Category: Architect - AM Musings
 
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Stonestown Galleria - San Francisco
Problems with my iphone took me to the Apple Store in the Stonestown Galleria on 19th Avenue near Lake Merced.  Coming out of the escalator I snapped this picture of the main galleria atrium.  Built in 1952, Stonestown was the first shopping mall in San Francisco and one of the first in California.   Typical of the mall design of 1950's, you could drive and park next to the stores and here was  no interior pedestrian street that is common in malls today.  The pedestrian atrium above was formerly a "street" with parking.

Fading in popularity, Stonestown Shopping Mall was completely redesigned in 1987 enclosing the street with a sky-lit pedestrian area and re-christened the Stonestown Galleria.  Its a popular alternative to downtown shopping for people traveling on the west side of town.  Located next to San Francisco State University, Lowell High School and across the street from Mercy High School, it's a popular hang out for teens. 


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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - Milan
 

 You might think the sky-lit atrium shopping mall was a 20th century invention, but it has been done before and done quite well.  Perhaps the most compelling is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan where the main axis fronts on the  main square in Milan -- the Piazza del Duomo with the Teatra alla Scala on the other side of the piazza.  Built in 1861, the industrial revolution in Europe made light airy cast iron steel structures like this possible.  Inspired by this magnificent space, architects designed new  "Gallerias" everywhere.  This is the original.
 
 
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Acanthus Leaf
 

The acanthus plant in our lush garden on Pine Street has bright green leaves.  A symbol of re-birth, it has inspired architects and artists since ancient Greece.  It adorns the top of the Corinthian column. 
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The Corinthian Column



History and theory play an important part of becoming an architect.  Without it the 1980's Post Modernism  would not have happened.  Post Modernism was a recall of historical styles and response to the spare minimalist International Style in vogue the previous 50 years.  In the International Style, beauty was found in form and function -  stripped of ornamentation.  Beneath the unadorned building planes, however,  Greek ideals of columns and proportions still resonate.  I remember working in the office of David H. Horn FAIA in Fresno as a summer intern. I overheard him discussing the Greek ideas of expressing a column when he was designing the Fresno Federal Building  (now the Fresno Superior Court) in the "modern style".

Today, we have "rediscovered" mid-20th century design.  All things continually evolve.  Of course some never lost their love of ornamentation.   The Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns are known as the classic order and  the Corinthian column is the most decorative of the three orders with acanthus leaves adorning the top.  

The Greek column went on to influence Roman, European, and world architecture.  Walk down any main street in American and you will see its continuing  influence.  I took this photo (above right) while walking on Sacramento Street where a charming, simplified and stylized depiction of the acanthus leaf adorned the top of a pilaster.
 
 
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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.

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

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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.

 
 
 
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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.

 
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?

 
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I was at the San Francisco Main Library in the Civic Center recently to pick up a book and saw a photo of the library under construction (left photo).  The photo on the right shows the same space today with a glass domed oculus lighting the space.  The library was completed in 1996 by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, an architectural firm founded by I. M. Pei -- the renowned Chinese-American modernist architect and 1983 Pritzker Prize  winner. 
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Unfortunately I. M. Pei had already left this firm when the library was designed.  So San Francisco missed out on an opportunity for a major I. M Pei building.  I like to think about what he might have done in San Francisco - something as memorable as the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris?  At age 94, it will probably never happen.  Sometimes time and place miss each other.  Unfortunate.

 
 
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There's nothing like Green Apple Bookstore in the City and probably in the Bay Area.  It has some of the same vibe as the famous Strand Bookstore in Manhattan.  It doesn't nearly compare in volume to the Strand.  Then probably nothing else does either.  

Alex and Katie called it Luk Ping Guo (Green Apple in Cantonese).    It's in the heart of San Francisco's  inner Richmond shopping district on Clement Street, conveniently near a lot of places I frequent.
As much as I enjoy the convenience of getting information on-line, there's nothing quite like the tactile quality of a book, the quality of the paper, the design of the layout and cover.  Chris has organized our library by the color of the book -- reds in one area, blue in another.  It doesn't make it easier to find a book, but it sure is enjoyable to look at the shelves.    For the most part, architects love books and Chris and I are among those who do.

 
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Tuesday 8:00 AM financial meeting today at the office.  These monthly meetings aren't too exciting, but they're needed to run a Design firm.  

As a student, it was design, design, design.  Now I know you can't spend all your time designing.  Design only represents a small percentage of time you spend in a design firm.  I think of design as dessert after dinner - a treat after the basics.  If we pay attention to the basics, we can have a treat.

After the meeting, I worked on a new color scheme for this home in Pacific Heights.  Much more fun!

 
Chris and I have a little bon voyage breakfast before she heads off to an art retreat in Sonoma, we sit at the counter at Plow Restaurant.
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The new Plow Restaurant at 1299 18th Street is in the thriving Portrero Hill District overlooking San Francisco Bay. The tables are filled but we're happy to sit at the counter because we love to  watch the cooks prepare our food. 

Near the front door, my eye catches a subtle touch (see top photo) of one of the owners who is Chinese American.  These little heavy polychromed Chinese bowls were everywhere when I was a kid.  Now they're scarce and collectible.  The design of the restaurant is simple and straightforward and the space benefits from the north-facing large storefront windows and high ceilings.  It has a happy generous feel.  I read that the space was formerly an architect's office (another casualty of the economy?) and I remember walking by and noticing it before.

The food matches the space.  Simple, hardy, and good.  I have the scrambled eggs with crispy (deep) fried potatoes and rustic toast.  Chris has the french toast with fresh strawberries.  Good Equator coffee is served.  Worth a repeat trip.