Just by looking at the mind-boggling New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, an architectural cliff on the edge of a fjord, you might think there'd be a lot of dense archibabble floating around at the firm Snøhetta. We have been paying closer attention to them out here in San Francisco, after hearing rumors that they are in the running for the SFMOMA extension in partnership with locals EHDD. So it was doubly refreshing to hear one of the two principals, Craig Dykers, give a presentation about the firm last Friday at the AIA SF offices that was not only highly intelligible but often humorous: many choice quotes have been posted elsewhere on the Dwell blog. I started thinking about what it was that made the presentation (and the firm) seem so accessible, and came up with a few points (which I will take to heart myself the next time I am called upon for some sort of exposition). Because we all have to work at making ourselves and our ideas compelling to people who don't know who we are; and as in any business, our success depends in part on our ability to connect with clients. 1. ) A portfolio is more interesting when it shows both the most impressive projects but also examples of humbler work. Dykers showed pictures of the Opera House and the library in Alexandria, but also photos from a small act of activism where they installed birdhouses everywhere to see how many they could put up before being stopped by authorities (they got to 42). 2. ) There are professional accolades, and then there is the reaction of the public at large. Dykers searched Flickr and YouTube to find photos and videos that people have taken of the firm's buildings, including one (very daring) video of a stunt cyclist climbing the opera house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWh9tO9KJ5U 3.) Show, don't tell--especially if you are saying something that everyone says. Dykers had a fun way to show the office in action: Koyaanisqatsi-style time-lapse video of one long table where everyone comes together for lunch, an "ampitheatre" where the whole office can gather, and an espresso machine in heavy use. He could have spent a lot of time going, "We're a very collaborative office and believe in sharing ideas," but the audience would have glazed over. 4.) Sincerity and commitment can be displayed on many levels. Talk about transparency: Dykers shared the company's salary range (entry level is $68K, while his own salary is $168K) and how they go to great lengths to keep the genders precisely balanced (the 110 staff members are 55 men, 55 women). Whatever you may think of Snøhetta's designs, you can't say that the firm doesn't have strong principles.
Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
When trying to wrap his brain around the quantities of oil oozing into the Gulf, Hulett Jones of the San Francisco firm Jones Haydu reacted like an architect: He went to SketchUp and did some modeling. Haydu then extracted his ideas to a nifty YouTube video that comes to the clever conclusion that One Victorian = 2 days of leakage. Wouldn't it be great if news stories provided this sort of concrete analog for their data points? Edward Tufte would be proud. You can watch the video after the jump.
WAY TO GO CLIVE The unofficial mayor of Silver Lake, Barbara Bestor, once again transformed local Mexican restaurant Casita del Campo into a sweaty mosh pit for architects and other designers at the end of March. Among those dancing like teenagers were Clive Wilkinson and his beautiful, young (mee-ow alert!) girlfriend Cheryl Lee Scott, a local real estate agent. Back when we reported on his fantastic new house in West Hollywood, we couldn’t help but notice that it seemed an empty place for a bachelor. SEPARATED AT BIRTH Of the two Johns involved with San Francisco’s Public Architecture—that’s John Cary, who was the executive director, and John Peterson, the founder—the former has announced his departure from the nonprofit organization, without any other immediate plans. Peterson, who has been the public face of the pro-bono, 1-percent work program, will continue as president. Said Cary: “I got the organization up and running, and we’ve been able to build a great staff and attract incredible firms to our cause.” With Peterson having come on board full-time in 2008 as president, however, Cary’s 100-percent commitment didn’t seem to cut it. He can at least go out on a high note, that being The Power of Pro Bono, his magnum opus due out from Metropolis Books/Distributed Art Publishers this fall. WHO KNEW? Looks like it takes a massive slowdown to discover that architects know how to do something other than solve design problems. Design collective De Lab (Design East of La Brea) took advantage of the moment and invited a gaggle of creative LA architects and designers to sell their artistic and non-architectural products at their pop-up store at a manic and crowded LA Artwalk on April 8. This included the irresistibly mischievous dolls of Debi Van Zyl, the live air plants of Kara Bartelt/toHOLD, the vintage and classy stationery of Cartoules Letterpress, the hip accessories of Poketo, the always-trendy Peri Lamps, and many more. Oh, and speaking of hidden talents, we just learned that LA architects David Martin and Glen Irani are both motorcycle racers. Really? When did these folks pick up these skills? Have architects in fact been living, and not just working all this time? Send custom Ducati superbikes to email@example.com
