Architecture

I Broke My Glasses at Arcosanti

A wintry weekend pilgrimage in the Arizona desert yielded the opportunity to revisit a  site important to my development as a designer.

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I originally discovered Arcosanti wandering the wilderness in 1993 on a spring break road trip and found a compelling project that provided vision for my own work as well as a family connection.

The iconic apse where ceramic bells are crafted

The iconic apse where ceramic bells are crafted

That inspiration also made for trouble with the architecture department faculty, most of whom had never heard of Arcosanti or it’s visionary founder, Paolo Soleri.  They sure weren’t sympathetic to Arcosanti’s mission of sustainable urban planning and design.

Pigment applied to concrete formwork provides lasting, integral color to massive vaults that provide shade in summer months

Pigment applied to concrete formwork provides lasting, integral color to massive vaults that provide shade in summer months

Times have changed during the intervening decades, of course, and now sustainability is foremost in the mind of every planner and designer.

 

Living spaces overlook the amphitheater  

Living spaces overlook the amphitheater 

Arcosanti has changed, too. Recent construction—and new projects—hint at a new purpose, especially since Soleri’s death in 2013. A great conversation with Arcosanti’s new outreach director, Tim Bell, suggests a newfound purpose as a voice in the wilderness.

The wind bells

The wind bells

This would be a perfect role for the project, which is needed more than ever: classroom, forum, and touchstone to focus the ongoing, urgent conversations about environment and humanity. I can’t imagine a better venue for such a dialogue at the confluence of art, design, planning, and policy.

The tower under a winter sky

The tower under a winter sky

Tim’s earnest enthusiasm was so refreshing that I didn’t mind breaking my glasses while we chatted. I was overdue to have my vision checked anyway.

Breaking Ground in Santa Rosa, Even As Butte County Burns

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.

 

Excavations underway

Excavations underway

It’s been a long recovery process in Sonoma County over the past year, just to get to this point.

It’s the details...

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.

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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.

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More later on my other work with Celeste...watch this space for details.

 


Throwback Thursday: JS Residence

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.

A beautiful view in Pleasant Hill

A beautiful view in Pleasant Hill

Freddy makes it look effortless! Thanks for the pics!

Construction Season 2018 is Underway

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.

An impressive array of rebar for 1,300 square feet of single-family residential addition.

An impressive array of rebar for 1,300 square feet of single-family residential addition.

Anchor bolt placement

Anchor bolt placement

Friday morning, it all passed inspection. By Monday afternoon , it’ll all be covered with concrete.

Beverley Thorne 1924-2017

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. 

Harrison House (Case Study Home No. 26) in San Rafael, California by Beverley Thorne (Photo: Matt McCourtney)

Harrison House (Case Study Home No. 26) in San Rafael, California by Beverley Thorne (Photo: Matt McCourtney)

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:

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/081184353X/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_D0-lAbSBVAkkSA8

Thorne’s most famous client (for better and for worse) was jazz giant Dave Brubeck, so we’ll leave this with him:

Throwback Thursday: Bolivia, August 2016

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.

Ruins of a Spanish mission constructed in 1785 at an altitude of 12,000 feet.    Oruro, Bolivia

Ruins of a Spanish mission constructed in 1785 at an altitude of 12,000 feet.

Oruro, Bolivia


Dry joint stone masonry walls serve as llama pens among the thatched roof adobe homes of the Indigenous village of Coiyuma at 13,000+ feet.    Coiyuma, Bolivia

Dry joint stone masonry walls serve as llama pens among the thatched roof adobe homes of the Indigenous village of Coiyuma at 13,000+ feet.

Coiyuma, Bolivia


Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia at an elevation of 8,300 feet above sea level is the beneficiary of a mild climate and often called the "City of Eternal Spring." The public square is occupied well into weekday evenings in late winter under the cathedral belltower.

Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia at an elevation of 8,300 feet above sea level is the beneficiary of a mild climate and often called the "City of Eternal Spring." The public square is occupied well into weekday evenings in late winter under the cathedral belltower.


The Teleferico provides the primary mass transit of La Paz, carrying passengers from the higher elevations at the rim of the expansive city down several thousand feet of elevation into the various urban centers of the dense metropolis.

The Teleferico provides the primary mass transit of La Paz, carrying passengers from the higher elevations at the rim of the expansive city down several thousand feet of elevation into the various urban centers of the dense metropolis.


A web of telephone and power cables tangles its way over the cobblestone sidestreets of La Paz.

A web of telephone and power cables tangles its way over the cobblestone sidestreets of La Paz.


Downtown La Paz, with modern-day colonial governmental buildings.

Downtown La Paz, with modern-day colonial governmental buildings.