Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘fougeron architecture’

Four or Five things I (and you) really do not need for 2016

We started this last year and frankly, it is a great idea so here we are hoping to inspire you to go lean in 2016

  1. We said this last year and we need to say it again since a lot of you did not listen to us: Stay away from selfie sticks! In fact: More people have died from selfies than shark attacks this year! Falling off cliffs, being hit by trains or walking into traffic. Look, you’re beautiful but that camera accessory is dangerous equipment! So use at your own risk. Or even better re-gift to your least favorite relative.
  2. A watch that looks like a watch, acts like a watch and really is just a watch except it has an internal hard drive. Sometimes, just because something feels more convenient, doesn’t mean it is. Don’t let the hype trick you! Keep you Timex for now and save a few hundred dollars. (This does not mean you can now afford a selfie stick).
  3. Another six months of Donald Trump. How many times can you look at the face and hear him say “I love you” and know he doesn’t mean it? Reminds me of my first boyfriend.
  4. Kale. I need a new trend. Broccolini? Cucamelon? A new vegetable, really anything to replace kale. When did the curly headless cabbage” or “chou frisé non-pommé” become the only great green vegetable? You know a trend is tired when McDonalds starts making Kale salads.
  5.  Another social media platform. My daughter is in her 20s and keeps me updated, one week it’s Vine, then ‘Ello and now Peach? I just want some peach and quiet on my Facebook.

Close to Home: The Napa Earthquake


Being a homeowner requires a lot of vigilance, there’s insurance and a mortgage, monthly payments and upkeep. And in California, sometimes it can also require picking up broken pieces of plates and glass at 3:30am after a 6.0 earthquake hits.

Over the weekend, my social media feeds were full of commentary on the massive earthquake that happened in California: the biggest one in 25 years.

It was a reminder that we can’t control mother nature and that there are downsides to living on the Best Coast. For everyone in the area, the shake hit close to home.

But for some a little closer than others. That night, I had been at my home in Napa where I would discover we lived across the street (70 feet) away from a fault line. A fault line that had been conveniently inactive for 1.5 million years. They don’t list those kinds of things in a real estate ad.


The red star is our home — see how we’re along the red fault line?


I make light of the event because, in actuality, it was terrifying. The house felt like it was crumbling. Outside, it looked like there were fireworks or lightning when it fact it was electrical lines hitting each other and shorting out. We were jolted out of our bed by a deep rumbling sound and a feeling that our house was being torn apart (we later found the earth moved as much as 2 feet). Dogs for miles couldn’t stop barking. The earthquake only lasted 20 seconds but as all us “earthquakers” know it seemed like an eternity. By the time the shaking stopped, the lights had gone out and I struggled to open the bedroom door. Entering the living room kitchen, we were almost expecting to find half the room gone. In fact, there was lots of broken wine glasses and a whole container of salsa emptied all over the room. (Note to self; put the salsa in an airtight container.)

Luckily, we had our wine stored in small refrigerators.

And it wasn’t only exciting/terrifying for us; we had some poor souls visiting us that weekend. Our good friend, Gwen, who is every bit the New Yorker and friends from Chicago staying in an RV because they were on their way to Burning Man.

After the quake, Gwen couldn’t sleep and as my partner Mark and I attempted to calm our nerves, we could hear her pacing and fidgeting. It was too much excitement even for a New Yorker. In the morning, our RV-relegated friends would say they were convinced it was going to tip over, that they would find themselves sideways before getting to Burning Man. By a miracle, they had parked their RV in the direction of the fault so it stayed up.


We were lucky, though. Despite the ten-mile line crack in the ground from the fault (see attached photos) our property was spared. And really, the dog seemed more traumatized than the guests.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4


More information:


Fougeron Architecture in Vogue!

Fougeron Architecture’s Fall House was recently featured in a photoshoot for Vogue.


