Three More Famous Buildings in San Francisco

Posted by on Nov 30, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Three More Famous Buildings in San Francisco

A couple months ago we did an article on 3 of the most iconic buildings in San Francisco. We got such positive feedback about it that we’re doing it again. Enjoy.

In the first edition of this series, we reviewed the Transamerica Pyramid, the San Francisco City Hall, and Coit Tower. But those are just a few of the iconic buildings of interest. Let’s take a look at 3 more.

San Francisco Ferry Building

One of the most iconic buildings in San Francisco is the San Francisco Ferry Building. The building was designed in 1892 by New York architect Page Brown and it was completed in 1898. It is nearly 700 feet long and has a an iconic clock tower in the center which is 245 feet tall. Today the building is still a terminal for ferries, but it also contains a food court and market as well as office space.

The Ferry Building was designed in the Classical Revival style with the main building based on the arched arcade. In this sense, the building appears almost European in style. The clock tower was based on designs in Spain, and the tower has 4 clock dials, each 22 feet in diameter. The 16 foot pendulum is still there, although is not used in the modern clock mechanism. The building also has a nave or central aisle which is known as the Great Nave, and today it houses retail shops and market stalls.

In it’s heyday prior to the opening of nearby bridges, the Ferry Building was world’s second busiest transit terminal. The use of the building has had ups and downs over the years, but modern renovations have created a useful modern space.

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

Renown throughout the San Francisco area as a popular location for wedding photographs, the Palace of Fine Arts was originally built to display artwork at the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition. It was designed by architect Bernard Maybeck in what has been referred to as a “fictional ruin from another time.” The building encircles one end of a small man-made lagoon and consists of a 1100 foot pergola around a rotunda in the center.

Since it was only intended to be part of the 1915 Exposition, it was not constructed to last. But the building was so beloved that it remained long after the Expo. Finally in 1964 the entire building was demolished and in 1965 a replica made of modern building materials was constructed on the same spot. The building still serves as a popular destination for tourists and locals.

Millennium Tower

The Millennium Tower in downtown San Francisco is a modern condominium skyscraper. It has 58 stories and is 645 feet tall. Construction was started in 2005 and the building was finished in 2009. The building has 12 elevators, 419 residential units, and 1.15 million square feet of floor space. It was designed by Handel Architects in the late-modernist style, with blue-gray glass cladding.

Total development cost exceeded US$600 million, and is the 4th tallest building in San Francisco. Unfortunately, in 2016 it was discovered that the building is sinking and tilting, albeit slowly and minimally. The slab foundation and concrete friction piles used in the building were much less expensive than end-bearing piles, which would have mounted the structure directly to bedrock. Perhaps the building will eventually get the nickname, the Leaning Tower of San Francisco.


Check out this tour of the Ferry Building.

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Notable Historical Architecture in Monterey

Posted by on Nov 25, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Notable Historical Architecture in Monterey

Monterey, the original state capital of California, is appreciated as a beautiful coastal city with a top-notch acquarium and famous literary places like Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. Monterey is also the birthplace of Monterey Jack Cheese and is revered for it’s desirable climate. Current population is rough 27K and the city continues to be popular tourist destination.

Based on it’s long history, there are dozens of notable structures in Monetery. Here are just a few worth studying.

San Carlos Cathedral

The Cathedral of San Carlos Borremeo is the first and oldest stone (sandstone) building in California. Also known as the Royal Presidio Chapel, it’s also the oldest operating parish in the state. It was built in 1794 and is typical of the Spanish Colonial style of the late 1700s. Some of the defining features of the building are the ornamental arches and carved portals.

The structure also includes a functional bell tower and a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Behind the cathedral is the Junipero Oak which is a well-known landmark in California. The grounds also include gardens and a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Monterey Custom House

In 1827 the Mexican government build the Custom House for the purpose of collecting taxes at the Monterey Bay Port. It is an adobe structure built in the

Spanish Colonial style, and it’s the oldest remaining government building in the state. The building has been well-preserved and is visited throughout the year by scores of tourists.

In 1846, US Commadore John Drake Sloat raised the US flag at the Custom House and declared that California was part of the United States. The building was declared a California Historical Landmark in 1932, the first site designated as such in the state.

Carmel Mission

The Carmel Mission is not technically in Monterey, but is located 5 miles south near the Carmel River. The formal name for the mission is the Mission San Carlos Borremeo del Rio Carmelo. The building was originally completed and dedicated in 1797, and rebuilt and beautifully restored in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In fact, the Carmel Mission boasts itself as being the “most authentically restored” of all mission churches in the state.

Today the mission is still and active parish and school. It also houses a museum that preserves the history of the area. The building itself has walls that are 5 feet thick, as well as a catenary ceiling. The inner courtyard area was renovated in 2015, and the site includes a fountain and peaceful gardens surrounding the building.


Here’s a video about Monterey.

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Integrated Design – All You Need To Know

Posted by on Nov 18, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Integrated Design – All You Need To Know

“What is integrated design?” This question has been asked several times by our readers. Below we cover the basics of integrated design. Read on.

What is Integrated Design?

Integrated design is basically an approach to design that takes into account all aspects of design that are usually considered separately. It involves the creation of spaces, places, and objects in response to current and emerging social, economic and technical needs and desires.

In the design of a building, it takes into account planning, architecture, structural engineering, heating and cooling utilities. This approach may also take into account the integration of the building’s life-cycle management and the specific needs and wants of the end users of the building. Its aim is to lessen problems and produce sustainable architecture.

Integrated Design Process (IDP)

In the past, the conventional design and construction process in the construction industry involved a series of instructions from project owners to architects, and then from architects to builders. This new integrated approach allows improvement to be made on the project from the initial design phase to completion.

construction-teamThe Integrated Design Process takes a different approach known as the holistic design approach. This approach breaks down these traditional roles while at the same time improving collaboration and improving innovation.

In practice, Integrated Design Process includes the active, consistent, timely and organized collaboration among project owners, planners, architects, surveyors, engineers, builders, plumbers, consultants, specialists and other key participants. The aim of this approach is to encourage honest discussion and collect insight in order to optimize efficiency, value, and results. The process is also aimed at reducing waste throughout all stages of the project life cycle.

By relying on the initial contributions of all participants, the outcome depends on the efforts of the team as a whole. The key participants are guided by collaboration, principles of trust, transparent processes and the open sharing of information.

Benefits of Integrated Design Process

• The approach uncovers potential design improvements early in the process. Enhancements done at this stage are easier and less expensive to execute and implement compared to ones that are uncovered later in the design process.
• When all key project participants collaborate and share knowledge at the onset of the project, it improves the ability to control timeliness, quality, and cost. It also strengthens each of the participants’ understanding of the desired results.
• The approach also results in greater efficiency which leads to the reduction of waste generation during construction. Greater efficiency also leads to increased productivity. For instance, when construction team is included at the onset of the project it can help address any construction challenges early in the process.
• Integrated Design Process also provides the best opportunity to achieve environmental sustainability goals. Various governing bodies and rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) encourage this approach.

4 Elements in Integrated Home Design

1. Framing
When building homes, integrated design begins with framing. Engineers and architects share ideas in the planning stage. They come up with framing techniques and ideas that create a tight building envelope while leaving adequate space for insulation. They make sure that utility spaces are compact but large enough to install the necessary equipment. During this stage, electricians and plumbers are also involved. Once the framing is complete, the structure already includes all aspects a contractor needs to jump-start the implementation process.


2. HVAC Installation
Architects work with HVAC engineers to solve any conflict that systems like HVAC and ductwork may create with aesthetics. While working together, they consider options like energy efficient ductless mini-split air conditioners that eliminate the need for ductwork.

3. Integrated Plumbing

Another element in integrated home design is plumbing. Just like power, conserving water is also important. Here, architects work with plumbers, engineers and other participants from the onset of the design process to come up with high-efficiency green systems such as drain water heat recovery systems, on-demand water heaters, and gray water systems.

4. Integrating Electrical Systems
Electricity is the important foundation of other home systems. It powers the heaters, air conditioners, and the plumbing system. At the outset of the project design process, electrical engineers collaborate with architects, plumbers, and HVAC engineers to ensure that adequate wiring will be available at the right locations to power other house systems.


