Mixed Message

June 2nd, 2017

Off is on.

There’s a button in my car—along with the heat, defrost, etc.—that says “OFF”. It has an LED to tell you when it’s on.

DOT Noise Map

April 3rd, 2017

Earplugs optional.

The Department of Transportation has published in map form the traffic and aviation noise levels around the country. Zoom into the San Francisco area and it’s easy to see where highways and airports make their impact.

Animal Bridges

March 17th, 2017

Relinking ecosystems

That the anthropocene era is recognizing its role in restoring balance to nature is encouraging:
12 Amazing Animal Bridges Around the World

Oops, redundancy

February 24th, 2017

Had to fill this one out twice

Just to drive home how redundant the building-planning-zoning-public works process is, DPW uses this form.

Oops, Water in Painted Stucco

February 10th, 2017

Building acne.


With stucco, you can either let it show its natural color, or you paint it. The problem with painting it is that if any water gets in behind the paint, there’s no way for it to get out. And paint cannot reliably keep water out in the first place—there are always cracks forming in the substrate that acrylic or even oil emulsion cannot span. The result is saturated stucco with enough hydrostatic pressure built up in the lower areas to delaminate the paint, forming the sagging pockets of water seen here.

Oops, Wrong Ply

February 2nd, 2017

Plywood, meet Weather

A marine-grade plywood would have been a better choice for these backboards. Even an exterior-grade ply with its phenolic binders would have held onto the laminations, though edge protection is always a wise safeguard.

Appliance Shopping

January 10th, 2017
Major appliances online

Major appliances online

Clients frequently ask which local appliance stores I recommend. Consumer Reports actually did a study of stores in June 2013, showing how much appliance shopping had moved online, even for large items. Highest rated will ship to the bay area: ABT Electronics and Appliances (score: 93), followed by Amazon (90), and Nebraska Furniture Mart (90). Best ranked local brick and mortars: Costco (89, though poor selection), Lowes (85), Best Buy (84), and Home Depot (84).

Ratings were based on price, selection, in-store service, checkout ease, website usability, shipping, installation, and haul-away. Rankings had remained quite consistent for the previous half dozen years.

Color Blind

January 10th, 2017

Important as color is, it sometimes blinds us to form. “I see in color, so I shoot in color,” Jay Maisel once told my uncle. But if what you want to convey is shape and volume, doing away with any distracting hues can be the best tool. Photo here is by Clyde Butcher.

No distractions

No distractions

Street Grids

January 4th, 2017

An interesting look at street grid patterns over the past century, and into the future: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/publications/en/rh-pr/tech/socio75.html

Street, buildable, and open area balance

New Mission Theater

November 19th, 2016
Fun House

Fun House

It is as perilous to design a prominent building in the giddiness of a tech-fueled economy as it is to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You may find yourself with buyers remorse the morning after. This could easily be the case with the New Mission Theater condos – a carnival’s fun house aesthetic on both the Mission Street and Bartlett Street sides.
Today this may come across as a welcome respite to Mission Street’s past several decades of dereliction. But architecture has the unenviable role of having to support its inhabitants through all their meandering moods—joy, yearning, optimism, uncertainty, celebration, grief. A dour neo-brutilist ediface can be as much of a downer when life is going great as the sight of a carnival is when you’ve just lost your job.

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