The photoshoot was titled Beauty and the Beast and surrounded the trend of “earth tones, suede and high-laced boots are more than just Bohemian throwbacks–they’re essential pieces for a night on the prowl.”


vogue us5 vogue us4 vogue us2 vogue us1 vogue us3

Little Firm, Big World (in 3 Parts)

Little Firm, Big Building

Part I: The Project

If you didn’t already know, the Downtown and Embarcadero of San Francisco have been—and will continue—to go through some major changes. Namely, a wide spread project called The Transbay Project to improve infrastructure, provide transportation and create housing. It will include 10 new buildings and Fougeron Architecture, along with SOM, will be designing Transbay 9.

The blocks for these new buildings are owned by by the OCII (Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure) which held team competitions for the projects, featuring teams of developers and architectures. After Transbay 9 was announced, I got a lot of questions about working with such a powerhouse in architecture.

Part II: The History

First, it’s imperative to understand the landscape of the world of architecture (pun intended). Within the architecture world, women and minorities are severely underrepresented still. White male privilege reigns supreme and when you take a look at major firms or architectural organizations, boards are often times comprised of one very overrepresented demographic. (Organizations like Women’s Initiative, have made moves towards leveling out skews in the workplace and correcting societal biases.

Having worked in architecture since 1980, having owned my own firm since 1987, and having served on multiple boards taught me that as many changes as I make in my own business and as many personal victories I may have, change must also be an institutionalized decision. In 1998, San Francisco created a series of charters aimed to overcome societal biases for minorities, women and small business owners. In an effort for city growth but also to help prevent existing discrimination they enacted the MBE/WBE/LBE charter (Minority Business Enterprise, Women Business Enterprise, Local Business Enterprise).

These charters allows women and minority owned businesses (as well as small businesses, or all of the above) opportunities to pursue contracts they previously couldn’t, by setting aside micro programs only for small businesses, offering incentives for larger companies to work with smaller companies or taking advantage of an increase availability in subcontracts. Essentially, the city of San Francisco offers opportunity where it would not have previously been. The OCII owns all the land for the Transbay projects and therefore follows the city charter regarding LBE/MBE/WBE participation.

Part III: Little Firm Meet Big Firm

The opportunity to work with a large firm like SOM on the Transbay project was also thanks in part to the Transbay buildings sites being a large, linked project tackled by multiple firms rather than simply one firm taking all ten buildings. The move by the city of San Francisco was imperative for architecture and small businesses to thrive in an all encompassing way. But thanks to the MBE/LBE/WBE charter, another change has emerged.

In architecture, you are almost always up someone else. The existence of your art–your work is contingent on “winning.” It means that everything can be reduced to the haves and have nots. By my getting a job, it means someone else did not. This creates a competitive atmosphere that has its benefices: you are always striving to be better, smarter and cheaper, and cons: you are distrustful, reserved, and collaborations are infrequent.

As Fougeron Architecture works with SOM to build Transbay 9, I am finding that when collaboration is made to be intrinsic to a project, you can find a true example of the sum of the whole is greater than its parts. Because what makes a smaller firm more desirable is balanced with what a larger firm can offer. A larger firm offers you resources in scale: arrays of experiences, materials, people. While a smaller firm can provide greater attention to detail, client interactions and more time spent with the principal architect rather than staff.

What I have found in the Transbay 9 project is that the dialogue is no longer about competition but cooperation. And because any senior architects on the project are equals, you also find a refreshing honesty. Buildings, especially city buildings, can be made better and smarter. And that value is immeasurable.

Fougeron Architecture on the cover of Architectural Record!

I am honored and excited to let every one know that Fougeron Architecture’s “Fall House” was featured on the cover of the 2014 Record Houses issue by Architectural Record. My daughter, who is ever supportive, described it as the architectural equivalent of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.

The house sits on a 1.5 acre in Big Sur, Northern California. With sloping cliffs (a 250 foot drop!) and amazing views, this project truly was an exceptional and invigorating challenge.

A dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life

I watch a lot of different television shows, based recommendations of friends (The Wire), other architects (Modern Family, Mad Men) or my daughter (Doctor Who). But none of those shows currently matter: I have caught Poirot fever!

If you don’t know who Poirot is, he’s a Belgian sleuth, a character created by Agatha Christie. I discovered Poirot in his television form (thank goodness for Netflix) after finding one of my old Agatha Christie books and rereading it. It was the closest I’d ever get to Flaubert but I was transported back to when devoured them as a teen.

