SQUEEZING IN THE NEW SFMOMA

August 19, 2016

As a kid running around Chinatown, the alleys of San Francisco fascinated me. This childhood curiosity preceded my academic studies two decades later into urban density and the small streets that patiently waited to be discovered.

In 2009, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (“SFMOMA”) announced a massive $300 million, 235,000 square foot addition to the iconic 1995 museum by Swiss architect Mario Botta. In the dense South of Market area expecting this museum’s expansion, there is barely any land left. Only slivers of in-between spaces. How would this big project squeeze into the city

WHO THE HECK WAS THIS GUY?

August 5, 2016

So I had this entry-level stint at a corporate Manhattan firm, in one of those shiny Midtown skyscrapers. Cramped in cubicles more suited for a telemarketing company than an architectural studio, we all mindlessly drafted and read code manuals and technical standards.

But in the far corner of our over-crowded floor with a spacious loft-like area was This Guy.

He stood alone. In contrast to our low acoustic tile ceiling and blue-ish fluorescent lighting—large windows with city views and an artsy open structure high ceiling surrounded This Guy. Whether from the natural light or a personal aura, This Guy actually glowed.

TO BE LOVED

July 22, 2016

In my last year as an undergrad, the brilliant (to some) Michael Graves (LINK) gave an evening lecture. As one of the founders of Post Modernism, Graves sparked a movement of creative but tradition-bound architects.

The lecture hall on the UC Berkeley campus was packed; no, over packed. Architecture, art, and even philosophy and history majors plus all faculty filled the large auditorium. Alongside filled seats, students littered the aisles and corridors—on the steps, on the floor, wall to wall. Even the entire stage, typically left empty for the dramatic effect of the lecturer at his podium, was covered with eager audience members. This forced Graves to reach the podium by crossing the stage as it were a minefield.

Which in a way it was.

WHO WILL BE MY CLIENT?

July 8, 2016

In architecture school, our professors provided us with projects to design. Example: For this semester, design a sports arena in San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

But here is the thing: How does an architect land such a project after graduation? This is a challenging question to ponder after you leave the comforts of school, after you have made the premature decision to start your own architecture company from your apartment. And you realize that you have no clients. Not a sports arena. Not even a bathroom addition. None at all.

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE ARCHITECTS

June 24, 2016

Why do some people like having architects around as conversation pieces, while simultaneously accuse us of unbearable pretentiousness?

Arguably impressive and both cultured and irksome, architects have the ability to speak about almost anything, to pontificate, to provide diatribes on nearly any topic—from why Apple will fail or succeed, to the specs of a car vs. the specs of an espresso machine, to the latest documentary on documentaries.

LIFE AND DEATH OF ARCHITECTURE

June 10, 2016

One of my favorite projects was recently demolished. From the team at Poon Design, Vosges Haut-Chocolat in Beverly Hills is no more.

A month later, another work of ours demolished: Saffron, an Indian restaurant. Years ago, 8 Fish, our design for a sushi joint also met the demise of a bulldozer.

Of two hundred completed projects by Poon Design, only these three have confronted this fate of a demolition crew. That these deaths are retail and restaurants, and knowing how often such businesses fail, I do not fret over the casualties within my portfolio. I am however amazed by my reactions: bereavement, relief and optimism.