Just before moving back to Marin from New York, building designer Christina Hansen had a lucid dream. In it, she observed the peaceful view she had enjoyed while growing up in Tiburon—that of Raccoon Strait protected by Angel Island. The island started sinking into the bay until it disappeared. There she was, in a very familiar place but with an altered view—no island, an expansive bay, another bridge, and a breeze. She says it was a fitting way to describe the adjustment needed on her return—same relative place, different perspective and more transparency. The Branson and UC Berkeley Architecture graduate has worked on the expansion for the Cleveland Museum of Art, a luxury residential project in Uruguay, historic landmark restorations and aims to have her practice grow into a think-tank group focused on high design.
Describe your personal style. In pursuit of authenticity. Minimal yet warm. Expressive yet simple. Tailored yet tasteful. I’m a bit of a chameleon actually so it changes with context.
What advice do you have for young future architects? Stay focused. Be prepared to work hard. Engage with others and pay attention to interests besides the doings of other architects. Watch children in a new space. Allow your tastes to evolve. Safeguard your expression. Value integrity.
What was your most complicated project to complete? The one drenched in politics just after 9 / 11 in New York. I was project manager on a series of very large public preservation projects for the Department of Design and Construction, rehabilitating armories. Thankfully the funding was already in place, but it was a challenging environment nevertheless. At times it was tricky being a young professional woman pulling the teeth of high-powered men in suits. The completed projects were an achievement at a unique time.
How is architecture in the Bay Area different than in other parts of the United States? Architecture here is eclectic and a little sentimental.
Who are some of your design influences? The list may include Franz Liszt, Oscar Niemeyer, Shigeru Ban, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Luc Godard, Merce Cunningham, Björk, Roger Waters, Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Ove Arup, James Turrell, Édith Piaf, Orson Welles…these people seem to have a sense of clarity. Then of course there is my family and close circle of friends.
What are you hoping to accomplish in the next five years? Five years isn’t very long. It would be satisfying to complete a couple of new construction projects in which my values are expressed and trust is earned within the local industry. I also hope to gather momentum on an investor pool for a new think-tank group focused on high-end design solutions.
Your family is first-generation American. How does that affect your perspective? I resolved when I was young that I had carte blanche to make up my own mind about things. That’s very American, right? I was raised with a European sense of discipline and value for traditions but also taught to try to do something meaningful with my life.
Do your other loves—short films and music—influence your design sense? Yes, absolutely. I’m interested in a good concept and integrity in the execution of that concept. It really doesn’t matter much to me what the medium is as long as something provocative is unraveling.
Where do you love to eat in Marin? I tend to indulge in the fabulous heavier savory side when going out…put a big grin on my face with a Beef Wellington at the Pelican Inn! Classic, delicious!
How do you spend your weekends? In the summer, sailing on a 505 dinghy on the bay with the spinnaker up hooked onto the trapeze wire skipping off waves—hanging on for dear life somewhere in between hysterically laughing and desperately crying.