Once a Cook, Always a Craftsman: Evan Shively on Materiality

Evan Shively takes the day at a jog.  The handful of employees at Aborica, his mill and showroom in the rolling hills of Marshall, California, try to keep pace, running from the compound’s wood mill to its showroom and through the stacks of wood piled by the side of its uneven dirt driveway, hardhats clutched to their heads.  They gesticulate wildly to each other – higher, lower, stop, and start – inaudible over the noise of the machines creating slabs from reclaimed wood Evan has gathered from throughout the area.  Their heavy machinery careens around corners, kicking up dust in its wake and coating the yellow wildflowers along the barn in a fine powder.  If there’s a sense of urgency to this June afternoon, it’s because Evan’s wood salvage business is high demand.

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Today, Evan and his team are sawing second growth Redwood for a new supermarket south of the City.  Seven Redwood trees were taken from the site of the supermarket and, after months of drawings and revisions from the client, Evan is sawing them into slabs according to the provided specs before sending them on to the fabricator, enabling them to inhabit their old home in a new way.

One employee, Chris, carefully positions the wooden slabs on the machine used to saw and trim their edges.  Chris is new to the Pettibone machine required to move the slabs, and Evan pushes and shoves a piece of the redwood to position it correctly, wiggling the wood and his hips to place it in precisely the right spot.  At times, the wood, too, appears to be dancing, animated by the machine that props it up on one edge and then the other.  Maneuvering the long slabs and setting them down at just the right angle requires a certain dexterity from the heavy machinery and its driver, and Evan eventually hops up in the driver seat, a measuring tape marked with a Hello-Kitty sticker hanging out of his pocket, to help Chris steer the slabs into place.  “It’s a careful choreography,” he calls over his shoulder.  “It’s like ballet.”

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The business of sawing wood, while often branded as based more on strength than on grace, is a careful craft requiring extreme precision and a willingness to linger in the creative process.  And, like any artist, Evan draws inspiration from his materials in their original form and encourages his clients to do the same.  “Being in the presence of the wood is going to give him clarity,” he says of one client lacking design direction.  “He’ll think of the boundless ways he could accomplish his goal, rather than what would be necessary to get him there.”

For Evan, each piece of wood has a personality and a past, and deserves a project that will celebrate both.  As we make our way through Aborica’s barn, removed from the din of the machines down the hill, and a cat scurries from one shaded corner to the next, Evan stops at specific slabs, pointing them out in their stacks as individuals.  “This is one of the most outrageously beautiful things in the shop.  It’s like a natural Noguchi,” he says in front of one Walnut slab.  At a lovely Elm one that has yet to be put to good use, he expresses his genuine disappointment that it hasn’t found a good home.

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Evan runs back to his office, a shaded and cool room, where the halves of a pitted slice of trunk lie flat on the floor in the form of two arched seats and sketches are strewn across the slab propped up as a desk.  He picks up the phone and dials a friend.

“Happy birthday!” He says when the friend answers. “What you do want me to cook? And, remember we’re not beholden to finger food.”

In his former career, Evan was a successful chef and still throws dinner parties and cooks for friends in the professionally-equipped kitchen of his home.  For his friend’s birthday dinner, he decides to consult the fish market of his choice and ends up settling on 3 lbs of shrimp and 5 lbs of squid, and, after asking if there is “anything else impossibly delicious” at the market that day, decides to “bust a little ceviche.”  The ingredients at hand are driving the meal.

Like working with wood, cooking is predicated on natural materials, Evan explains, and the sweet spot sits at the intersection of resources and design.  Both of the crafts he has turned into professions begin with and hinge on the materials that inspire them.  “You don’t decide to make an arugula salad and then go about making the arugula,” he says. “You have the arugula and think, ‘This would make a really delicious salad.’”  Evan, like us at Feldman, believes that materiality is never an afterthought.

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Summer 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from San Francisco, where summer is in full swing!  Here at Feldman Architecture, the start of the season has ushered in fresh faces and new projects.  The many exciting developments include the kickoff of our first construction project in Los Angeles, a remodel in the Hollywood Hills, and the opportunity to design our first restaurant: a “fast casual” establishment featuring South Indian cuisine in Oakland’s thriving Uptown district.

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As we continue to expand our repertoire, looking forward to the projects on the horizon, we also take great pleasure in looking back at recently completed projects newly captured in photos and in print.  We are delighted to share that Ranch O|H, a modern take on the traditional ranch home located in the scenic Santa Lucia mountains, was featured in the latest issue of Dwell Magazine (see above).  The article, “A Meadow with Amenities,” showcases the design’s blend of indoor and outdoor living spaces, as well as its subtle integration of modern technology and materials into a classic typology.

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We took advantage of the season’s sunny skies to photograph three recently completed projects and are excited to share some sneak peeks with you!  Joe Fletcher expertly photographed Healdsburg 1, where the great room transforms into an outdoor pavilion with sweeping, continuous views of the village below (see above).  Joe also photographed Noe Valley 2, an urban remodel that brought an abundance of natural light, a neat floor plan, and strong connection to the outdoors to a family home in San Francisco.  Finally, Noe Valley 3’s efficient design and carefully selected materials enable the home to achieve LEED Platinum certification, and its innovative use of light, both natural and artificial, was captured by the talented Paul Dyer (see below).  We are lucky to collaborate with Paul and Joe, who continue to showcase our projects’ “good sides” time and time again.

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Earlier this spring, the office took a fieldtrip north of the city to visit one recently completed project and one in the midst of its finishing touches.  The trip gave the staff a chance to see the product of our colleagues’ hard work up close and in person.  We took a quick detour to visit Evan Shively’s showroom and wood mill in Marshall, where Evan transforms wood salvaged from landfills and demo sites into works of art, savoring the creative process and its collaborative nature along the way.  Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on Evan’s operation later this month!

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The FA team also hopped over to the Presidio to blow off some steam at the House of Air.  While some staff members enjoyed stringing together complex bouncing routines, others took to the dodgeball court, where they found themselves embroiled in a game of Kids vs. Adults.  Those are hard games to win, right, Matt Lindsay?

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We’d like to issue a warm welcome to Evan McCurdy, who has returned to FA full-time after his internship with us last summer, and Liza Karimova, a current architecture student at UC Berkeley who is joining us as a summer intern.  We are also happy to announce that our Feldman families have grown.   In early April, Daniel and Mollye Holbrook welcomed their daughter Ellis Anne Holbrook to the world!  A big congratulations to the proud parents and their families, and best wishes to baby Ellis, who won our hearts during her first office visit and, more importantly, the affection of Chris’ dog Briar.

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To stay up to date on all Feldman Architecture news, be sure to check out our staff blog, where the most recent entry details Anjali’s trip to Vancouver, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram!

Until next time,
Feldman Architecture

 

Vancouver in 3 Days: Where to Go, How to Get There, and What to Eat as an Architect in the City

After five years since our move to the US, we decided it was high time that we expand our travels beyond the borders of the country. The province of British Columbia has always held a strong allure to us for its stunning landscapes and fascinating culture. So I was thrilled when the better half planned a surprise getaway to Vancouver for my birthday.  Four days felt awfully inadequate but we decided to roll with it. A short early morning flight transported us to a very warm sultry Vancouver. The airport with its wonderful First Nation sculptures and totem poles hinted at the rich history of British Columbia. A large ‘living wall’ affirmed Vancouver’s reputation for being one of the early adopters of environmental sustainability. The Skytrain took us through the suburbia to a very urban jungle that is Downtown Vancouver. We Airbnb’ed at a condo right in the heart of Gastown, one of the historic neighborhoods that is a surreal mix of high-rise buildings and cobbled maple tree-lined streets with vintage streetlights and a historic steam clock to boot!

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We realized immediately that this was a city where public transportation was supreme. The ‘waterfront-town’ is densely populated with a small footprint of 44 sq. miles. Across the peninsula is North Vancouver, accessible by the sea-bus and by road. We got ourselves travel passes and set out to explore our hood, Gastown by foot. We were within walking distance to the famous 17mile SeaWall that forms the waterfront wrapping around the city. One could see the snow-capped tips of the Grouse Mountain in the distance. The SeaWall starts at Canada Place – known for its iconic Sails of Light. Right next to it is the impressive new convention center – a majestic waterfront development with a six-acre living roof, the largest in North America in a non-industrial context. We hopped on a bus that took us to the famous Stanley Park. Unlike the Golden Gate Park which is fairly introverted and embedded in the heart of San Francisco, Stanley Park fingers out from the city, thus allowing views of Vancouver that change as one walks the wall. We took trails into the park at different points alternating between dense wild shaded vegetation to emerge again at the perimeter wall delighting in a different view of the city. We exited the park and headed to our pad by bus, exhausted but excited about our dinner plans. We had reservations at the popular Forage known for it’s locally-sourced innovative menu.  It did not disappoint my vegetarian palette. We strolled back home taking in the expanses of open urban spaces between the dense high rise condos. The lights had started coming on and the city glowed, draped by the ever-present shimmering water. This was a truly urban oasis where people lived outdoors than in their cramped condos. The city felt safe.

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On day two, we walked to  Medina Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant with a solid reputation for unique flavors and the best Belgian waffles in the city. We beat the long queues and got ourselves a table within the hour. Pleased with brunch, we set forth to take the sea bus to North Vancouver. We landed at Vancouver’s carnival style farmer’s market at the Lonsdale Quay – a visual treat with its fresh produce and local vibe.

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We proceeded to our next destination- the Lynn Canyon public park with its suspension bridge and miles of hiking trails. Per our host’s recommendation, we chose Lynn Canyon over the more popular touristy Capillano Suspension Bridge park. We hiked for a few hours and then took a taxi to the foothills of the Grouse mountain. The Grouse mountain is accessible only by a gondola skyride that takes you over the forest to the a chalet on top. An alternative is the daunting but highly popular Grouse Grind hike aka ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ involving 2800 odd steps through dense forest. We took the gondola — let’s say only because we were out of time. Ahem. The chalet at the top houses a few restaurants and a theater. A short hike took us to our first sighting of two rescued grizzlies that live there. They seemed very indifferent to our presence. We walked around the chalet to capture the panoramic vistas of the city across. A bus, a sea-bus and a train took us back into the city within the hour. Soon we headed out for our Italian night — to Lupo, a Vancouver icon in the entertainment district of Yaletown. Located in a charming heritage house with interconnected rooms, the menu was limited but inspired. We concluded a fabulous birthday dinner with a creme brûlée that was to die for. We walked home. The streets and landmarks were beginning to feel familiar…

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Day three – we walked a different section of the SeaWall to board an aquabus that took us to Granville Island- an old industrial hub that has been revived by local artists who set up their workshops in these factories. Weekends draw large crowds from the city. The tiny peninsula is animated with live music and fresh food at the large public market, accompanied by shopping unique finds at the artist workshops and boutiques. We picked up a few tchotkches and set forth to the piece-de-resistance of the day, the Museum of Anthropology by the Canadian modernist, Arthur Erickson. The museum is set in the large lush campus grounds of the University of British Columbia. The campus boasts of a good number of modern buildings but the museum was the jewel in the crown. The collection focuses on artefacts of the First Nation, the Canadian Aboriginals of the NorthWest Coast, though it has an extensive ethnographic collection of cultures from around the world. The strikingly modern building cleverly reinterprets the post-and-beam architecture of the First Nation people in concrete. Staggered concrete frames are spanned by vaulted skylights that filter natural light strategically into the museum spaces. The varying heights of the vaults along with a gentle slope in the floor, gradually expands the volume of the central exhibit area. The space culminates in a frameless glass wall that seamlessly merges into the outside. The outdoor landscape is marked by a reflecting pool and a few reconstructed Haida houses with signature totem poles acting as coordinates.  We were unable to do justice to the vast collection housed in the museum but it was really the architecture that was our main focus. It inspired, and humbled, leaving us in a contemplative state of mind. Like all good museums, the MoA has a great gift shop. We picked up some wonderful prints of modern reinterpretation of First Nation art by local artists.

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The mythology of the First Nation and their survival despite colonization and repeated pressures to assimilate, runs strong. At the MoA, we had discovered the works of Bill Reid, a true Renaissance man who drew from his Haida roots as a sculptor, carver, goldsmith and artist. Reid was one of the pivotal figures that championed the cause of the First Nation people and gave their art legitimacy in modern history. Born to a mother who was a Haida, Bill immersed himself in their culture and became one of the leading artists of his time. We knew we had to make time to visit the Bill Reid Gallery set right in Downtown Vancouver. The next day, we chose to skip the larger Vancouver Art Gallery and visit this tiny gem instead. Tucked away in the bustling downtown neighborhood, this building though surrounded by high-rises doesn’t get dwarfed. Well-proportioned and thoughtfully detailed, the gallery is carefully curated with permanent exhibits by Bill and a few by his protégés. The silver and gold jewelry display by Reid are spectacular. The gift shop offers a varied collection of original aboriginal art. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to visit here on our last day. It felt like an appropriate homage to conclude our first venture into British Columbia.

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In a little over three days, we had gained some insights into the story of the First Nation people and into the cosmopolitan urban pulse of Vancouver, it’s most populous and popular city today. As someone born and raised in India, there was a comfortable familiarity with Vancouver’s British influences- be it describing temperature in degree Celsius, distances in kilometers or getting a ‘bill’ at the end of a meal 😉 We explored the nightlife on our last night. No vacation of ours is quite complete without a sampling of the local music scene. Gastown was perfect for our quest. We walked the streets exploring a few bars and clubs. We settled on one which had a live jazz session. It was evidently a neighborhood haunt as the regulars seemed to know each other. It wasn’t touristy. We had lucked out with warm sunny days for our entire vacation concluding with a smattering of rain as we made our exit. This was a fun trip- a teaser that had whetted our appetite for more. We knew we would be back…soon. – Anjali

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Third Thursday June 2016: Steffen Kuehr

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Sonoma-USA’s Steffen Kuehr into the office for this month’s Third Thursday presentation.  In addition to being married to our very own Leila, Steffen works to repurpose the materials discarded by local businesses and individuals in Sonoma County, fashioning their fabrics into singular new products, such as tote bags and cases for iPads.  Sonoma-USA diverts materials from landfills, designs unique products inspired by the resources at hand, and delivers the end results back into the local community.  Armed with extensive knowledge about the alarming facts concerning waste production and management in the United States, Steffen encouraged us to ”rethink waste.”  He left us both inspired by his use of design as a tool to respect and restore our natural environment and dreaming of new office messenger bags…sonomamracewaymessenger01

You can read more about Sonoma-USA’s mission and process here: http://www.sonoma-usa.com/