IT IS A SOBERING TIME. As the fog settles in and the air seems less choked by smoke and haze from the recent spate of California fires, some that have not fully abated at press time, we pause and pay homage to the losses of lives and homes.
Perhaps there is no escape from such disasters that have grown too large and too enveloping. But for those rebuilding, there are, one hopes, ways to better live with the changing patterns of weather and wind, fire and water.
In this issue, we celebrate the ways Northern Californians have approached the environment since the back-to-the-land experiments in Sonoma at The Sea Ranch, where pioneering architects listened closely to nature. For instance, there, some homes emulated the angle of windswept grasses for shed roofs to help deflect the force of Pacific winds. In another corner of Sonoma, the high walls of a garden designed by Michael Lucas provide comfortable, elegant shelter outdoors.
There are other strategies. Architect Jim Zack of the firm Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction has designed a St. Helena, Napa Valley home on a rocky fire-prone hilltop with a swimming pool that doubles as a fire reservoir.
Next to a lagoon at Stinson Beach, where rising tides could affect homes in the future, architect Cass Calder Smith has built a C-shaped home that wraps around an enclosed courtyard and sits high above the water on a stepped deck and a higher-than-normal foundation. Architect David Wilson found a novel way to weather the vagaries of remodeling while living at home in Berkeley: he built a large box around the parts of the house he wasn’t going to change and the family moved in. A cut-out window allowed them to witness the “storm” of change. In an ecotone where riparian redwoods meet dry-weather oaks on a hilltop site above Ross, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects have designed a stunning Japanese-style compound that replicates the colors of the surroundings and opens to bay views, all fortified against fires by stone courtyards, infinity pools and spare landscaping by Surfacedesign.
Finally, a house by Aidlin Darling design is a reminder that there is no guarantee that the forces of nature won’t prevail. The house the firm designed in Glen Ellen — with every precaution in mind — was burned to the ground a year and a half ago in that season’s fires. Still, as the pictures attest, it provided a kind of perfection for the owners and it will be rebuilt just as it was, once again.
In this issue we also highlight the work of conceptual photographer Catherine Wagner, who has sometimes documented the changing cityscape in San Francisco.
In On the Rise you can read about interior designer Ken Fulk, who has revived an abandoned church building, and artist Ann Hamilton’s site-specific installation at Converge 45, an arts event in Portland, Oregon. In Bloom presents the objects gathered by Piraneseum and evergreens by horticulturist Margaret Majua. Designer Celia Tejada, who until recently led some of the innovations at Restoration Hardware, lends us her voice, and San Francisco designer Diego Pacheco’s Mill Valley remodel showcases space-saving ideas with Henrybuilt built-ins. And on a lighter note — because we need that too — we spotlight the Castro Theatre, the ribald, exhilarating scene of recurrent social change. We hope you enjoy these stories.
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.