Turns out the vociferous opponents to a Beale Street station in San Francisco had it right. The California High Speed Rail Authority voted last week not to build an underground station at Beale Street to serve as the northern endpoint of the state's future high-speed rail line. Instead, the bullet train will make its final stop in the Transbay Terminal that is already slated to be built in downtown San Francisco. The Beale Street station plan had met with months of protest by San Franciscans, including a strongly worded petition from South Beach residents last year. Among their complaints: The Beale Street option would have required the demolition of several residential high-rises; its construction would have endangered the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; it would have cost over $1 billion to acquire the right-of-way; it was being pushed for political reasons by unidentified special interests; and it flouted the wishes of San Franciscans, who voted in 2008 for Proposition 1A, which specified the Transbay Terminal as the endpoint of the high-speed line. The California High Speed Rail Authority was convinced, voting 6-1 last Thursday in favor of Transbay over Beale. The $4 billion Transbay terminal is being designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, who published some dramatic renderings in 2007 showing a rooftop park, retail street, and attached skyscraper. A gamble in 2009 paid off when the team revised their plans and won a $170 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, speeding up California's high-speed dreams.
The Examiner's George Calys reports that SFMOMA is narrowing down a list of international architects to design its new 100,000 square-foot wing. The shortlisted firms will be asked to submit proposals. Asked who was on the list, museum director Neal Benezra said diplomatically, "Right now, all of them." According to the story, the selection will happen this fall, and the building will be completed in 2016. The 1995 Mario Botta building is getting a new wing primarily to house the contemporary art collection of Don Fisher. While the competing architects will have to play nice with the Botta bricks, it would be an intriguing twist to the story if Japan's Toyo Ito got a crack at it, now that plans for the Berkeley Art Museum have fallen through. Another architecture insider is plumping for Rafael Moneo; can you see this cathedral next to the museum?
The winter rains in the Bay Area, as usual, seem to be too much of a good thing. There's a fair number of flooded streets and general consternation about this stuff falling from the sky. But if we thought about it differently, it might seem more like manna from heaven. I did a little calculation this morning to see what was going down the drain. San Francisco is roughly 49 square miles and gets an average rainfall of 21 inches of rain per year, so if my math works out, that means about 18 billion gallons a year are largely thrown out as garbage (SF, like a lot of major cities, has a combined sewer system that processes rainwater as sewage.) The US consumed 8.6 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008, making it a multibillion-dollar industry. If SF harvested half of its rainwater, we could corner the US bottled water market! Amusing speculations aside, the concept of saving our wastewater is starting to catch on. Last Thursday, at a salon organized by Re: Vision and architect Michelle Kaufmann, Rosey Jencks of the SF Public Utilities Commission talked how to re-engineer the cityscape to keep as much as 30 percent of the rainwater out of the sewers. Here in SF, recent legislation requires all construction projects with a footprint greater than 5,000 square feet to have onsite stormwater management--which could take on the form of green roofs, cisterns, permeable paving, and other features, according to the city's Stormwater Design Guidelines. (An aside: Chicago appears to have beaten other cities to the punch in paving city streets with permeable concrete.) Meanwhile, the PUC has also come up with a whole series of projects, many which bring a sense of romance to the mission. We don't have a river here, as in L.A., but there are a couple of creeks that are good candidates for daylighting. Revealed instead of snaking underground through pipes, Islais Creek--which runs through the neighborhoods of Glen Park and Mission Bay (as shown in Jencks' slide above)--could be the grand public stroke, the visible symbol of the city connecting to its watershed. Like the other PUC projects, it's a question of getting the money to do it. Maybe the city could raise funds by selling its own overpriced bottled water ?
