Soon enough, the hand-drawn sketches become digital.
A Saturday spent in the studio drawing freehand never feels like time that could be spent elsewhere.
Commencing foundations work this week for a Tubbs Fire fire rebuild in Santa Rosa is a welcome sight, although bittersweet, as it’s seen in front of a smoky horizon from the Camp Fire, which is proving even more destructive and deadly.
It’s been a long recovery process in Sonoma County over the past year, just to get to this point.
With all due respect to Sly and the Family Stone, summertime means progress on projects...
...and reveals new views of the golden hills above Walnut Creek. Even if a persistent, morning marine layer delays the hot another few hours.
The installation of a custom-designed towel bar, the result of a happy collaboration with East Bay blacksmith Celeste Flores, finishes a Lafayette master suite renovation.
Celeste (find her on Instagram @clay_and_steel) managed to transform several marginally-coherent sketches, a meandering narrative, and a cardboard template into a simple, sophisticated solution that compliments the beautiful Kohler wall-mounted trough sink. Collaborating with such a talented local artisan is a real pleasure and adds so much to the work.
This effort also afforded another opportunity to actually draw directly on the project, a sort of constructive graffiti, photos of which helped bridge the gap between a drafted detail and fabrication.
More later on my other work with Celeste...watch this space for details.
Excited to be working with Fred Najera again, diligent framer of outrageous craftsmanship, who brings a centered, positive, focused energy to a project site.
Freddy was kind enough to share some old pics of a previous collaboration in Pleasant Hill back in 2014.
Freddy makes it look effortless! Thanks for the pics!
A two-story residential addition in Walnut Creek has posed some planning and technical challenges over the autumn and winter months. Bridging over a demolished swimming pool structure demanded (19) 24-foot deep concrete piers and 18x24” grade beams in a side yard along an angled property line with a 10-foot Sanitary District easement.
Now that the weather has afforded the opportunity, it’s time for foundations.
Friday morning, it all passed inspection. By Monday afternoon , it’ll all be covered with concrete.
A Saturday morning in the studio, making progress, at the six-month mark after the destruction of so much of Napa and Sonoma Counties: a refinement of a scheme started a week ago against the backdrop of KQED’s Forum On The Road about the recovery, making this an emotionally-charged effort.
Local civil and geotechnical engineers, whose work is necessary to begin these efforts, refer to them as "fire replacements." But for many homeowners who are ready to proceed with redeveloping their properties, the recovery isn't so much about simply replacing what was lost, but an opportunity to reconsider how architecture can support their lifestyle as they enter this new phase of their lives. Two-story homes are less desirable for some, as they see a single-story home more accommodating to aging in place. Guest bedrooms are considered for their value as suites for eventual live-in home health workers. Universal access is a priority. Drought-resistant landscaping, designed to keep combustible foliage away from structures is also valued. Energy-efficient and fire-resistant materials and systems can make these North Bay communities better positioned for a more sustainable life in a rapidly-changing environment.
Master of American mid-century architecture, Beverley Thorne, passed away at his home in Sonoma, California yesterday. He was the last of a great generation of architects that participated in Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study Homes project that introduced the United States to Modernism.
Bay Area architectural historian Pierluigi Serraino interviewed and corresponded with Thorne extensively. Those conversations are documented in Serraino’s 2006 book NorCalMod: Icons of Northern California Modernism. Always happy to promote that volume, which has become the Rosetta Stone for understanding mid-century design in Northern California. Find it here:
Thorne’s most famous client (for better and for worse) was jazz giant Dave Brubeck, so we’ll leave this with him:
Fred & Lois Langhorst: A largely overlooked mid-century practice that produced noteworthy projects, earned a place in the history of Bay Area architecture, and remains a cautionary tale for the profession.
Lois' story, borrowed generously from Alan Hess' book Forgotten Modern: California Houses 1940-1970:
Fred Langhorst, originally from Oak Park, Illinois was a Taliesin apprentice from 1931 to 1936. Following his apprenticeship, Langhorst moved to Los Angeles, then San Francisco, where he developed his own practice. He married Lois Wilson in 1939.
Lois (Wilson) Langhorst was a native of Kiowa, Oklahoma, and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with degrees in architecture and sociology. She also earned a masters degree in architecture from MIT in 1940. In spite of her credentials, Lois Langhorst was not permitted to work in the prominent Bay Area office of William Worchester, as Wurster feared that the mere presence of a woman in an architectural studio would damage the fragile esprit de corps of his all-male staff.
Lois and Fred opened an office together in 1942, as equal partners, but because Lois was not licensed until 1948, Fred was often credited as architect of record. When Fred was unable to work due to his alcoholism, Lois ran the practice.
Fred maintained his relationship with Frank Loyd Wright through the years, and that relationship is evident in the work. Lois' affinity for fellow Oklahoman Bruce Goff made her sympathetic to the values of organic architecture. Their 1947 residence in Lafayette is typically Usonian, with its sweeping horizontal planes, but without the ornament typical in Wright's work.
Regardless of her skills as a designer and her ability to manage an architecture firm, Lois continued her work, against the prevailing current of sexism within the male-dominated profession of the era. The couple closed their practice in 1950, as they struggled with problems in their marriage, no doubt exacerbated by Fred, who took credit for one of Lois' prize-winning designs. The couple divorced in 1955.
Lois continued to work in the Bay Area through the early 1960s. She also earned a degree in architectural history at Harvard and taught at the University of California at Berkeley. However, she was denied tenure at Cal and later would be "unwillingly retired" from the University of North Carolina. She passed away in 1989.
Following their divorce, Fred Langhorst attempted to re-establish his office without Lois, but ultimately failed.
Interestingly, Lois is credited with the enduring design innovation of the kitchen island. Regardless of her ubiquitous contribution to residential design, the life and work of Lois Langhorst remains a shameful tale of the failure of the architectural profession to take up its appropriate leadership role in society.
Humanitarian projects in South America took me to Cochabamba, Bolivia late last summer. Between road trips into the high elevations of the Andes to scout construction sites, struggles with hypoxia, and eating llama, I managed to see some remarkable architecture.
A quick study for a client's project (rental development...agricultural theme?) in East Contra Costa County.