Blog Archives - AM Musings
My sister-in-law on her wedding day.
Most of us have someone close who has some type of disability - someone who uses a wheelchair or an aged parent or grandparent who is frail.  Providing accessibility can be a challenge particularly when it can be confusing and potentially costly. 

Just following the advice of the local building department and the  California Building Code (CBC) may still leave you vulnerable.  Most accessibility lawsuits today are based not on violations of the building codes, but on the violation of civil rights under the (Federal) American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.  The provision of the ADA are enforced by the Federal Courts not by the local Building Department.  The Department of Justice requires State Accessibility Codes be certified by the Federal Government as meeting the minimum requirements of the ADA.  

To date, the California Building Code (CBC) has not been certified and there are significant differences between the CBC and the ADA.  The most important thing to remember is that under ADA, all buildings completed after January 26, 1992 are considered new construction and are required to be fully compliant with ADA standards unless you can demonstrate it is structurally impossible to comply.  

Enforcement is increasing and owners of non-accessible public facilities are starting to feel the pressure.  Reasonably accommodation and equivalent facilitation are not concepts specifically discussed in the Federal Standards.  Although local building departments (Building Official) may accept what you have done as equivalent facilitation, it may still fall short of meeting Federal Standards and put you in violation of the ADA.  We advise our clients at Mock/Wallace not to rely only on the judgement of the local building official, but to make their own assessment.

Titania Light Fixture by Luce Plan
At $3,000 the lightfixture I picked will blow our budget so I'm looking for something else.  When we remodeled our downstairs bathroom, Chris picked this light fixture called Titania from LucePlan which is both elegant and fun.

By adjusting the fins on the fixture you can varying the colors of light that it reflects off the fins of the fixture.  Sometimes by taking a photo you see something you didn't notice before.  Notice the lavender reflection of light at the top of the photo where the light shines on a lower ceiling.  It was there but I didn't see it until I looked at the photo. I was taken with the colors and composition of structured elements. The white umbilical chord attaches this ship to its cosmic mother -- tethered yet ready to fly free.   Maybe a twin of this fixture could fly in the bath upstairs living in a parallel universe.

I was in SOMA walking to lunch on 4th Street towards Brannan when I spotted these yellow numbers set against a grey wall.  It is the address of Zuppa Restaurant, an interesting place I haven't tried yet.  The yellow and grey provide a nice high contrast without being too jarring.

The font style reminded me of Corbusier Stencil Fonts.  Chris has a set of metal stencil fonts that she used on (hand) drawings.  They pay homage to one of the great architects of the 20th Century and give  drawings a stylish look.  She would lay the stencils on top of the drawing and using a soft lead pencil, form a letter allowing the pencil stroke to remain visible as part of the gestalt.  

Architects pay attention to the environment and try to do everything with a sense of visual purpose.  By practicing this at all times, it becomes part of your approach to life.  Le Corbusier's name was actually Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, but like stars today, came to be known by a single name.  He was an architect, artist, and furniture designer whose iconic Corbusier Chair can be seen in modern interiors everywhere.  Learn and be inspired by a Master.

I found this website that gives a history of the Corbusier stencil font as well as this link to the Corbusier Foundation.

Bistro SF Grill - San Francisco

A struggling restaurant closed recently on California Street near Divisidero.  It always was empty and forbidding -- dark and gloomy.  Bistro SF Grill moved into the space and suddenly everything changed.  Accented with bold red curtains, walls and chairs, the all burger restaurant is a beehive of activity.  Changing the colors and adding two table outside made a big difference.  Suddenly everything is more inviting.  Clearly that was the case the other night when there was a large group having a birthday celebration.

Alex invited me to dinner and as a test, I had their basic bistro burger piled high with cheese, grilled onions and roasted red peppers.  It was juicy warm and delicious.  Different from the Zuni Cafe burger I really liked, but very good in a different way.  This restaurant is dedicated to burgers in every form.  And -- to top it off, they serve Blue Bottle coffee.   It's dangerously close to my home on Pine Street.

