Blog Archives - AM Musings
 

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White Çhalk on Red Wall



















I came across this section of red wall on Folsom Street anonymously "decorated"  with white chalk.  It's structured yet lively and spontaneous.  Funny how chalk continues to be used even though other drawing materials are more convenient and readily available.   

Stylish restaurants sometimes use chalk on blackboards to show the changing menu and perhaps to evoke simpler times and establish a happy mood. Most people have used chalk at some time in their lives -- probably as a child and for most those were happy times.   You can't use chalk without being aware of its sensual and tactile qualities, the way it engages the surface and reveals textures, the sound of chalk grinding on the surface, the way it breaks if you press too hard, and  the way it leaves powder on your hands so you know you have drawn.   

I try to think about architecture and how the design of things and  materials can evoke feeling within ourselves.  My first courses in architecture at UC Berkeley explored just these concepts and although it didn't seem "serious" at the time, those exercises still inform my work at Mock/Wallace.

 
 
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Yellow Trace used at Mock/Wallace Architects
Becoming an architect requires training, dedication, and love of the profession.  Other professions are probably more lucrative.  Dashing through airports with rolls of drawings may seem glamorous, but the "glamor" of the profession is only a very small portion of the hard work involved. 

At the soul of architecture is the search for perfect solutions to small and large problems.  The rolls of yellow "trace" architects use is a metaphor for that constant search.  We sketch quickly overlaying drawing upon drawing refining and exploring ideas until the solution reveals itself. 

At one time we ordered rolls in quantity and went through it quickly.  Now that  we have moved to electronic drawings, we use less and we conduct the search using computers.  I do believe hand drawings engage the mind in a different way than drawing with a mouse.  Now when I pick up a pen or pencil to draw by hand, the pleasures of hand drawing immediately come back.  Whatever the means, it is only a means.  At Mock/Wallace, we use whatever produces the best results.

 
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Picking colors can have too many confusing variables. 

Years ago I taught a course on how to use color in design.  I sat in on a lecture taught by an associate.  He taught if you copied from nature, you couldn't go wrong. He showed slides after slide of plants and natural scenery.  I felt smug and superior as my lectures were more "sophisticated".  I talked about hue, color saturation, and the effects of natural and artificial light.  Compared to my lecture, I thought his thesis limited and simplistic.

This month with asparagus in season, I prepared some for blanching.  Most cookbooks advise you to break off the woody stems and just leave the tender top portions.  I followed a Chinese restaurant technique by shaving the tough outer portions of the base and leaving the tender interior.  The transition of colors from purple violet to varying shades of green to white is sublime.  Sometimes it helps to reduce the variables and examine only a few.  I admit, my thoughts about my associate's lecture have changed. 

 
 
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San Francisco Chinatown is not what it seems.  Its ersatz exotica is built over a layer of beaux arts style buildings from the post 1906 earthquake era.  Look up above the tacked on pagoda eaves and you will see classic western detailing.

The Buddha Lounge at 901 Grant Avenue has one of my favorite neon signs, its red neon beckoning for a drink and a transcendent experience on a dark lonely night.  They say enlightenment can be found all around you even in a cup of tea.  I first learned about Zen Buddhism from reading D. T. Suzuki, the author most credited with bringing zen philosophy and practice to the US.  He might agree that indeed enlightenment could be found here in the neon sign  -- or perhaps Dean Moriarty would be inside seeking enlightenment in a shot of whiskey.  After all, City Lights Books is just a stones throw away.     

 
 
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Photo - New York Architecture
Architectural  Record recently announced the sale of the  Folk Art Museum (completed 2001) in Manhattan to its adjacent neighbor, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

MOMA plans to use the space for needed expansion and there is fear the building will be demolished.  I saw the building when after it was done and thought it was a masterful composition of space and materials.  Sad to think that the building's life may be so short.  Click here for more details.

 
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Standing Buddha Korea Silla Dynasty
Yesterday I accepted an invitation to enter the three year docent training program at the Asian Art Museum intensifying a life-long interest in Asian Art.

 I went for an interview on April 22nd.  They interviewed candidates in groups of three using pre-set questions.  Afterwards I went with one of the interviewers to the Korean Galleries to pick an object and give a "Mock" presentation.   I gave a presentation on this Buddha trying to remember what I knew about the historic Buddha and Buddhism.   Buddhists believe that life is just an illusion and the word illusion triggered a memory of the Jimmy Ruffin 1960's Motown hit with the lines --  Love's happiness is just an illusion, Filled with Sadness and Confusion -- I didn't mention that though.  Training starts this fall.
 
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 Zuni Cafe is located where the north and south of Market Street grids collide.  They form sharp street corners and grow interesting building shapes.  With its high storefront windows on three sides, Zuni takes full advantage of the view of  classic old streetcars rolling down Market Street.  It's a combination of brick, glass, wood, concrete and steel with a no frills interior.  The bright yellow awnings and tall leafy sycamore trees on the sidewalk filters the southern sun creating one of the best eating environments in the City.  

I remembered reading chef-owner Judy Rodgers The Zuni Cafe Cookbook recipe for their famous hamburgers.  Their technique is to season the meat with sea salt the day before grinding using fresh (not cyrovac'd) 18 percent fat beef chuck.  I ordered it medium and it was pink, juicy and savory, even better than expected.   This restaurant has been consistently good without food fads or unnecessary embelishments. 


 
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John Ruskin, the  19th century English author, wrote that architecture had three essential elements, "Firmness, Commodity, and Delight".  It means firmness in terms of structural integrity, commodity in terms of function, and delight in being pleasing to the eye.  This Italian toilet has all three.

In this country, people are hesitant to mix modern elements in the midst of a historical environment.  The safe route is to restore it to look as thought it may have always been that way.  In Europe where historical elements are everywhere, they are much more confidant contrasting modern elements against the historical elements.  This public toilet stall has a translucent glass door, standard door hardware, and a simple protective door strike at the mosaic tile wall.  It's  unusually nice for a "public" toilet, more interestingly, it's located in a 17th century mansion, villa d'este at Tivoli Gardens - a world heritage site outside of Rome.  As you exit the toilet your back in the 17th century villa sharpening the contrast and appreciation for both.  

Having made use of the commodity aspects of this stall, I snapped this picture.
 
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I parked in the North Beach Garage recently at 735 Vallejo Street near Stockton.  My favorite garage in the City.  The garage is pretty new and clean - better than most. There's a slit of an opening to the sky where they planted some bamboo. A little relief in the concrete jungle.

Each stall has a slogan like a fortune cookie and you have the chance to pick one yourself.  I just parked in the first one available and read this when I got out.  At first I liked it alot, but then I thought about it - hmm may not so good.  Like many things we want in life, they are always ahead of us so I guess there's something to look forward to.

 
Manhattan architect Robert Stern has designed many beautifully detailed houses and apartments.   I know of one he has done in San Francisco's Pacific Heights recalling the Bay Area Shingle Style. 
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Architects usually don't dress flamboyantly but rather conservatively for business reasons.  

The love of design and image, however, can't be fully supressed.  In this advertisement featuring Robert Stern, I'm sure he thought alot about what he would wear.  Well dressed reflecting his professional achievements - with just a flash of color. 

Flash of color - similar to the lunch bag in the post below?