Poirot is described as:

[…]hardly more than five feet four inches but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military.

[…]The neatness of his attire was almost incredible; I believe a speck of dust would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound. Yet this quaint dandified little man who, I was sorry to see, now limped badly, had been in his time one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police.

He is fastidious, almost obsessive, asexual and a brilliant logician. As a character in a novel, he was fantastic but English actor David Suchet brings him to life with such authenticity and life that I have watched almost nothing but Poirot episodes for the last few months. I am falling behind on other TV shows (oh the woes of my life!).

Later this month, I’ll be talking more on Poirot but I wanted to entice you all in joining me in my Poirot fever. Here are, a dozen or so things Poirot has taught me about life:

  1. The core of the concept is simple.
  2. Be willing to take the backseat.
  3. Be empathetic but not a push over.
  4. Make sure you surround yourself with people who have a sense of humor.
  5. Do not let someone’s employment cast doubt on their character.
  6. Elegance is underrated.
  7. There are a dozen different ways to wear a proper looking mustache.
  8. A slight French (or Belgian) accent makes you sound smarter. Is it too late for me to adopt one?
  9. The bad guy always loses, even it takes a long time (the whole 60 minutes)
  10. A little bit of vanity is okay.
  11. Embrace your eccentricities.
  12. You can spend 22 years with a project and still find it exhilarating, challenging and interesting.
  13. Secrecy has its purposes.

My next post won’t be a list but it will be on Poirot! But I make no apologies, I can’t help it! I have the fever!

The phenomena of signature buildings without a signature.

New Year, same blog and more complaining!

Maybe when you get old, you just get cranky and think everything is worse than before and it isn’t! Maybe one day I will look back at this rant and realize I was wrong!

The issue is that  I find myself looking at a lot of architecture, all over the world, and I can’t say I am impressed. The irony of the urge to rant using phrases like “in my day” is not lost on me.

I’ve talked before about signatures (whether it be in jeans, in food, in fashion) – greatness comes from an appreciation of the rules and then an ability to break them. The same, of course, goes for architecture.  It was only a few months ago that I was complaining about the dwell light phenomena!

Read more

How to spend less than $75,000 and completely change your home.

I promise this is no infomercial!

Last summer, I purchased a property with my partner, Mark English, that straddled Sonoma and Napa. The inside and outside were the product of a 1970s over zealous homeowner with a tighter budget than he wanted to admit. Parts were completed, others not and most of the style choices were an abomination in my strict modernist handbook.

These were my rules (or guidelines or trips) for how to spend under $75,000 and still get a fab new interior.

Read more

Californian: the edge of the reason

When I was trying to decide just a few years ago what architecture graduate program to attend, I sought the counsel of my favorite professor, Eugenia Janis. She taught classes in art history and photography, she was voracious and vicious but also absolutely brilliant. She looked at me, and said, “Go to Berkeley. California is like nothing you have ever experienced. There’s no place like it.” She had been angling for months to stop me from returning to Europe because Janis didn’t appreciate comfort zones and she knew I was better than mine.

And when I did pack my bags and move to Northern California, I never left. And, really, she was right that California is nothing like Europe, nothing like anywhere in the world. Some people find that surprisingly, considering how many Europeans end up in California but I think there must be something in the water, or at the very least the Pinot, that changes you.

And it doesn’t hurt that there’s a dizzying amount of innovation at your doorstep, with the established titans like Apple, Facebook and Google but also the up-and-comers like Instagram, Foursquare and Cloudtap. California gives you momentum.

Read more

Phenomenal, Phenomenal

Now, it takes a lot to make get me walk down a 12” wide corridor as I am really claustrophobic.  Usually it’s a very dry, very strong martini. In this case, however, I did it for art (how many times have I heard that statement before?) when I went to see a show in San Diego. It was called Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface and featured artists like Bruce Nauman, James Turrell and Doug Wheeler.


This is my friend, Pauline, in the corridor. I may have rushed through a bit too quickly for the camera to pick me up.

Read more

%d bloggers like this: