MODERN, CALIFORNIA-STYLE OPEN-PLAN living — often attributed to Japanese tradition — also has ancient roots in Middle Eastern courtyards. And the mid-November debut of the stellar Louvre Abu Dhabi that was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, with its latticed saucer-like domed canopy hovering above linked white cubes containing galleries, was a recent reminder.
Laid out like an organic oasis city, the new galleries have enormous open squares between them that form outdoor rooms with dappled light. They flow one into the other and look out onto sunlit gulf waters.
The universality of such design ideas is being more clearly understood all over the globe, including at Dubai Design Week, which coincided with the museum’s opening and came on the heels of Vienna Design Week, Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, and Designblok in Prague, events that preceded Dubai’s gathering by only a few weeks. At each of these important regional design venues I witnessed another recurring theme: designs for improving lives everywhere.
If the Global Grad Show, held in Dubai under the auspices of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is an indicator, students will lead that charge.
A juried exhibition, Global Grad Show was curated for the third time by London-based author and editor Brendan McGetrick, and it included 200 student works from 92 universities in 43 countries. The designs ranged from simplified digital tools for the elderly to kitchen tools for the blind. From Stanford University, designers Peter Lowe and Kenneth Salisbury presented a robotic arm to enable people doing complex tasks to literally have a third helping hand, and MIKO+ jewelry introduced a brace to alleviate and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome designed by a Polish design duo, Ewa Dulcet and Martyna Świerczyńska, from the School of Form in Poznan, Poland. The latter concept won the first-ever Progress Prize.
In the spirit of these international trends, our current issue focuses on the ways Bay Area designers and architects play with open-plan living.
At Sea Ranch, Sonoma County, architects Erich Burkhart and Doug Hudson created indoor/outdoor spaces in the language of Mediterranean courtyard homes, but with humble concrete, cedar and native redwood from the region; architect Farid Tamjidi and his partner Michael Garcia opened up their client’s San Francisco pied-à-terre to form a minimalist white box — not unlike those at Louvre Abu Dhabi — that opens to views of the bay; on Russian Hill in the city, designer Adele Salierno and architect Geddes Ulinskas took away unnecessary walls between rooms in a 1920s apartment and created unifying coffers in the ceiling to indicate “rooms” within the open space; in Berkeley, architect Charles Debbas created movable walls that connect a pool house to the garden, and a wide new deck doubles living spaces off the main house; in Kentfield, interior designer Paul Wiseman and architect Jared Polsky brought the palette of the garden into an open-plan design. And back in the city, Sculpt Gardens, led by John and Danielle Steuernagel, created a new kind of courtyard garden/office for a warehouse-style industrial design studio designed by Boor Bridges Architecture.
Also in this issue, look for designs from the Global Grad Show in Design Spot; San Francisco’s SB Architects’ new hurricane-defying design for a Kimpton resort in the Caribbean; an interview with Bay Area philanthropist Steve Oliver, who seeks to improve lives through art; the transformative work of artist J.B. Blunk that will be showcased at the Oakland Museum of California; the inventive work of Marin’s Eglomisé- Atelier; and a sophisticated San Francisco home makeover by Renzo Piano protégé and architect Brett Terpeluk. Lastly, a new department, On the Rise, features a sustainable idea: downsized prefab luxury.
We hope you’ll make these ideas your own.
Zahid Sardar brings an extensive range of design interests and keen knowledge of Bay Area design culture to SPACES magazine. He is a San Francisco editor, curator and author specializing in global architecture, interiors, landscape and industrial design. His work has appeared in numerous design publications as well as the San Francisco Chronicle for which he served as an influential design editor for 22 years. Sardar serves on the San Francisco Decorator Showcase design advisory board.