Category Archives: Harmon

Don’t be afraid of Modernism. It’s dead. 

When I’m told “this modernism thing isn’t going to last” I feel like I just emerged from a time machine in 1905. Modernism was not a passing trend; it was a movement. I would distinguish a movement as being something that contains an ideology, rather than a passing fancy based on an aesthetic preference. While part of the ideology of modernism is expressed in aesthetics, it contains a strategy for making buildings that values an honesty of material, and a preference for simplicity. It embraces technology as being a defining element, and celebrates the notion that it brings us all closer together. But for all of the hope that is embodied, it failed to consider the benefits of diversity. After modernism failed, the aesthetic propagation continued, at which point modernism became ‘style’. Style is more akin to fashion; something more surface, and formal, which rapidly changes with passing collective taste. It is strange that modernism is not yet considered a historic style. Because it is.
 The Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright was built in 1909

We were discussing this during design review in the office yesterday, and I realized something that I’ve been considering for some time – even though we are often accused of being modernists, the work we do is not in fact ‘modern’. Modern is a style, and like any style of architecture (Victorian, Craftsman, Spanish) it has a set of rules. One of the critical tenants of at least one form of high modernism, namely the ‘International Style’, was that it break with context and any forms from the past, as we had arrived in a unifying moment in time. We were all going to be connected through technology. Mechanized travel and flight, telephone, radio would all serve to bring down the barriers between us. A single ‘style’ could apply to everyone, in everyplace.


 Richard Neutra. Lovell Health House. High modernism in the U.S.A. 1929

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Also posted in Academic, Design, Observations, Theory

Project Updates

I haven’t provided any recent project updates, but we have a lot under construction and even more being designed. Below are some highlights from the field. 

Helen Street, Oakland:

New project in Dogtown with a low volume that morphs around its site, connecting  a patchwork of interior and exterior spaces into a singular form. 


Harmon Street, Berkeley:

One of my favorite upcoming projects, this house bends itself to maximize light and minimize bulk to the neighbors. Angular space is the resultant interior volume. 


34th and West, Oakland:

Three houses with related architecture, an intersecting volume that angles to create an entry to the open plan and section inside. 


Julia Street, Berkeley:

The simple shed roof is a response to neighboring conditions and opens up the space on the upper levels. 

More to come…





Also posted in 34th and West, Construction, Helen, Julia, Projects Tagged , , , , |

“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…

Also posted in Construction, Theory

Stairway to Harmon

The treads and risers are in. The skin is ready to go on. We are making some last minute adjustments and revisions in the spirit of flexibility and improvisation…



Also posted in Projects

Steel Away

The support for the cantilevered stair is in place. Is this the scene of a potential future crime?




Also posted in Projects

Harmon Street Revisited


Larger resolution image showing cantilevered stair at exterior

Also posted in Projects