Saint Nick was very kind to my family this year and allowed our new home and office to get framed and sheathed in plywood before any nasty winter storms arrived. I know we need the rain, but it feels really good to see our building wrapped up like a great big Christmas present. We owe our fantastic construction crew at R&B Custom Builders a huge THANK YOU. They've made our holiday season a magical and stress-free affair.
It's rare for those of us that aren't celebrities to get awards for a job well done, so it felt good to be recognized by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation last night.
The Sonoma Community Center, along with MTP Architecture and some other committed Sonomans (Jack Lundgren, Les Peterson, Rotary and the Sonoma Theater Alliance) received the Group Award for our remodel of Andrews Hall.
I hope everyone around Sonoma gets a chance to attend a performance there sometime soon.... the lights are bright and waiting to shine for you.
Here's a link to a newspaper article describing all of the winners:
Hello trick-or-treaters.... c'mon over to the scariest house on the block. We've got exposed walls, nails galore and shaky ladders to a second floor without railings. Plenty of stuff to make your knees shake!
The majority of new wood floor construction consists of TJI's instead of solid framing (2x10's, etc.) because these wooden I-beams are stronger, straighter, more resistant to shrinking and are made from wood scraps instead of old-growth trees. The cost difference is negligible considering the overall price of a well-built home.
I'd like to thank Joseph Monier, a Parisian gardener and unsung hero of modern construction that first thought to pour concrete around a steel mesh in 1849 and created reinforced concrete. It's pretty difficult to build anything here in California without the stuff.
Here's a picture of the newly poured stem walls for the future office of MTP Architecture. A concrete stem wall foundation with a raised wood floor slab is ideal in downhill locations where water intrusion may be an issue, and it helps to elevate the entire house a few feet above street level for visual privacy and sound isolation.
I'm very excited to announce that construction has begun on the new passive-solar home and office for MTP Architecture in Glen Ellen, CA. I've combined them so I can work on my clients' projects at all hours of the day and night! It may not look like much right now, but we've used modular construction dimensions and a simple rectangular footprint to fast-track the building process. Once they finish pouring the concrete this week the process will really accelerate. We should be ready to move in next spring.
I don't let a vacation stop the design or construction process. This year my good friend William Carroll, owner of DYO flip-flops on the island of Kauai, invited me to help build team Space Cadet's entry for the 4th annual sandcastle competition.
We thought that there's no way aliens would choose to land in the Nevada desert when they could crash their Hertz Rent-a-UFO onto the north shore of beautiful Hanalei Bay. The judges agreed, and awarded us the overall winner.
There is a simple way for a client to find out if their architect is a truly sustainable thinker creating passive-solar designs. Ask them about their design methodology and request examples of process drawings. Those guilty of green-washing rely almost exclusively on floor plans and building elevations while designing, then tack on green features (bamboo flooring, PV panels, etc.) after the major decisions have been made. Well thought-out building sections which analyze building orientation, sun angles and natural ventilation, however, are the heart of a successful green project. Here's some examples from MTP's portfolio:
I feel fortunate to have attended the grand re-opening of the historic Andrews Hall theater at the Sonoma Community Center. MTP has been working with the Center for the last 5 years on many projects to upgrade the building and the campus in downtown Sonoma. The Trashion Fashion Show kicked off the next generation of performances that will keep this space lively and filled with Sonomans.
I just completed this 3d massing study for a major remodel and addition to an existing 1-story California mission-style ranch house. The owner's want to open up the interior to capture more daylight and add a 2nd-story loft and roof deck over the garage to access southern views neglected in the original design. I'm also proposing a new trellis to accentuate the entry pathway.
This contemporary interpretation of traditional Californian architecture will fade behind a thickly wooded site of existing oak trees which also help shade the building from harsh morning and afternoon sunlight.
When friends come to town and request a tour of wine country I always suggest leaving the car behind and renting a bike for the day. Slowing down is a vital component to our lifestyle, and there are so many fantastic wineries within a short distance from the square. My favorite itinerary is to grab sandwiches at the Sonoma Cheese Factory and then head out past Sebastiani Vineyards to Ravenswood for a tasting, swing down to Bartholomew Park and picnic near their gazebo, then take the short ride over to Buena Vista to check out their newly restored and historic tasting room. If the group is still frisky after this tasting tri-fecta I'll wear them out with an uphill ride to Gundlach Bundschu via the back entrance off Thornsberry Road. From GunBun it's all downhill back to the square (literally and figuratively).
I don't make it in as often as I should, but it always makes me feel good to know that the Golden Gate is just 45 minutes down the road when things seem a bit slow in Sonoma. This view is from the fishing pier underneath the bridge that's accessible from the Marina Green in San Francisco.
You can't tell from the rim, but life abounds in the cool pockets of air and water at the base of the Grand Canyon. If you've got two weeks to spare I highly recommend rafting down the Colorado River. Hidden springs, waterfalls and luscious landscapes are waiting to be discovered around every corner. I owe a big THANK YOU to Grand Canyon Expeditions for taking me through the canyon in style.
It's a gorgeous Saturday afternoon here in wine country, so I'm going to flee from the computer and help the local economy by popping a cork on a robust Cab from Sonoma. Cheers!
If you want to experience the grandeur of Yosemite without the crowds head a little farther south and enter the Ansel Adams Wilderness in southern Yosemite. This hammock on the shore of Lady Lake quickly erased the strain of the 3-hour uphill trek. The serenity found in this undiscovered slice of the Sierra Nevada's wasn't even disturbed by an unusually bad mosquito season due to late spring snowstorms..... nothing like the sweet smell of DEET in the morning.
I don't know if it's ignorance or obstinance that drives us to build on the edge of cliffs for an ocean view, but it's a request that will never be turned down by an architect. We're all guilty of aspiring to the dramatic, and there's no better way to remind oneself that life is sweetest when lived on the edge.
I love to travel by train, and enjoy the challenge of sketching a landscape going by at 100 mph. It's a stream of consciousness form of drawing that reminds me of Jack Kerouac's writing style. This watercolor was drawn on the way from Tokyo to Hakone with a bottle of sake for inspiration.
All art may be ephemeral, but a sketch of a rose for my wife on Valentine's day will age more gracefully than a bouquet.
My favorite paradox: Playing the blues makes a body feel good.
I love touring beautifully designed cities and buildings, but no man-made creations can rival the scale of nature. To get this sketch of my favorite harbor it took a long slog through the humid Hawaiian air and a fair amount of bushwhacking. The memory of this view, however, almost makes me forget that my legs were so sore I didn't leave the beach for the rest of the trip.