There are often many reasons to embrace the chance of a long weekend. This spring after a yearlong effort, and a dozen design iterations, I happily packed up the truck and headed to the eastern sierras to enjoy one of the last waning weekends of spring. With me I packed my newly created 15.25 lbs of custom carbon awesomeness; each screw, painted line, and individual piece of technology researched, scrutinized and ultimately selected/designed by me.
Much like building a home, the process of building a bike like this is collaborative effort, with each person adding his or her expertise, technology and refinement. For this bike I enlisted the efforts of two separate frame-building companies, a paint shop, a mechanic, and over 10 individual component manufacturers.
My destination, Bishop, CA, lies in the Owens River Valley halfway between Mammoth Mountain and Mt. Whitney. Bounded to the west by the dramatic Eastern Sierras and to the east by the White Mountains (boundary between California & Nevada), this beautiful area of high desert has only a few offerings in the way of flat roads. Head off in any direction and you are quickly greeted by miles of climbing. Hopefully you have plenty of time to take in the traffic free roads and the scenery.
On one of my riding days, I headed north from Bishop for 30 miles and after 4000 feet of climbing was stopped by the snow line. I stretched my neck and shoulders, tucked in behind the handlebars, and enjoyed my well earned 20+ mile mountain descent back towards town, a mix of moderate to steep pitches, with open and technical curves. White-knuckle speeds in excess of 50 mph were moderated only by my mind looking down at 23 mm tires and my not so protective lycra suit. Balanced, predictable and well equipped, the bike was only limited by my nerves and ever-fatiguing arms.
Wow… looking forward to summer!
The Troglodytes of the Loire Valley
Driving on the back roads of the Loire in France, you can’t help but notice the caves throughout the Valley – many of which have windows, doors, shutters, awnings, courtyards, etc.. Dating back to the 11th century, the soft white limestone, tufa or tuffeau, of the area was quarried extensively leaving deep clefts and caves in the hillsides. These caves or troglodytes represent one of the most dramatic forms of adaptive reuse that I’ve witnessed as they have been converted into homes, stables, storage units and even abbeys, hotels, restaurants, and churches. The abandoned quarries and caves were recognized by the inhabitants of the area for their potential as low-cost dwellings and also in darker times for their defensive potential. Several of the caves are said to have been used by the Resistance during World War II to hide those fleeing from the Nazis to unoccupied, southern France.
I had the pleasure of staying in one of the troglodytes for a few nights last month. The property where we stayed was formerly part of the neighboring castle’s grounds, and the caves were part of the castle’s farm providing storage and stables. The property included two large troglodytes where two sides of the buildings are honed from the rock that was quarried from the hillside long ago. Walls, windows, floors and roofs were all added and the castle’s stable has now been converted into a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home. Two additional caves also exist on the site and are currently used for storage and laundry, but have been plumbed for future use as guestrooms. Without intervention, the caves maintain throughout the year a steady temperature of 12° Celsius or about 54°Fahrenheit which for the Loire means that the caves are also used extensively for wine making. Adding to the charm of the caves, you can sometimes see fossils in the walls and remnants of some of the former uses, such as a trough from the former farm which runs the length of one room and now acts as a ledge. For me, I couldn’t help but wonder about the 1000 years of inhabitants who have occupied the space and think of the stories and history they have seen. - Hannah
This fall I’ve had a few opportunities to travel outside of the Bay. There’s nothing like getting out of the daily routine to rediscover inspiration all around you in big ways and in more subtle moments. But there’s also something great about coming home with fresh eyes and noticing all over again the inspiration right outside of your own back door.
A sunny Sunday afternoon brings locals and tourists alike to activate New York City’s High Line.
Colonial Mérida Cathedral, circa 1598. A collage of traditional “seconds” tiles in a courtyard house, Yucatán, Mexico.
Then, in a sidewalk of Baltimore’s Butcher’s hill I’m reminded of home by someone’s tiny tribute to California. It’s true, we have a wealth of inspiration right here in California, from the peaks memorialized in Ansel Adams’ photography to the view from my deck: above, the craggy tops of the Ritters Range, Ansel Adams wilderness, and below a view of downtown Oakland across Lake Merritt. It's good to be home. -Bridgett
Architects at Work: The Feldman Office Renovation
Though we moved into our new office in April, we’ve been reluctant to post photos until everything is ‘just right’. Well, 9 months later, we’re ready to deliver. Originally, the suite was divided into several smaller offices and storage areas, and our first big design move was to open up the space to the north facing wall of windows and to refinish the concrete floors. Two spaces – the conference room and the printer/storage rooms - are defined by a simple board cladding stained black while the rest of the walls and surfaces are painted light. The reception desk is clad to match the black stained panels.
