Zen Buddhist Temples in Japan

IMG_2129

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit Japan and traveled to many Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Kyoto is located in an inland river valley and is surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges. Many of the temples I visited are situated on the outskirts of the city at the base of the mountains where the city ends and the forest begins making for an incredible contrast between urban and rural space. In a way, these temples are a transitory space with one foot in nature and the other in setting is perhaps best described in the Japanese concept of ma, which can mean blankness or distance. Ma is a transitory experiential concept; for example, it is the silence between sounds which gives shape to music.
IMG_2439The focal point of many of these temples is a garden with a large open space and meandering paths. The temples themselves surround these open spaces, which can consist of ponds or dry landscape gardens, or karesansui , and are highly manicured. While these gardens are essentially courtyard spaces, they are never seen in isolation from nature. Often, a view from the engawa, or veranda, of a temple will extend from the garden to the mountains or city beyond which demonstrates the concept of shakkei or borrowed scenery. The karesansui are so detailed that attention is paid to the scale and coloration of the millions of tiny white rocks and sculpted moss that resonate when seen against the fine backdrop of the trees or buildings beyond.

IMG_3009These gardens cultivate an appreciation of ma and therefore an awareness of one’s own consciousness. Like viewing a painting, they are meant to be viewed from afar and are physically inaccessible. Walking through the temple grounds, the emptiness of the gardens heightens one’s awareness of the physicality of the structures themselves and the details of construction in the same way the color blue when placed against the color red highlights the redness of red and vice versa. In this way, the ma of these gardens makes nature more natural and the cities more concrete.

-Aaron

IMG_2912IMG_2213

Summer 2014 Newsletter

World Cup fever is upon us – so we hope you are enjoying the ‘kick-off’ of summer as many of us are with the occasional office break to view the action and root on our favorite teams. Speaking of action – the firm had plenty of activity, exposure, and several new faces join us this past spring.

In April, the Butterfly House in the Santa Lucia Preserve was featured on the cover of Dwell Magazine. We are thankful for the beautiful coverage of the project with a wonderful story by Emily Thelin and fantastic photos by Joe Fletcher. To celebrate, the Feldman team hosted a party at the Barrel House in San Francisco, an amazing former speakeasy, with dinner and drinks by Dosa and music by Cure for Gravity.

We are excited to announce LEED Gold status has been achieved for the Salamander House in the LEED for Homes program. Congratulations to our Salamander clients and design team for embarking on this challenging but rewarding path to certification! Feldman Architecture has now managed its 5th LEED certification, 4 Platinum and 1 Gold, with several more homes currently in the USGBC’s system.

Upcoming this fall, as a part of the AIA San Francisco’s Architecture in the City festival in September, the Fitty Wun House will be featured on the AIA Home Tours as one of several homes opened to architecture aficionados to tour on the weekend of September 20-21st. This yearly event can sell out so don’t miss this opportunity for a fun-filled day of architectural adventure. Please visit the AIA website at www.aiasf.org/hometours for tickets.

Finally, we are excited to welcome 3 new staff members to the firm. Ben Welty, originally from South Carolina, brings several years of high-end residential experience and Jessica Gill, a recent graduate from RISD and Reed College hailing from across the Bay in Berkeley, are already busy working on a variety of new commissions. Bianca Mills joined as our new Office Manager and with several years of experience in architecture and related creative fields is a wonderful addition to our team. This summer, we are also hosting Pavan Vadgama from UC Berkeley who is completing a summer course on Professional Practice which includes working in our office. We also note that his FIFA bracket is perfect to date; he has picked all of the winners so far! To celebrate the new members of the firm, Brett Moyer hosted a party at his lovely remodeled Eichler home in Marin where everyone enjoyed the sun, drinks and delicious food while getting to know our new colleagues.

We look forward to working with many of you throughout 2014. Enjoy your summer!

Curitiba – City of Sustainability

Earlier this Spring I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil to take in firsthand the urban transportation infrastructure, social policies, and landscape qualities of Curitiba. While it lies off the beaten path for many tourists, there are a tremendous amount of lessons and insights that can be gleamed from the city and its history of sustainable design practices.

A common thread running through many the programs, infrastructure, and buildings is a keen eye for what already exists in the environment. As an example, the main public transportation system was directly influenced by historical roads that organized the city, one running north/south (from cattle herding) and one running east/west (from the ocean to the mountains). This in turn led to a linear axial organization of zoning and residential density along transportation corridors.
CURITIBA---ZONING-TRANSPORTATION
The park system of Curitiba also offers a window into this way of thinking, from both landscape and cultural perspectives. Some parks, such as Parque Barigui, respond to the need for flood control while others, such as Parque do Papa offer scenarios for resident immigrant populations to maintain connections to traditional ways of buildings and living.
CURITIBA---PARQUE-BARIGUI
CURITIBA---PARQUE-DO-PAPA

In response to material use, several public buildings and much of the park infrastructure is built from salvaged telephone poles. A story told while visiting the Department for the Environment was given of how an individual one day called the Department wondering what could be done with an excess of wood telephone poles as new metal ones were being erected. It happened to be a time when the Department of the Environment was constructing and planning a campus of buildings for itself. Instead burning, incinerating, or discarding the telephone poles the Department used them to construct their buildings and park infrastructure.

CURITIBA---DEPARTMENT-OF-THE-ENVIRONMENT


In the current climate of sustainability awareness, Curitiba offers a wonderful window into synergies generated through the participation of landscape, material, culture, social, and transportation qualities of the built environment.

- Kevin Barden

Our Energy Future

I attended a four-day Zero Net Energy course co-sponsored by Solar Action Alliance and PG&E. Topics ranged from Home Energy Audits for existing homes to determining the best types of fuel sources to achieve Net Zero Energy on a new home.

diagram

Here are a few facts I learned that you might find useful for saving energy in your current home without having to open up any walls or replacing your mechanical system:

  • In the market for a new appliance, LED replacement lamps, car or laptop? Check out TopTen USA for the most up to date information on which brand and model are actually achieving the highest ranks in energy and performance.
  • Refrigerators with the freezer on top or bottom, (rather than vertically along the side) are more energy efficient.
  • EnergyStar has never regulated clothes dryers. Most electric clothes dryers consume as much energy as a new fridge, washing machine, and dishwasher combined!
    • What can you do? Gas powered clothes dryers use much less energy and innovations for electric dryers that use technology such as heat exchangers are in the works.
  • Biggest “plug load” found in your home? The TV.
    • While TVs have made some of the biggest improvements in energy consumption reduction, they have also gotten bigger and we own more of them per household, (proving that regulation does not need to hinder sales)
    • The preset mode you have it set in can help save energy. For example, ‘Preset Cinema’ uses less than 125 watts of energy while ‘Preset Vivid’ and the ‘Default Retail Vivid’ usesover 250 watts.
  • Idle electric loads average 36% of your electric bill. Do you often leave home and wonder if you left the lights on or the thermostat turned up?
    • You can turn lamps and electronics off remotely, (even from your iPhone) with a simple wireless controller installed at the outlet: ByeBye Standby Wireless Remote Control Energy Saving Kit
    • Control your lights remotely with wireless light switches: Belkin WeMo Light Switch
    • Control your thermostat online: Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Wi-Fi Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat.

-Bridgett