As officials battle the mighty Mississippi River to keep it from flooding New Orleans, it's really apparent that climate change is having major impacts around the world.  We're not longer talking about the existance of climate change, we talking about what needs to be done in response to climate change.  To minimize the effects of climate change, we need to reduce carbon emission as quickly as possible.  Last year I signed on to the Architecture 2030 Challenge.  It's an organization that encourages the architecture and building community to make all new buildings and major renovations of building carbon neutral by the year 2030.   

Right now, Mock/Wallace Architects is working on Silver LEED certification on the Renovations to the Cambridge Hotel in San Francisco and examining what we can do as new projects come up.  I encourage all who see this to check out the  Architecture 2030 Challenge website and join me by signing up!

Cleaning out the garage is like being an archeologist.  I come across bits and pieces of my history, but I don't know the details. 

I found this pin in a box and showed it my Mother.  She said it was hers --  acquired in Hong Kong in the 1930's.  It is a carving of a Phoenix.   Long hidden in the dark, it is now in the light free to dance again.  Legend tells us a phoenix only appears during times of peace, prosperity, and happiness.  Surely its appearance is an auspicious sign! 

I gave it to my daughter Katie because her Chinese name is fung mo or dancing phoenix.  At nineteen she has a striking resemblance to her grandmother at the same age and just like the pin, she is emerging into the light.  Now it is a part of her history.


As I was putting away dishes one morning, I was admiring the Heath Ceramic bowls and cups that Chris bought.  Chris once took me to the Heath Ceramic factory outlet near the picturesque houseboats in Sausalito, where they are still made today.  They reflect a very California quality about them with their earthy colors and robust forms.  Today Heath Ceramics have new owners who carry on the same tradition and now they also make ceramic tiles.

Green Chile Kitchen - San Francisco
Green Chile Kitchen a New Mexico inspired restaurant at McAllister and Baker Streets in San Francisco gets it. They use Heath Ceramics for their food service in their restaurant. It sets off the food beautifully. Green Chile Kitchen is informal, inexpensive, loud, sometimes crowded, and -- Chris loves their posole.

Chinese Steamed eggs or water egg in Chinese is simple comfort food.  There are two ingredients - eggs and water.  Mixed together and steamed.  I haven't mastered the technique.  Mine come out a complete mess.  Made correctly they have the smooth texture of custard or soft jello.  The top is smooth and flawless.  Most cooks always use the same bowl  to steam the eggs as the shape of the bowl also affects the final result.  Chris learned some techniques from my Mom and she now makes this dish occasionally. Spooned over hot rice, it is comfort food.

This last time, she used a deeper bowl.  The result was good, but as you can see the top was not flat and has interesting bumps accented by the soy sauce added afterwards.  Next time, a more shallow bowl and a shorter cooking time may need to be the adjustment.  Life is a process of trying and trying and hopefully moving in the right direction.

San Francisco Planning Commission Hisashi Sugaya, Kathrin Moore, Rodney Fong, Gwyneth Borden, Michael Antonini, Christina Olague, Ron Miguel

Proposed location for new San Francisco Pollo Campero Restaurant

Codes in general and particularly Planning codes shape the form of buildings and cities. In San Francisco the Planning Commission consists of 7 members appointed by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. They have the responsibility to review projects and interpret conformance to planning codes. They hold public hearings and listen to various points of views and make decisions in the interest of the public good.

This Thursday, April 26, 2011, my Mock/Wallace partner Ron Wallace will be representing our clients before the Planning Commission in their efforts to open a restaurant in a currently empty storefront on a busy section of Mission Street. In this case, there are conflicts between interest groups. For our clients, it is their desire to open a business working within the requirements of the planning and building code. For residential neighbors whose rear yard abuts the Mission District commercial district, it is their desire for peace and quiet.

One could wonder why someone who purchases a residence next to busy Mission Street would be surprised and offended to find commercial activities occupying properties next to them. The City Planning staff has reviewed the proposed project and after hearing all points of view to date, have recommended the Planning Commission approve the project. Never-the-less, there are valid points on both sides and in this case the San Francisco Planning Commission has the power to make the decision on whether or not our clients can proceed, and if so what additional requirements are required as a condition of approval. The Planning Commission is powerful as they can waive or add additional requirements of the code.  The hearings are televised and when I stumble on them channel surfing, I sometimes watch in fascination as this process unfolds.

Congratulations to Alexander Ahn  Mock, college graduate.  We're proud of your achievement.