The winter rains in the Bay Area, as usual, seem to be too much of a good thing. There’s a fair number of flooded streets and general consternation about this stuff falling from the sky. But if we thought about it differently, it might seem more like manna from heaven. I did a little calculation this morning to see what was going down the drain. Read More
The Associated Press reported on Monday that dozens of stimulus projects in California are being held up by an overwhelmed Office of Historic Preservation, one of several agencies that must sign off on a government project before it can break ground. The story was triggered by a letter sent by the state’s stimulus watchdog to Governor Schwartzenegger, advising him that the problem will just continue to grow, now that funds from stimulus pump are just starting to reach the states.
Launching last Tuesday, Dave Eggers’ one-time-only Panorama newspaper celebrated the good old days of investigative journalism with a muckraking piece on the Bay Bridge. Its “above-the-fold” piece, “Unparalleled Bridge, Unparalleled Cost” (which, unlike the rest of the issue, is available online), is a massive 22,000-word exploration into the bureaucratic issues that have caused the new Bay Bridge to be delayed for years and go from an original estimate of $1.8 billion to a final cost around $12 billion. Read More
Even Union Square, San Francisco’s high-end shopping mecca, sports the occasional empty storefront these days. To beautify a few for the holidays, the Union Square Association brought in four architecture firms to work their magic, a pro bono effort that also “highlight(s) the vibrant creativity of local architecture firms in a whole new way,” says the press release. A delightful idea–but in execution, somewhat of a mixed bag, as you will see. Read More
In the future, will there be a Brutalist Revival? Decked out with stainless steel trimmings by Mark Cavagnero Associates, the Oakland Museum of California is getting ready to usher in a Brutalist appreciation. Or at least a bit of nostalgia for a time when architects couldn’t get enough of the monolithic purity of craggy concrete, before they realized what the environmental costs of melting down rock and reforming it were. The 1969 complex is undergoing the first phase of a $58 million retrofit and will reopen in May 2010. Read More
The Cultural Landscape Foundation has just launched What’s Out There,a database of landscapes with some sort of historical significance: parks big and small, and various important modern landscapes. Because these public spaces are often part of our quotidian routines, it’s easy to be completely oblivious to the designer or how the space participates in the history of landscape design. Have a look at “What’s Out There”–a wonderful title that positively invites browsing–and learn more about what is just around the corner from where you are. Read More
At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, let me say that the SF Peninsula’s new Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, which had its grand opening yesterday, is an admirable stab at making up for what we lack in contemporary American society: non-institutional housing for the elderly, daycare for the toddlers, a state-of-the-art gym–all wrapped up in an architecturally interesting package. My friend Angharad, who lives nearby and has three boys under the age of 5, said wistfully, “I mean, I could be Jewish.” Read More
When architects talk about the “skin” of a building, I realize they’re going techie on me, but I also appreciate the sense of lightness and fluidity that the word conveys. (Did they talk about “la peau d’un bâtiment” in those Ecole des Beaux-Arts days?)
A delightful “skin” has shown up recently on an office building in Palo Alto, the Peninsula town next to Stanford University. Read More
At The Late Show Gardens, visitors were reminded that one of the temporary installations at this new garden show in Wine Country was, in fact, extremely temporary. A representation of global warming, the six-foot-high wall of ice was designed by a group that included Berkeley’s Peter Walker and Partners. In the 90-degree heat of a September day in Sonoma, the wall dramatically collapsed shortly before 3pm. The luminous ice was juxtaposed with thin green columns of cactus reflected in a pool of water–a startling and otherworldly image that could have come straight out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie. Read More
The “in” color for homes in San Francisco these days is a dark charcoal gray. If you are boldly angular, the sober color helps camouflage you. And if you are historic, you can declare your modernist leanings by choosing to dial down any rambunctious curlicues.
Inside the several charcoal-gray houses on the tour, it was a dramatically different story. Interior design for modern homes can play it safe, or go out on a limb. You wonder: Is it going to be straight-up Eames/Noguchi/DWR? Too-cool-for-you-Italian? Zen-rock-bamboo? Z Gallerie? Or a quirky mix of industrial materials and antiques? Read More
Remember the nursery rhyme?
Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt them both, you see
They licked the platter clean.
The last two houses on this first day of the AIA SF’s Home Tours were rather like Jack Sprat and his wife. In Glen Park, the Roanoke St. house was a skinny 12 1/2 feet wide. Not too far away, the Bosworth St. house was only 42 feet deep. Each was an inspiring example of how to get out of a tight squeeze. And on this rainy day, where fall seemed to have arrived overnight, modern architecture’s ability to grab whatever sunlight there was to be had was particularly welcome.