This week saw what I think was the most beautiful concrete pour of our career. The project is an addition to a cabin overlooking the South Yuba River. The addition sits squarely on a large boulder next to the cabin and the foundations are pinned into the rock. Windows will face the river and give wonderful views.
It was a perfect morning, everything went smoothly, and Tom and Maru, the owners, were happy to help with trowelling. After months of planning, it’s great to see how well this project will sit on its site. We can’t wait to see the next phases!
We haven't posted anything in a long time, and you may be wondering, "Why?" Well, we moved! Both our home and our office. This was a lot of work, which I'm sorry to say took our focus away from talking to you. We now have two locations from which to better operate: in the Sierra foothills (Gold Country, towards Lake Tahoe,) and in San Francisco proper for our urban base. We are now settling in and taking advantage of what both locations have to offer.
Meanwhile, our work has been continuing uninterrupted. We're designing architecture and we're building furniture and we're helping people feel better about their surroundings. So no, we did not run out of ideas! Far from it! More soon.
We just learned about Pritzger Prize-winner Hans Hollein's passing here.
I worked for him many years ago, during a summer when Vienna was home for me. It was a grungy office, but everyone there was super smart, with all the requisite design talent, and we were all multilingual as well. (We had five different words for "shit" in the room I worked in.) I worked on the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art, as well as Hollein's competition entry for the Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles, which of course was won by Frank Gehry.
While I'm certainly not in love with everything Herr Professor (as he was referred to) Hollein did, his comment that "Everything is Architecture" has stuck with me. Stacy and I have never just designed one thing. Whether it's a garden, or a building, or a drawer pull, or a cabinet, or an urn for a loved one's remains, or a stereo speaker, or a table, or a restaurant, or a serving tray, or your office, or your home, it's all architecture on some level. We can put the same amount of rigor into designing any of them. Each piece is part of the fabric of our environment, and each contributes to it in some way, so each piece deserves our consideration. We like that attitude. Sometimes it fits between your fingers and sometimes it's all around you, with awe-inspiring scale. But it's all architecture.
I was in Mexico City last week, for the first of what we hope will be many visits. The weather there right now is perfect, so the locals throw all their doors open and leave them that way. They really know how to blur the boundary between outside and inside.
This is the bookstore and cafe across the street from the Anthropology museum, built right around an existing tree. Even though the building sits in a park with plenty of trees, they still chose to keep this one.
This space would not be anywhere near so rich, engaging, and inviting without that tree there. And yes, the doors were wide open, too. Lovely.
We have been talking about paint colors in the last few posts. Here is an anecdote that amuses us: After we replaced the siding on our own house, we painted it a very dark brown, bringing it into the background and giving it a quiet presence on the street. We discovered that this color was very close to the original color the house had. We gave it a hot accent color on the beam, though. This is always fun to do on Eichler houses.
We did this 10 years ago. At the time, ours was the only house in the neighborhood with an orange beam. It was also one of the few dark houses. Then a house-flipper across the street copied our colors. Then the new owners of another house further down the street painted their beam orange. Slowly, more houses have toned down their color schemes and added orange beams. There are at least 8 of them in our neighborhood now. Here are few of them:
We can't say how much, or even if, we influenced these homeowners, but we like to think we helped by setting an example.
In our last post, I talked about using dark, natural colors to help blend modern houses into their surroundings. Here is how it worked for our friends Ted and Sally’s Eichler home in Thousand Oaks:
We did it again with the parsonage house of the Swedenborgian church in San Francisco. This house was built in 1895, but the concept still works. Hopefully you'll agree it's easier on the eyes.
We really enjoy painting. It can achieve enormous results with very little outlay. Change can be good.
We are privileged to live in an Eichler house designed by A. Quincy Jones in the mid 1950’s. He drew one of my favorite images of how single-family houses should behave.
The top row shows the houses popping up out of a flat ground plane. The bottom row shows the ground plane morphed into small hills and berms, partially hiding the now lower-slung houses. This was Jones’ preference, and mine, too. Frank Lloyd Wright taught us to tie our buildings to the land, and it's always a good lesson.
Taking this thought a step further, our choice of colors should also work with nature, especially for a modern house. Darker, earthier colors, found in nature, can give our buildings and their surroundings a richer feeling. Which brings us back to our house: These before and after shots illustrate these points well. We even have a little berm in front.