SF Edwardian - Demo and Reconfiguration

Our design and permitting process is finally done, and now work has begun in earnest at our new (very old) house. While the design moves strive to simplify, the work we are doing is substantial and will be completely transformative.

Most of the change is happening on the back of the house. An old laundry porch (that looked like it was built by drunken prospectors) is being removed, and the random, unaligned aluminum windows are being replaced by wood framed windows.

The existing conditions look a bit like this:

And the proposed elevation:

And the proposed elevation:

Above drawings are by   Zack | de Vito   Architecture & Construction.

Above drawings are by Zack | de Vito Architecture & Construction.

Saivu: Gateway for Norwegian National Park

I am prone to think of the Norwegian landscape as a place rich in folklore and fairy tales. As a child, I associated much of what I saw and experienced in Norwegian forests with my favorite books, and most of my memories and familiarity with Norway are those of a child visiting her grandparents. Mossy, lichen covered rocks, clearings full of wild blue berries, long cross country ski trips to frozen lakes make all of that magic just feel right.

Eriksen Skajaa ArchitectsPUSHAK Architects and Bjørbekk & Lindheim Landscape Architects recently won a competition to design a Gateway for Sjunkhatten National Park near Bodø, Norway. The project, titled Saivu, draws its formal vocabulary from the Sami language, nomadic building, and the romance of folklore and fairytale.

It has been difficult for me to reconcile the idyllic Norway in my head with the reality of a complex, contemporary society, and the surreality of recent events. This project is a thoughtful celebration of the Norwegian landscape, and I smile when I think about the wonder and delight a project like this can inspire.

Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry

With a one-year-old daughter, I think about geometry more than usual, along with the other essentials – language, music, numbers, etc. She seems naturally drawn to everyday patterns like these and absorbs them effortlessly. You can practically hear the synapses crackle as it happens.

I recently discovered the work of Anne Tyng, San Francisco-based architect, who developed a means of spatial exploration using some of the most elemental structures known, the Platonic solids. Although the study of advanced geometry and its application to design is nothing new, Tyng set a clear precedent more than fifty years ago for the current crop of artists and architects working along similar lines.

"...geometry is both rational and expressive, as much a means of contemplation as of calculation and construction."

Let's hope she's working on a line of toddler bedroom furniture.

Greenland goes BIG

An appropriately otherworldly design by BIG for Greenland's new National Gallery was recently unveiled, the winner chosen from six invited architects. The concept is a response to the rugged and somewhat exotic conditions of Greenland itself, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Greenland has about 60,000 permanent residents, spread out in isolated communities on the southern tip. The largest city, Nuuk, where the museum will be located, has no roads connecting it to the few other small cities, since enormous fjords traverse most of the country's geography.

I work at a cultural institution here in San Francisco, and let's just say I don't envy whoever is responsible for driving ticket sales at Nuuk's latest architectural gem. Practicalities aside, the geometric purity of the design and how it's assimilated into the site's topography make for an eye-popping set of renderings.

At Home with Third Nature Studio

The small apartment that I share with my daughter and hubby was recently featured in the San Francisco Examiner. Stephanie Stillman, a fellow landscape designer, has been writing a series of At Home articles exploring how designers and artists arrange their home spaces. We were honored to be included, and it was a refreshing challenge to try and put my design philosophy into words and relate it to interior spaces.

Liebermann Treet House in Marin

This is the California that lived in my imagination before I moved here. A Radial (and radical), tree house complex tucked away in the redwoods, built by a serious architect but feeling like a daydream. Daniel J. Liebermann designed and built the house in 1958 for his family. The New York Times recently featured the house in their On Location section, describing the recent purchase and remodel of this amazing place, where the new owners had the magnificent luck of working with the original architect on their renovations. Now they just need some of my help with that slope and patio!

Congratulations SANAA!

Happy to see that SANAA won the Pritzker Prize this year. Of their projects, I've only experienced the New Museum first hand, but I thorougly enjoyed it, and love the contrast of its meshy white skin to the neighborhood that surrounds it. Something tells me they like the looks of that contrast too. Photographs of their residential projects show crisp architecture accented with hodge podge antique chairs and leggy houseplants in mismatched pots. Their work makes modest little messes look so good.