A favorite space is the conference room with sliding glass and steel panels and an oversized conference table which we can all fit around for lunch, seminars or dice games. The kitchen was ordered from IKEA and ‘dressed up’ with a couple of simple design moves. As many in our office bike to work, we found a tension bike rack that allows us to stack two bikes on each rack in the hallway. We also worked with well-known artist Catherine Wagner to select a few of her photographs for the new space and emerging artist Meghan Urback who we commissioned to create two unique pieces for us. While we miss the diversity around SOMA, we enjoy having more elbow room, lots of light and extra desks for interns and graphics.
Special thanks for helping us settle in:
Tom Kessenich, General Contractor
Kyle Mortz, Art of Construction
Steve Nichols, Mueller Nichols
Jay Bakaler, MetroEighteen
Rocket Science Consulting
Phil Tiffin, 522 Industries
Aaron Robinson, Aaron Robinson Cabinets & Design
Manuel Hidalgo, Commercial Woodworking
Christopher Naefke Cabinets
Light Waves Imaging
Winter 2012 Newsletter
This fall finds Feldman Architecture staff cozying up in our new digs at Levi’s Plaza and delving into some amazing projects. Our office move and remodel is nearing completion, as complete as a project can be within the design profession! We’ve received artwork from Catherine Wagner and Meghan Urback, and we’re looking forward to a few final pieces of artwork and furniture. In the past few months, our social media presence continues to spread, bolstered by a Q&A session on “The Architect Is In” by Remodelista which featured the Old Bernal Remodel with Jonathan revealing details about the design of the project throughout a weekend in August. We were also fortunate to be featured on Forbes.com with an article discussing the increasingly popular residential green roof. In print, Elle Décor featured the Mill Valley Cabins in an article about yoga rooms. Feldman Architecture’s Pacific Heights Townhouse turned up in the recently released 21st Century Architecture: Designer Houses by Mark Clearly, and the Caterpillar House is featured in Passive Houses: Energy Efficient Homes by Chris van Uffelen. Last month, Jonathan presented an introductory architecture class to technology and media leaders entitled ‘Cool or Craptastic.’ We enjoyed bombarding Jonathan with our thoughts on cool and craptastic buildings – not that architects have opinions! Most recently, we learned that the eco+historical Vistorian Update here in San Francisco and a collaboration with eco+historical earned LEED Platinum status. And just this month, we completed photography of the Forest Hills remodel (image above). We continue to grow and have exciting additions in our staff. This summer, we gladly welcomed Caroline Arpa and Nick Riker to our team – check out their bios on our staff pages. And we are very pleased to share that Lindsey, Travis, and Lucie Theobald welcomed Elle Tamsin to their family on August 16th. We’re wishing Lindsey the best in her 4 month leave with plenty of girl time!
I recently spent a long weekend in Palm Springs that included an architecture tour guided by Michael Stern, the author of Julius Shulman: Palm Springs. The tour was a great way to experience homes by Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Donald Wexler, Albert Frey and other well-known mid-century architects. These homes represent many of the same principles that guide residential architecture today including a strong visual connection to the outdoors, simplicity of form, honesty of materials and responsiveness to place.
Pre-fabricated kitchen in site built home, Donald Wexler
Kaufman House, Richard Neutra
Neutra VDL House
Background: Richard & Dionne Neutra built this house in 1937 after receiving funding from Van Der Leuwen, for whom the house is named. Richard and his son Dion ran their firm out of the back of the house & often held events in the front. After a fire in 1963, Dion, rebuilt the structure, this time with the benefit of having lived there for many years and with careful attention to the climactic forces.
50 years after the renovation, the house is still very inspirational. The experience of being in the house is powerful and conveys much more than the images. The strongest impression is how well the Neutras blurred the distinction between outdoor and indoor. The breezeway on the second floor opens up entirely on both sides, and while covered overhead, feels like being in a tree house. Through screens and louvers, the Neutras clearly mastered control of the local air currents and solar aspect, to provide maximum ventilation and light control in all areas of the house.
Also very evident is the craft and care in details to support the mundane, perfunctory functions of life–the corner cabinet between kitchen and dining, the flush wood panel doors at the bedrooms, and the built in toothbrush/cup holder at the vanity. And the lovely vintage tiles showcase the craft of materials from the time.
