Guest Lecture at FIDM

Last week I was invited to talk to interior design students at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown San Francisco. Furniture design was the subject and topics included construction, defining quality, specifying, selecting and the business of creating your own designs. The students had some great questions and hopefully they were inspired to go and try their hand at a few designs of their own.

Special thanks to Shalini Agrawal, M. Arch for the opportunity to speak with the students.

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Posted in Furniture/Fittings, Information, Instruction | Tagged , , , ,

My Photos Selected by the SF Arts Commission

I’m pleased to announce that the San Francisco Arts Commission has selected and purchased two of my printed photographs for the collection of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)! My work will be displayed in the new $190 million, 277,000 square foot, LEED-platinum headquarters slated to open next month in the Civic Center area.  The call for artwork garnered over 4000 submissions and mine, along with other chosen pieces, will be displayed throughout the new building.

From a design point of view, the new building boasts some impressive features. The advanced structure will incorporate wind turbines and solar panels throughout and produce 10% or more of the building’s energy needs from renewable energy. Daylight harvesting and advanced lighting design will result in 45% less energy to illuminate the interior. And with low-flow toilets, waterless urinals and on-site treatment of grey water and rainwater, the structure will use just 1 gallon per day, per person (vs. 12 gallons per day per person for a typical office building).

The SFPUC is a department of the City and County of San Francisco that provides retail drinking water and water treatment services to San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, and green hydroelectric and solar power to San Francisco’s municipal departments. They have over 2,300 employees working in 7 counties with a combined annual operating budget of over $700 million.

I’m happy to have been chosen from among so many local artists. What is even more exciting is that the location is just a short walk down the street. The two pieces are printed on high gloss aluminum substrates that have fantastic clarity and depth of color. After they’re installed, I’ll update with on-site photos. In the meantime, below are the two selected images and the new building.

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Pretty Lights

Last week I made a quick day trip to Las Vegas to see the lights. Not casino lights, but rather Lightfair 2012. It’s the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting trade show and conference with over 500 exhibitors spread over 200,000 square feet and with over 20,000 attendees.

For designers like me who specialize in lighting, it’s like being a kid in a candy store with your parent’s credit card. Most exhibitors show products ranging from light sources to complete fixtures while others deal with testing, lighting control and measurement. But the highlight for me is the handful of companies which show some really innovative designs.

This year the most interesting product I found was from Edge Lighting in Chicago. Shown above is the Soft Line Indirect LED Lighting System that incorporates a thin aluminum channel (similar to a contractor’s tape measure) suspended by two turnbuckles that mount on opposite walls. As you can see from the pictures, they can be mounted perpendicular to the wall or at various angles up to 40’ in length. The white (or optional color changing) light comes from dimmable LED strips.

To me, this is where LEDs really shine. You couldn’t make this type of fixture with any other light source. Low power consumption and the light weight of LEDs make this suspended metal strip a true focal point in any space. In fact, the majority of exhibits focused on LEDs this year. There were a few ‘new’ vintage incandescent bulbs you see in restaurants and bars everywhere now and a few odd magnetic induction lamps but the vast majority was of the show was LEDs.

I think we’ve finally reached the tipping point where the cost and brightness of LEDs has matured to make them viable lighting options. And over the next few years, they’ll be standard replacements for incandescents and CFLs. Strip fluorescents still have a lot of life left in them and will probably dominate most commercial applications for the short term.

Despite the 45 minute airport taxi line wait and the 5 hours of walking, I came away inspired and amazed at the technological progress in the field of lighting. And since lighting consumes almost 35% of our electricity in the US, it’s a great target for innovation.

Posted in Information, Lighting | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Registration Open for My Summer Furniture Class!

Last summer I was asked to create and teach a class at UC Berkeley Extension called Designing and Customizing Furniture and Fixtures. It was a great success and this summer I’ll be teaching it once again.

Registration is now open and the first of eight classes begins on June 5th. It is open to everyone who has a good foundation of sketching and design concept visualization. For students in the university’s certificate program, it is offered as an elective.

This summer’s course should be fun and challenging as students not only learn the details of design and construction, but will actually design their own creation. 

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Invitation to Meet the Artist

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been selected to participate in the first ‘Meet the Artist’ event, sponsored by INTERO Real Estate Services and Western Bancorp. The event is on Thursday, May 10th from 6 to 8pm and includes wine and appetizers provided by Cuisinett French Comfort Food and live music. It’s open to the community and only two blocks from the San Carlos Caltrain Station.

I’ll have a special selection of my recent work on display (all printed on gorgeous high-gloss aluminum) and everyone’s invited to stop by!

