Expertise in our Backyard: William Stout Architectural Books

Just around the corner from our office, on a quiet stretch of Montgomery Street lined by brick facades and a procession of leafy trees, William Stout Architectural Books has offered a quiet refuge and resources to the neighborhood for twenty years.  With over 20,000 American and international titles in the fields of architecture, art, urban planning, graphic and industrial design, furniture design, interior design, and landscape architecture, the discreet bookstore has become both a neighborhood staple and tourist destination.
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Bill Stout, the store’s eponymous founder, began as an architect and still “lives, eats, breaths design and architecture,” according to Carolina, an expert in design publications and a store employee.   Over thirty years ago, Bill began bringing architectural books back from Europe for friends, and eventually turned the hobby into the business that it is today, which includes a publishing company for talented architects with little exposure.  Bill’s passion for design has attracted equally passionate employees; Carolina comes from a family of designers and printers, and she studied Graphic Design in college.

Her colleague, Ian, used to practice design fulltime, and before becoming an employee at William Stout, he was a customer.  Indeed, many of the store’s customers are professionals in the industry who come to William Stout in search of inspiration or insight.  Ian describes them as “people who use the books for function rather than leisure,” and says that the comment he hears the most often is “I wish I had more time!”  Not only do customers wish for more time to pour over the many volumes on the crowded shelves lining the stores walls and creating aisles in the center of the crowded space, but they are also often required to make a return visit to tap the considerable knowledge of the store’s employees like Ian and Carolina.  William Stout has become a networking tool, or “directory,” the pair says, and they are often asked to recommend professionals as resources or consultants for their customers.   As it grew to become a cultural hub, the store’s clientele expanded to include tourists, as well.  “It’s a destination,” Carolina explains.  “You come here just like you would go to the MOMA.”

While the clientele has changed over the decades, the passion behind the business and the bones of the operation have remained true to their original forms.  Even the rise in digital publishing has done little to curb the store’s success.  Carolina believes that they experience of thumbing through a book, its “tactility” and “intimacy,” is too different from browsing a publication online for the two media to be in competition.

With a treasure trove of monographs on talented architects, complete with stunning images and well-honed text, it is challenging for a publication to stand out on the shelf and in the mind of the reader.  According to the pros at William Stout, though, there are a few qualities that make a publication compelling.  “Type is essential,” says Ian, whose own favorite book in the collection, Manuals 1: Design and Identity Guidelines, explores examples of graphic design from companies and institutions who capitalized on the science behind what makes a certain font, layout, or color scheme more compelling.  Monographs published in an architect’s prime, or even as promotional material for newer firms, can be just as successful as books published at the end of an architect’s career.  “Both have great energy” explains Carolina, “It’s the enthusiasm and confidence of the younger architects versus the experience and wisdom of the more accomplished ones.”  She finds herself drawn to collections that exhibit a “formidable character,” identifying Louis Kahn as engaging individual who maintained the same level as artistry in words as he did in his designs; if the architect’s a compelling person, his or her book will be, too.

At Feldman Architecture, we feel lucky to have such a rich resource just around the corner, available for insight or inspiration on any day of the week.  It is clear that Bill Stout’s passion for the intersection of design and books both casts a legacy that will remain meaningful for decades to come and extends to his employees.  As I step back across the shop’s threshold and into the sunshine of Montgomery Street, I catch Carolina pulling a definitive guide to graphic design off of the shelf for a customer at the front of the store.   Flipping through its pages, slowing to show its glossy images to the woman at her side, she smiles.  “This is kind of like the Bible,” she says.

-Abigail Bliss

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Soberanes Fire Near Big Sur

This past weekend, Steven and I visited a few signature Feldman projects not far from the massive forest fires that hit Big Sur recently. As helicopters circled overhead, we became increasingly alarmed by the staggering severity of the crisis, which affected nearby areas but not any Feldman projects themselves. The affected area has grown to approximately 15,000 acres and while there are 1,500 firefighters working to mitigate the situation, containment currently stands at only at 5%. So far, no Feldman projects are at risk, but there’s been a call for voluntary evacuation of homes in the area. Two of our clients are full-time residents and are hanging in there, though their bags are packed for a quick exit should things get worse. It’s a sobering reminder about the power of nature, and the need to respect it. To stay up to date on developments, head over to http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents .

– Jonathan

 

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View from House Ocho driveway

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View from House Ocho driveway

View from near the Hacienda

View from the Hacienda

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View South from Hacienda lawn

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View from Hacienda

View From Chemisal

View from Chemisal

 

View from Penon Peak Trail

View from Penon Peak Trail

View From Long Ridge Trail

View From Long Ridge Trail

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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.

-Abigail Bliss

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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