Ethics and Aesthetics in Architecture
Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to present a paper at a conference hosted by the International Society of Philosophy and Architecture. The conference took place at Newcastle University in Newcastle, England and focused on the Ethics and Aesthetics of Architecture. Over the course of three days, scholars, practitioners, and professors from around the world exchanged ideas, thoughts, and stories on the relationship of ethics (i.e. what is ‘good’?) and aesthetics (i.e. what is ‘beauty’?) in the discourse and practice of architecture and landscape architecture.
The paper I presented was entitled, “An Architecture of True Ideas” and focused on the architectural implications of an excerpt from Benedict de Spinoza’s treatise, “On the Improvement of the Understanding.” Published in 1677, Spinoza wrote, “As regards a true idea, we have shown that it is simple or compounded of simple ideas; that it shows how and why something is or has been made; and that its subjective effects in the soul correspond to the actual reality of its object.” These three characteristics of a ‘true idea’ were then used as a framework for discussing the similarities and differences of Temple E in Selinunte, Sicily; Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright; and the Memorial to the Burning of Witches by Peter Zumthor.
Presenting on the third day I was joined in a panel discussion by Vasillis Ganiatsas from the National University of Athens, Greece; Dario Negueruela del Castillo from the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain; and Negin Djavaherian from McGill University of Montreal, Canada. All four presentations centered on a similar ethic/aesthetic however, each with its own focus ranging from theater and urbanism to education and architecture.
The conference was a wonderful experience and has provided an ocean of fodder to push and develop further explorations in the discourse and practice of architecture.
Tools of the Trade - Part 2
As our office moves almost entirely to Revit where we are building a complex 3D Model for each project, we find ourselves relying on new and old tools to more efficiently convey design ideas. Recently, we compared notes on methods for sketching. Sketching by hand gets us away from the computer for a bit and lets the hand, head and drawing all connect. The energy and feeling that comes across in a sketch is also key and difficult to produce with a computer model.
Many of us rely on the old methods of trace and pen or pencil to create layers of options on top of a base drawing and watch how an idea unfolds and develops. We find that our clients respond well to the openness of a sketch where we can commit to paper the key components that we know but leave unanswered questions open. It is also effective to pair these sketches with evocative precedent images which help to fill in some of the blanks. Finally, many of us sketch in axonometric in order to figure out exactly how a construction detail is going to come together.
Jonathan brought to the table two iPad programs which are easy to use and offer a lot of options for sketching while on the go or in those few minutes between meetings. Both offer the ability to create multiple versions of a drawing and to send them out to a project team quickly by email. Jonathan recommends both programs and finds it sometimes helpful to begin a sketch in the app called ‘Paper’ which allows a loose drawing and then import that sketch into ‘Sketchbook Pro’ where you can get finer lines. Below is a break down of these two programs. We’re now all itching to get our Feldman iPads and start sketching!
Free app which comes with a set number of pen, pencil, and watercolor styles. Additional pen styles are available for about $.99/each Six colors in an appealing palette Ability to export a page by email as jpeg, or post to FB, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Easy to rewind the drawing backwards when you make a choice you don’t like Takes some learning how the app responds to a finger or stylus since you are not always drawing exactly where the stylus lands and the lines are not super fine. Recommend the purchase of a stylus (approximately $14)
Inexpensive app for the iPad Works much like Photoshop or Illustrator Ability to import and export files via File Share, DropBox, iPad camera or Photo Library. Layers and the ability to adjust or hide them makes it possible to create many iterations using the same base layer(s) Template layers available with perspective and grid lines Lots of different marking tools (pens, line tool, pencils, airbrush, etc.) Many colors available with an RGB wheel
The Feldman Brothers Reunited
Dave Feldman, brother of Principal Jonathan Feldman, returned to the Bay Area last week to join the Comcast SportsNet Bay Area team. This is the first time the brothers have resided in the same place since Dave went off to college in 1983! Dave comes to CSN Bay Area to take the lead on 49er broadcasts, as well as helping with Pre- and Post-Game shows for MLB, NBA, and NHL. Dave has worked as a sportscaster all across the country, including stints at ESPN, WTTG-TV (FOX) in Washington, DC, and KTIV-TV (NBC) in Sioux City, Iowa. Dave graduated from Tufts University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Jonathan is very excited to have his brother around, and the rest of the office is excited to (hopefully) get some great tickets to games. You can find a full bio on Dave at CSN Bay Area’s website.