Stanley Saitowitz’s highly original Conduit restaurant in San Francisco, which used slender and sculptural copper piping as a unique design focus, closed its doors in mid-January. Located on Valencia Street, the restaurant had won several design awards, including a 2008 AIA San Francisco Honor Award. On its Facebook page owner Brian Gavin noted: "The dining population shrank. We had a great first year,... then a roller-coaster second year. We just didn't have enough diners."
Launching last Tuesday, Dave Eggers' one-time-only Panorama newspaper celebrated the good old days of investigative journalism with a muckraking piece on the Bay Bridge. Its "above-the-fold" piece, "Unparalleled Bridge, Unparalleled Cost" (which, unlike the rest of the issue, is available online), is a massive 22,000-word exploration into the bureaucratic issues that have caused the new Bay Bridge to be delayed for years and go from an original estimate of $1.8 billion to a final cost around $12 billion. The scandal promised turns out to be a bit less dramatic: much of the price increase will come from paying the interest off the expected $6.3 billion price tag, which is something that Californians expect after all the bond initiatives we've been through. There's a forest of procedural details, which makes it hard to spot the trees, but one point that does come across is that architectural ambitions to best the Golden Gate Bridge with a "self-anchored suspension bridge" for the eastern span was partly responsible for the holdup. What you don't get from this particular article is a sense of what is so great about this design: if it will truly be architecturally spectacular, or more of an engineering feat of strength--a case of bridge boasting rights.
Even Union Square, San Francisco's high-end shopping mecca, sports the occasional empty storefront these days. To beautify a few for the holidays, the Union Square Association brought in four architecture firms to work their magic, a pro bono effort that also "highlight(s) the vibrant creativity of local architecture firms in a whole new way," says the press release. A delightful idea--but in execution, somewhat of a mixed bag, as you will see. Truest to the spirit of the assignment, Charles Bloszies'' window at 400 Post St. (above) features the work of local FIDM students, who made couture out of shopping bags à la Project Runway. A wooden plaque lists the posh stores that are still alive and kicking (or perhaps they donated bags?). On the other side of the square, at 393 Sutter St., fashion was also on the mind of FME Architecture + Design, which filled its storefront with a video of a runway show. Not sure whose, though. ( "Fashion" is the Twitter handle for ShoppingBlog.com, but maybe I didn't understand the instructions correctly?) One street south, Brand + Allen took over a space once occupied by Frette at 124 Geary, and spelled out the word "Pause" using a screen of cardboard tubes. There is a Chinese symbol behind the screen, to symbolize how Union Square is the gateway to Chinatown. Perhaps the subtext is: If the prices around here are too scary, take a deep breath and think of the affordable tchkotches just up the street. The furthest away from Union Square was Gensler's window at 101 Post St., which celebrates San Francisco's sister city of Shanghai--and Gensler's design of the Shanghai Tower. Nice building and all, but let's encourage people do to a little shopping, shall we?
It must be said that Curbed, in its short life, has become one of the preeminent sites for not just real estate but also architecture and planning news, one of—not the, mind you, as that would us—best places for info on the evolving built environments of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They are most certainly in our Top 10. Reaffirming that fact is a Top 10 of Curbed's own, a celebration of the best buildings of the past decade, something the site(s) weren't around to see the dawning of, though who cares, since neither were we. Each of the three Curbed sites asked local luminaries—Brooklyn's notorious Robert Scarano and our pal Eric Owen Moss included—to name their favorite new buildings in their respective cities that had been built over the last decade. Noticeable trends: lots of boldface firms, lots of glass, lots of big buildings, lots of Standard Hotels. We woulda voted for the Nehemiya Spring Houses, because it shows that any architect, with the wherewithal, can do stunning affordable housing in the outer reaches of an outerborough—which is not to say Alex Gorlin is just anybody, but, well, you know. Alas, we lost our submission form and could not make the main event. Here are the sites' countdowns, plus their runners-up: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco (no runners-up yet). We're told there's more Top of the Aughts coverage to come, so keep your eyes peels. And, if you're an obsessive reader like us, you may have noticed part of the celebration is a sexy new redesign, to which we give a hearty Mazel Tov and thumbs up.
