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A History of Western Architecture

I am delighted and very honored to announce that I am featured in the 5th edition of  David Watkin’s A History of Western Architecture.

And how did they know 691 was my favorite number?

What Makes a City Great?

My daughter attends The University of Chicago and while I love the individual buildings: the beautiful gothic revival is surrounded by 1960s brutalism, 90s neon-colored modernism and a giant, domed egg, there is no continuity – no connection between the old and the new.

As an architect, it can be a challenge to integrate your vision into existing spaces.

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“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw

I embody certain stereotypes of a naturalized citizen, a French woman and an architect. I love fashion. I love modernism. And I love food. My daughter and boyfriend often tell me, with mouths full of Bouillabaisse, why I don’t become a chef instead of an architect. I certainly am less grumpy in the kitchen (their words, not mine).

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See you this weekend!

Every two years, I get to spend a long weekend talking architecture shop. It is one of my favorite events to attend: a conference where we gather some great architects, engaging speakings and spend hours looking at their work and all breathing in a passion for design. Despite my gripes about the world around me, the Monterey Design Conference is a fantastic reminder of the brilliant and innovative work being done and the people behind them. It’s heaven on earth for architects (though, I’m not sure how the contractors feel about it).

I have to note that I’m exceptionally excited to hear Jeanne Gang speak, who is not only a tour-de-force in a male-dominated profession, but also a MacArthur Fellow!

Oh and my enjoyment of this weekend isn’t hurt by the fact I’ll be signing my monograph too.

The Evil Empire: When modernity creates complexity.

I am, admittedly, an Internet addict. Although I’m not sure what that term means anymore – can we be addicted to things that efficiency necessitates? Clients rarely call anymore, Yelp reviews mean more than monographs and the tubes for sending out drawings are collecting dust in my office closet.

I have moved into a new office, one that is located in downtown San Francisco, mere blocks from my old one. Instead of putting away files, alphabetizing my books (a task that my then 11 year old daughter once found amusing, oh why did she have to grow up?) – I spent the day on the phone with AT&T. Get “u-verse,” they eagerly told me! It’s so fast! Reliable! We love your loyalty!

I will spare you the three hours on the phone that I spent trying to navigate the most convoluted voicemail and client services ever invented. The only credit I give is the automated voice who has clearly heard the word “representative” so many times you can just interrupt his monotone voice (and then, of course, be placed on hold for an hour). I crossed many oceans, where I spoke with an Indian man who complained about the quality of my phone connection….which was AT&T.

I was transferred and retransferred until a man took pittance on me and offered me a secret tech number; it lead me straight back to the beginning menu options.

It wasn’t long ago that we hailed the Internet as the ultimate tool for social democracy, of free information, free communication with the world at large. It was meant to be an incredibly place to express your ideas, unencumbered by social strata. But access to the social democracy isn’t free – there are miles of corporations, paperwork, back and forths, and bills between the information highway I now depend on for my work and myself. Our ultimate freedom is dependent on a corporation with no accountability and no transparency. Does the ease of the internet justify the hours on hold, the information I gladly give out (how many times have I verified the last four digits of my social just to make sure I could download an email?).

Today on my way back from work, I walked by the encampment on market street where people were protesting Bank of America’s actions relative to foreclosures, credit and bail outs. And I though that I should do the same: get a tent and picket AT&T. Then again, I don’t know if I want my phone service shut off too.

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