its environmental and social impact, and most importantly, its soul and why it wants to be there (or doesn’t). The fun part is bringing all that in and tying it all together into a concept. I’m a very three-dimensional designer and very conceptually driven.
Q: What’s the most useless superpower you can think of? (eg. You can throw a key at any lock and it will immediately go in, but you have to physically turn it to unlock it)
The most useless superpower I can think of would be:
The power to slightly moisten any inanimate object from a distance by just looking at it. Or the power to turn into an everything bagel. Or the power to sneeze cracked goose eggs. Or the power to clap with my eyelashes at events. Or the power to write down useless superpowers at any given moment.