Here’s an interesting video about the Integrated Design Process.

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Functional Home Architecture That’s Also Beautiful

Posted by on Nov 10, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Functional Home Architecture That’s Also Beautiful

When you join excellent and functional architecture with elegance, you come up with a house which truly exudes brilliance. You can take your pick from an array of stunning design elements to add a dash of freshness to your contemporary residence. Following is a list of some of the most popular elements that define the future of residential architecture. Check them out.

Circular Void

pantheon-oculusMost contemporary homes use sculptural elements like a smooth structure, shifted volume and slanting cantilevers to add allure to their homes. You can do the same with a circular void. This is a relatively new formal element that will draw your attention to the sky. Structured like the Pantheon’s oculus, these round spaces will draw some more sunlight to your homes and will simultaneously add an aesthetic touch.


Sun Screens

Screens that cover skylights within your home are another architectural element that will add more definition and panache to your residential property. These screens also have a functional side to them. They act as an shade from the sun and they also protect your home from rain. The overheard shading system if incorporated will not only protect your interior rooms from excess sunlight but will also reduce the need for artificial lighting. The slated designs add a tad more style as they develop amazing shadows that are likely to change with the changing sun. The light play itself will make your home look even more elegant and beautiful.

Experimenting With Geometry

Experimenting with your home’s geometry will add an entirely different style statement to your home. Large and horizontal windows will provide consistent natural light to your interior spaces, while simultaneously acting as a modern trade mark. You can also replace floor to ceiling windows with a wide array of small square openings. These openings can be placed along the facade in a way that adds beauty in the most straightforward geometrical structure.

Facades in a Patterned Style

moire-patternThe smooth wall of your exteriors can be an excellent canvas for your architect to develop and experiment with newer design and features. You can always try the moire patterns along the facade as they create a methodical arrangement. The voids, shaped like bricks are understated but they provide a dramatic play of light in the interior. At the same time, they also render ample shade from the harsh sun in summer.

Retractable Panels

Unlike conventional shutters that serve no function other than nostalgic decor, stylish and new retractable panels can offer shade for your home’s interior.  While retaining an incredibly cutting edge look, these systems can quickly retract on the cloudy days in order to allow more light in. At the same time, they can be used in the summer for reducing cooling costs associated with running air conditioning. This is particularly useful for the homes located in sunny and warm climates.

Implied Space

Gone are the days when every room came with a door and four walls. Conventional rooms are now being swapped for implied spaces. These spaces add an indelible charm to your home while connecting various living spaces without obstructions. The concept is minimalist in nature. It can even be applied to multiple floors for creating large and open spaces in the interior space of your home. The design reduces clutter and adds more space to your home. It creates an enlarging effect while retaining the aesthetic feel.

Large Windows

large-windowsLarge windows add elegance and charm to your room while creating a similar minimalist design. It adds beauty by bringing in outdoor views to your room. However, they are not merely for the looks. A well-designed outdoor window can also create an energy efficient home. An energy efficient home with large windows should use relatively low e-glass. This reduces the need for artificial lighting while also blocking the harmful summer heat and the ultraviolet rays.

So try these amazing functional yet elegant ideas, to revamp your home like never before.

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Three Famous San Francisco Buildings

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Three Famous San Francisco Buildings

San Francisco, California is known for its creative and functional architecture. From the common and iconic row house to the one-of-a-kind Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco offers the architecture fan plenty to study.

Transamerica Pyramid

sf_transamericapyramidUndoubtedly, the most well-known San Francisco building is the Transamerica Pyramid. It is the tallest building in San Francisco and was designed by architect William Pereira. When it was completed in 1972, it was the 8th tallest building in the world. It was built by the Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Corp. and construction began in 1969. When completed it was 853 feet tall. It has 48 floors, consisting entirely of office and retail space.

The building is essentially a tall, 4-sided pyramid, with two pillars often referred to as “wings.” The wings house elevator shafts and stairwells as well as building utilities. Construction consists primarily of concrete and rebar. It has over 3600 windows and the facade is covered in crushed quartz. There are 18 elevators, but only 2 reach the top floor. Interestingly, an even taller building was proposed for the building site. At the time, it would have been the 2nd tallest building in the world, but the proposal was rejected by the city of San Francisco who wanted to protect views of San Francisco Bay.


San Francisco City Hall

Probably the second most-iconic building in San Francisco is the City Hall. This government building looks more like a state capitol than a city hall, with it’s large dome (which is 42 feet higher than the United States Capitol).



The building was primarily designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr. who is also responsible for the designs of a number of other iconic buildings in San Francisco. Construction started in 1913 and was finished in 1915 at a cost of $3.4 million . The building itself covers 2 full city blocks, and contains open space exceeding 500,000 square feet. There are 5 floors and 7 elevators. The building is constructed of structural steel and the outside is faced with granite. The interior is finished with sandstone from Indiana and marble from a number of states as well as Italy.


Coit Tower

coit_towerThis well-known tower is a classic example of iconic architecture, and resulted from a posthumous gift to San Francisco by a wealthy socialite. Coit Tower was designed by architects Arthur Brown, Jr. and Henry Howard and it was finished in 1933. The tower was built of unpainted concrete, and is considered in the art deco style.

The tower is located in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, and it stands 210 feet high. The observation deck is at 178 feet, offering spectacular views of San Francisco and the surrounding area, including San Francisco Bay. A major part of the tower project was the murals, which were completed under a New Deal federal employment program for artists.

The tower is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a San Francisco Designated Landmark. There is also a historical plaque for Telegraph Hill in the tower’s lobby which commemorates the original telegraph station there.

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Architecture Schools in California

Posted by on Oct 15, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Architecture Schools in California

If you’re looking to study architecture at the college level, California has some great options. In particular, there are 4 schools that are highly recommended and 2 of those stand head and shoulders above the others.

College of Environmental Design (CED) at the University of California – Berkeley

One of the most prestigious programs in the US is the College of Environmental Design (CED) at the University of California – Berkeley. This program is routinely ranked highly in many national rankings and it offers Masters and Doctoral degrees in Architecture. There are about 30 full-time faculty in the department, and 25 part-time faculty serving between 700 and 800 students. The program is accredited by the NAAB, which is the sole agency authorized to accredit architecture programs in the US.


One of the advantages of attending a school like Berkeley is that CED students benefit from the resources of a large and prestigious university. Berkeley’s location in the Bay Area offers tremendous opportunities for activities and inspiration. QS World University Rankings place CED #3 in the world for architecture education.

Southern California Institute of Architecture

Next on our list of great architecture schools in California is the Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. This private school offers Bachelors and Masters degrees in Architecture and is staffed by about 80 part-time faculty members, most who are practicing architects. About 500 students are enrolled there annually. The undergraduate program typically takes students 5 years to complete. There is a 60/40 split between male and female students. Members of the faculty of SCI-Arc have won prestigious awards from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).sci-arc

One of the advantages of attending a strictly architecture school is that even general education classes are designed with the end goal of learning architecture in mind. SCI-Arc is also accredited by the NAAB and touts itself as “one of the nation’s few independent architecture schools.” SCI-Arc is proud of it’s “vibrant atmosphere” and “inspiring environment.”

The above programs are in a class by themselves. But California also offers 2 additional options that provide an outstanding architecture education.

School of Architecture at the University of Southern California

The first is the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California. This program also offers Bachelors and Masters degrees and its staff consists of about 25 full-time and 65 part-time faculty. Total enrollment ranges from 700 to 800.


USC is a private school and as such has high tuition. There’s a 50/50 split between male and female students, and it typically takes 5 years to graduate with a Bachelors degree in Architecture. A nice feature of the USC program is the study abroad program, allowing students to explore architecture in a variety of other settings.

Department of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)

The final school we will consider in this article is the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). This program offers Masters and Doctoral degrees in Architecture and typically enrolls 220 to 230 students. There are about 15 full-time faculty and 20+ part-time faculty, and they have also won ACSA awards for teaching and research.


The UCLA architecture program also offers a study-abroad option and the student body has a 55/45 mix between male and female students.

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Architecture in California

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Architecture | Comments Off on Architecture in California

California’s rich architectural history began with the arrival of the Europeans in the 18th century. Many of the Spanish missions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were adaptations of Mexican baroque architecture, and the Spanish-Mexican influence continued to dominate California buildings until the middle of the 19th century. Later, the population influx caused by the Gold Rush led to this Hispanic styles merging with styles imported by settlers from the eastern United States and Europe. Architects such as Henry Cleaveland, S & J Newsom, and Bernard Maybeck were all influential in creating the state’s unique Victorian style.


Franciscan missionaries, arriving in California from Mexico, established a chain of adobe-home21 missions from
San Diego to Sonoma as centers from which to colonize the state. They were all designed to be within a day’s journey of their nearest neighbors.These Mexican churches and their communal buildings were designed by friars and built of adobe bricks and wood by Native American laborers.

Over the years their crude constructions decayed and were shaken by earthquakes, but many have been carefully restored in the 20th century.

Distinctive features include:

      • massive walls covered with white lime cement
      • small window openings
      • rounded gables
      • tiered bell towers


monteryIn the 1850s and 1860s, East Coast settlers flooded into the newly declared 31st state, bringing with them styles that were already going out of fashion on the East Coast, such as Greek Revival. Monterey, the state capital under Mexican rule, gave its name to an architecture that is, in essence, a wooden Greek temple wrapped around a Mexican adobe. Features include:

      • two-story wooden porticoes supported by slim square posts
      • wood shingle roofs
      • a chaste symmetry of plan and elevation


Three major styles emerged in California during the Victorian era: Italianate, most popular in San Francisco, Queen Anne, and Eastlake. The two latter styles achieved a pinnacle of exuberance in California during the 19th century when they were brought to the state by migrants from the East Coast. The restrained Eastlake style, with its geometrically patterned facades and ornamentation, was often combined with the more extravagant Queen Anne style, notable for its gables, turrets, wraparound porches, and splendidly confused anthology of classical details.

The Father of California Landscape DesignsToday’s elaborate and stylish high-end landscape designs first appeared in affluent areas of Southern California at the beginning of the 1930’s. An educated landscape architect with experience in the popular garden styles of Europe in this era, Thomas Church, began a landscape design firm in downtown San Francisco and quickly became a household name in Southern California outdoor planning.During his 45 year career in California landscape design, Church created more than 2,000 custom garden designs in some of the most prosperous areas and developments of Orange County, Los Angeles, and Riverside, all during the prime of modern architectural development. These functional, yet beautiful, outdoor living spaces resulted in a trend that is still growing in popularity across the nation of extending the living space of a home into the openness of nature.

The homes of Southern California are some of the most remarkable structures in the world and represent a variety of unique architectural styles. California landscape designs complement these fine homes with carefully selected plants, materials, and accessories to create a central theme that blends outdoor charm with sophisticated style for a magnificent outdoor living area.While most of the various landscape designs seen across Southern California possess a rustic, Old World appearance, there are also classy, formal garden styles that reflect a more contemporary atmosphere. The influence of the European Mediterranean can also be seen in many California garden styles.With so many different garden styles and influences seen in the landscape designs of of this area, there is one common thread among them all. Each and every California landscape design is carefully planned to reflect the relaxed, natural lifestyle of the warm Mediterranean coast while complementing the style of the most lavish homes.These Mediterranean styled designs are simple, but sophisticated, functional, as well as ornate, and these outdoor living spaces are truly designed for outdoor living. Elements of a California style garden may include:victorian

      • Natural accessories, like unfinished furniture or terra cotta planters
      • Colorful cushions, patio ware, lighting, and flower pots, with bright, vivid colors
      • Simple materials, like bark, gravel, and stone, accent water features and create walkways

Because of the wonderful diversity throughout Southern California, the landscape designs are also unique but they are all carefully planned to make outdoor living at home convenient, relaxing, and a beautiful part of your residence. With so many different garden styles to choose from, it is often best to employ the services of an experienced California landscape design firm.

Video About Thomas Church, Landscape Architect

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