Photos below are from a visit to the New Museum in August '08. Sam, Laurel, Greg & I contemplate the meshiness.

Travel Diary: India

This morning I was looking through pictures from our travels in India. I’ve included some of the highlights above, and more can be seen at, and the blog we kept can be found at I think one of the most lasting memories from that trip was the death defying rickshaw riding we did. It is truly no exaggeration to say rickshaws in India feel like roller coaster carts gone completely off their rails, zig zagging between cars, trucks, busses, camels moving loads of rebar, 3 people balancing on one little scooter, elephants, goats, monkeys, cows… all that chaos mixed with the peace that comes with the most beautiful food, sweet sweet people, and haunting, timeless landscapes.

A Visit to the Getty Vila

I finally made it to the newly reopened Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades. My expectations were very high, having read a number of reviews praising the new entry buildings, cafe, grounds and amphitheater, and I have to admit, I left a little disappointed but also thoroughly entertained. The collections are amazing, after all, but that landscape!

The sheer number of materials used in the expansion was a little overwhelming; beautiful board-formed concrete walls and stairs were next to all manner of paving and wall materials - black, red, cream, grey, granites, asphalts, concretes, oh my. The additions had great bones and gestures, and there were a few lovely outdoor spaces including a new square reflecting pool at the base of the cafe terrace. I suppose its no big surprise to be overwhelmed by all things Getty.

The Schindler House

I don't think I really understood the potential warmth of minimalism until I went to the Schindler House on King's Road in Los Angeles. The notion that this house and studio will be 100 years old in just 13 years should give all of us a swift kick in the butt to try and come up with something truly contemporary. Its very tempting to be content with such a delicious past.

SFMOMA's New Roof Garden

Greg and I visited the recently completed sculpture garden on the roof of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art today. We had a great afternoon, it was sunny and hot, and we had the best iced coffee ever at the new Blue Bottle Coffee cafe anchoring the space. I enjoyed it, and looked forward to many more afternoons there in the future, though we both had some mixed feelings about the overall project. The highlight for me was the furniture and plant palette: it was truly refreshing to see a break from monoculture planting, and an amazing treat to be able to sit and sip in such an inspiring setting.

All of that aside, this is the essential bit of information:

Blue Bottle's New Orleans Style Iced Coffee

1 pound coarse ground coffee
2 oz. roasted and ground chicory
2.5 liters of cold water
1 fine mesh sieve
2 quarts whole milk
3-4 oz. sugar

Soak the coffee & chicory in the cold water over night at room temperature. The next day strain it through your fine mesh sieve. This should render about a quart of concentrate. Add 2 quarts whole milk and sugar (make a warm slurry with a little of the milk first so the sugar melts well). Ice it.

Inspiration from Japan

Japan is a place that probably inspired me more than anything else I've ever experienced. The strangest thing is, is that most of the general landscapes and cityscapes that we passed through were nothing too exciting - a little worn down, wires and neon signs everywhere and lots of dingy concrete. However, that mediocrity was absolutely riddled with pockets of sublime beauty, sometimes just a little dish in a windowsill, an angle cut by a tilted wall, or an insanely beautiful temple garden. Just thinking about it makes me hungry for soba...

Den Norske Opera

I still have yet to see it in person, but my dad took these images of the new Norsk Opera in Oslo for me. This part of Oslo is part wonderful, part dreary, part crazy condo explosion, and I think the Opera House has started to tip the scale back towards the wonderful. There is an ongoing competition for a Munch Museum next door, so perhaps the dreary part of that equation will go away all together.

I'm in love with a very small house

I think it probably violates a cardinal rule of blogdom, to blog about something seen on another blog, but I wont resist. I saw this house on Arch Daily and I did not want to ever forget its sweet little size and shape. Its amazing how it quietly disappears from the side, and from the front, looks happy during the day, and at night looks like a sleeping muppet. It was designed by architects Alan Chu and Christiano Kato out of Sao Paulo, and the house is for a caretaker of a larger property, built on top of the existing stone house he occupied. Its located on Ihabela Island, near Sao Paulo, Brasil.