       LOCATION: INTERO, 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, California

       WHEN: Thursday, May 10th from 6 to 8pm

Thanks to Kevin Ames and Andrew Whiteley of INTERO for their generous support.

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Lands End Lookout – A Great Addition to SF

This past weekend San Francisco’s new 4000 sqft Lands End visitor’s center opened. Eager to check out this project I stopped by to gauge its success. The original underutilized plot of land was nestled alongside Point Lobos Road a few hundred feet from the landmark Louis’ Restaurant. The new center fits in perfectly and offers a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean, Sutro Bath ruins and the current incarnation of the Cliff House.

Designed by San Francisco’s EHDD Architecture, the location includes restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, food service and educational exhibits. Given that the weather can be a bit brutal in this area, it’s a great place to take a break, have a snack and learn about local history.

As with any design, there are always a few flaws out of the gate while others take a few months to surface. On average though, this project was money well spent. For those with an eye towards design, I’ve added some commentary to the pictures below.

Not so successful items shown above (described clockwise):

The landscaping leaves a bit to be desired as 1. Seedlings were planted and will take a while to fill in and 2. There aren’t sufficient barriers for pets and people to prevent them from walking on the new plantings. The layout is also a bit too artistic, mimicking the building’s sightlines rather than the surroundings. I would have appreciated more a more natural scape to blend in and keep the focus on the view rather than the plot of land.

The recycling bin instructions are difficult to interpret. Traditionally in SF we recycle plastics, metals and paper (blue bin) and then we compost food waste (green bin). However in the café area paper service items, napkins and some utensils can be composted too. There are written English descriptions, but no iconography for simple and quick decisions or for non-English speakers.

Merchandising displays are combined with educational exhibits. This makes it difficult to read displays when people are shopping and blocking the panels. Overall isle space was tight even for the moderate crowds, but hopefully time will solve that issue. Two large video monitors are placed too high up on the wall making you arch your head up to watch all while blocking the limited paths of shoppers.

Lighting in the snack bar area was dim at best. With bright clerestory windows and a dark chalk board, the contrast made it difficult to read the menu. A few spot lights would take care of this problem.

Successful items shown above (described below clockwise):

The buildings’ overall design and construction was successful. It’s obvious that care was taken in the design and planning of this new structure. Colors and materials all blended well with the surroundings. The bright orange and grellow (green/yellow) contemporary highlights subtly punctuate the earthy materials. Sustainable features include use of native materials, solar energy, LED lighting, rainwater capture and low-flow fixtures. Passive cooling and flyash concrete round out the environmental savings.

Accessibility was easy accomplished including a water spigot for pets.

The cash wrap counter had a concealed door that swung out when needed. It is an effective way to keep continuity in the design yet provide full functionality.

Redwood details are simple and efficient such as this slatted grill covering vents for passive cooling. Repairs should be easy in the future.

The signage throughout was simple and clear

A sliding window doubles as natural ventilation and external café access.

Even the napkin holders relate to the area by holding local images.

Here are a few more shots:

The view from the back towards the ocean

Replica of Sutro Heights stone guardian now gracing the visitor center

Images burned into corrugated cardboard ceiling panels, exterior landscaping

Panoramic view of the Pacific and the Sutro Bath Ruins

Posted in Design/Architecture, Information | Tagged , , , , ,

Happy Anniversary to Me

So one year has passed since I ambitiously launched this design blog. My conclusion so far: it is a lot of work!

My original goal was to create this for the benefit of my students, colleagues and for people who love design. My intent was to create unique, design relevant content and not to just repost other’s finds. This self-imposed limitation makes it challenging to post regularly as artistic inspiration has its own ebb and flow. Finding interesting and relevant topics to post, creating the accompanying artwork and honing my point of view all require lots of time and motivation.

Fortunately, anniversaries are a good opportunity for reflection and introspection.  First there’s the hard data: 75 posts in 9 categories or about 1.5 posts per week.  The posts were viewed by people in over 50 countries and over the course of the past year there were many thousands of views (fun tracking statistics courtesy of WordPress). And I have some great regular followers who give interesting commentary and kind words of encouragement.

Aside from the data, my own personal perception is that it has been really fascinating to think that many people read and react to what I write but choose to not interact. In many ways, it is the same with me and the many blogs and sites I visit for information. And even though it is impossible to know each and every reader, the blog itself has been an effective tool for marketing, industry interaction and refining a personal point of view. 

So, as the first year passes I look back fondly and consider how to continue. What new topics, in what format and with what frequency should I post? It’s a great opportunity to be even more creative.

I thank you all and encourage you to return to see what’s next.

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