Mixed Message

June 2nd, 2017

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.

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.

New Mission Theater

November 19th, 2016

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 […]

Cultural Expression

January 16th, 2016

Most architects just throw out something in hacienda style when they want to reflect the local culture here in the Mission…

Decon Bling, Modern Poise

December 6th, 2015

I like deconstructivist architecture. I like it the same way, I think, that I’d like a night out on the town with Lady Gaga. But at the end of the evening, I’d rather return to a home like an Audrey Hepburn in that simple black dress. Home is, more than anything else, our place of […]

Cheap Bling

November 22nd, 2015

All the gold on this façade was done with one and a half packages of leaf, or about $22. Amazingly thin stuff at around 7-millionths of an inch—the same as gold plate—it’s thin enough sunlight can pass through.

Order Behind Disorderliness

November 14th, 2015

“All discord [is] harmony not understood,” noted Alexander Pope. Discovering harmony in architecture, in what at first looks like discord, lends a wonderful richness and intrigue. Take this house on Vallejo Street. Study the ostensible jumble of unaligned windows and they’ll slowly reveal the internal layout of rooms and stair behind the façade. A similar work without the underlying […]

Conformity

November 7th, 2015

Bertrand Russell on conformity, from “Furniture and the Ego”: “Tolstoy describes somewhere a newly married couple who are giving their first evening party; when it is over, they congratulate each other on the fact that it has been exactly like anyone else’s evening party. Those to whom this is the highest ambition evidently fear contempt […]

Catching Rays

November 1st, 2015

The solar energy that today lands wasted on thousands of acres of deteriorating San Francisco roof membranes will in the future be treated as a hotly contested resource. Rooftops will have to be thoughtfully partitioned, with sunlight allocated in proper proportion to roof gardens, interior daylighting (skylights), photovoltaics, and solar hot water (though increasingly efficient PV panels are […]

Bus Stop & Toilet Zealots

August 25th, 2015

  There’s a difficulty in designing one thing for multiple locations, such as a bus shelter or a public toilet. You can’t design for context since the surrounding of each installation is unique. Whatever the design, it can only display the unity of its own system. Too often, this frees a designer to promulgate his particular style at the expense of […]

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