Author Archives: Bryan

“What’s My Motivation?”

In which Matt tours one of his construction sites only to find a portal into the architect’s very own heart of darkness…

Posted in Construction, Harmon, Theory

Unified Volumes


The studio recently did a design session to generate different ideas for a new project that will explore greater density in infill housing. Instead of designing for four units with small backyards, the studio looked at the lot and imagined situating six units, each with 25′ x 25′ sq ft. footprints. Each one would provide for an office and garage space on the ground level, with an open living space as the primary use of the second, while the most private spheres would be located on the third. Given the densification, rooftop spaces, which have become more and more trendy (especially in places like L.A., but also in San Francisco), seemed optimal as well. In this case, the lot would require a row of three units in the front along the street and a row of three in the back.

The trick and task of each design was to achieve a plan that started with a larger ground level space, while the second level floor plate could be smaller but carved out to provide additional open space in exchange – achieved potentially as a cantilevered extension, or some sort of inset space that would push out elsewhere in the rear. The studio wanted to devise ways of facilitating ideal circulations within these precise spatial parameters.


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Posted in Academic, Design, On the Boards, Theory Tagged , |

Manchester Rising

New project on the make in the Oakland hills … check out the view!

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Posted in Construction, Manchester, Projects Tagged |

Looking for the Axes of [(Non)-Centrality]

Among a few themes we’ve already mentioned that we are exploring here at the studio (adaptability, improvisation, kinetics) is the role of ‘centrality’ in the design of domestic space. What follows below is an email conversation between a few of us attempting to clarify the notion and consider ways centrality and non-centrality interrelate in the reconfiguring of the domestic, and potentially open up new and different experiences within. This is a new theme we’ll be considering application in future projects that also ties in with the others.


On May 18, 2014, at 2:30 PM, Bryan Finoki wrote:


Nick said: “I’m interested in talking about the moments in domestic space where the seams tend to tear a little…. where there are cracks, leftover spaces, evidence of a non-centrality at work. Yeats’ gyres, etc.”


So, in response to his curiosity, perhaps as good a place to start as any I suppose is to define ‘centrality’ in architecture. I can imagine various iterations of this, perhaps by thinking what is also the lack of centrality:


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Posted in Academic, Design, Theory Tagged |

Kinetic Aperture 1: Hyper-screen



Picking up on the studio’s recent experimental design sessions, last Friday Matt presented a sketch for what began in our discussions as an intricate window attachment that would function like a screen but with far more adjustability. As we outlined it further, it morphed into the potential for a full-on three dimensional spatial partitioning device. Our initial preemption was to consider the window as a space of investigation for new kinetic activity. Yet, we quickly realized that to refer to a ‘window’ was perhaps imposing an unnecessary limitation on our thinking: what if a window could be seen less as a simple transparent pane framing a view into another space, but conceptually more altering—like an amorphous perforation, or a piercing of space that could communicate something different between adjacent spaces? How might an opening operationalize space? We didn’t want to completely abandon the window altogether and replace it by conveniently calling it a void, either. Nor did we feel that our investigation needed to rely on addressing any practical matter at all. We were after ideas unto themselves that could take shape simply for the sake of investigation, and thus looked at a unique zone where perhaps the window as we know it becomes something else greater than itself—a kinetic aperture, let’s say—while at the same time never ceasing to be a window at all, but rather only expanding its spectral dimensionality.

Matt imagined something that begins to move beyond the binary notions of ‘open’ and ‘closed’, ‘transparent’ and ‘opaque’, ‘in’ and ‘out.’ Could a multi-functional aperture begin to open up something else within—an intra-spatiality?

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Posted in Design, Theory Tagged , |

The Poetics of Windows


The last couple of Fridays at the studio we’ve been engaging in design sessions to further explore and manifest ‘adaptability’ as both a process and product of architectural thinking. To focus this, we looked explicitly at ‘the window’ and asked: what could new unique expressions of a window beyond its immediately perceivable utility as a perforation between ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ look like? Could it serve a more dynamic interface to some other use, another role, another experience? Could a window give walls and their relationship to each other in the space an unexplored revision of dimensionality? Can windows give a space new voice? Are there new links to be made between how a space and user can modify one another through the medium of the standard window? How might one not only express something macrophenomenal, like a connection to nature or the psychological framing for a specific context of memory, but actually amplify the space in an exponential way, or mediate some aspect of it cross-functionally?

These are just a few questions that got us started. The goal was to consider both doable and completely undoable reconceptualizations of the window through a series of attachments, morphed frames, kinetic prosthesis, and other mechanical and filter elements that would correlate differently with light, sound, visual framing, energy harvest, and insulation. Could we devise a simple but new relation to inhabitability?

The window has always occupied a unique place in the modern psyche particularly relative to the evolution of our sense of home, privacy, and safety. Windows of the church, the prison, the zoo, the military bunker, all carry vastly different but equally critical uses and meanings. They offer their own currency as a spatial dimension of power in each instance. Or a hospital: imagine the importance of a window to a patient—what can be done to turn the window into an empowerment device for those who depend on them?

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Posted in Design Tagged , , , , , , |

Processing Adaptability

One of the defining aspects of the studio is the notion of ‘adaptability.’ It’s been mentioned before, but it’s a theme we’ll often revisit on the blog in order to both explore what and how the nuances of adaptability can be expressed through architectural practice, and in hopes of generating further discussion to evolve ‘adaptability’ as a concept beyond the commonly accepted premise that it is simply the basis of all design. It’s too easy to say that everything persists in response to everything else around it and therefore architecture is merely design for a mode of inhabitable adaptability. It certainly can be more or less specific and contextualized than that, but can also encompass a wider spectrum of unique expressions and configurations that factor into both the design process and product itself, which ultimately we see inviting collaboration and improvisation.  These things are vital to good design.

For us, adaptability is rooted in the belief that architecture, much like art, often times comes from a place of deep personal struggle. The will and desire to practice architecture extends from the very psychological challenges of having to adapt to the hardships of life itself.  The beauty of the architectural response is that it will always remain profoundly primitive this way, that our ultimate survival instincts—despite the sophistication of our society today—still pronounce themselves spatially, and that some of our most fundamental intuitions as human beings are not only needs of the biological but serve a critical spatial awareness as well. Perhaps this is all the more relevant given how increasingly populated and densely urbanized the word’s becoming. To make architecture today remains a form of therapeutic reconciliation with these various forces and traumas that have and continue to shape our lives. In this sense, architecture is a prism through which to engage ‘adaptability’ as its own kind of design language.

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Posted in Academic, Design, Theory Tagged , , |