For the last couple of weeks, every night's been a party as the Millenium Tower plays host to Icons of Design, one of those opportunistic design events where hopefully everyone wins: High-end real estate is shown off, designers display their creative chops, charities get money, and the public gets a chance to wander through fantasy, "cost-is-no-object" spaces. For me, a trip up to the 52nd floor--the building has 60 floors, but my ears were already popping on the way down--was a chance to gawk at the latest in curtain walls. According to John Ishihara of Handel Architects, the unitized curtain wall system was built in China and snapped together on site. The bottom windows are operable, with top hinges so that rain doesn't come in, and they open up 4 inches. There is a one-inch gap between the two halves of the mullions, which enables a "trickle vent"--if you don't want to open the window, you can still let in fresh air but not the noise of the traffic below, muffled by the aluminum framing and internal baffles. Being able to open a window made this space, 52 floors up in the air, feel a little homier than your typical sleek condo. And the interior design? Most of the designers went for tasteful opulence, with luxurious fabrics and exotic woods standing in for last century's patterning and gilding. Local stars Martha Angus and Charles De Lisle evoked a more contemporary sense of fun. And then there was the dining room by Martin Richards. With two enormous photographs (of a yoga teacher and her rocker husband, a takeoff on ducal Renaissance portraits), framed by lamps held by hand sculptures, the room was a like a modern version of Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête. Wouldn't it be fun to hold a dinner party in a space like that? The Icons of Design showcase is open to the public on weekends through November 22.
BRINGING SEXY BACK Johnston Marklee was already one of the hippest architecture firms in LA. But now they’ve catapulted several spots up the ranks. How, you ask? By designing new stores for Justin Timberlake’s clothing brand, William Rast, that’s how. The firm has already designed pop-up stores in London, Paris, and New York (to a chorus of screaming girls when Timberlake came by) and is designing more in Palm Springs and San Jose. And in November, the firm will open the brand’s flagship store in the Century City Westfield Mall. The architects haven’t met Timberlake yet, but will finally see him at the Century City opening. “I hear he’s very nice,” said principal Sharon Johnston, coyly concealing any desire to start screaming and desperately trying to rock JT’s body, as she darn well should. GERBIL CHATEAU Speaking of important celebrity news, we hear from the most reliable gossip source we know, Britain’s Sun, that architecture fanatic Brad Pitt spent $82,000 building a house and racetrack for his kids’ gerbils at his estate in the south of France. According to the authoritative story, the complex includes “a maze of tunnels, seesaws and platforms.” French gerbils. Brad Pitt. A racetrack. Mon dieu. We can’t make this stuff up. HOME TOUR HICCUPS AIA home tours are always an adventure, but rarely do they produce as much drama as the AIA SF’s fall home tour did in September. First, SB Architects’ Alabama Street residence ran out of money just prior to finishing up, so the firm reportedly worked out a deal with furniture store Room & Board, producing a staged effect that looked more like a showroom than a real house. There was also a last-minute switch in the itinerary when a loft in the Oriental Warehouse by Edmonds + Lee ended up with major water damage from a leak next door. The project was replaced by Cary Bernstein’s Liberty Street Residence. Perhaps getting your home on the AIA’s tour has become like the Sports Illustrated cover jinx? Beware, all you tour-aspiring architects. Send tips, gossip, and gourmet gerbil food to Eavesdrop@archpaper.com