Archive for the 'Unique Buildings' Category


The Curiosity of San Francisco Stairs

I have for  years driven through San Francisco, admiring the consistent urban fabric and wondering about the nature of the architecture behind the streetwall created by the zero setback party wall buildings.  I am working on a dental office in the second building from the right in this photo.  I expect it is over a hundred years old.

A fire on the upper floors and the subsequent water damage means that the wall finishes had to be removed and reinstalled. When I arrived for a site visit a few days ago the doors were open and I got to fulfill one of my longtime wishes of peeking behind the streetwall.  This is a three story building with one individual apartment on each of the upper two floors.  Above are the separate entries and stairs to each floor.

This stair has 31 steps all the way to the third floor.  Don’t lose your footing coming down! Today we are limited to twelve vertical feet between landings.  This one has about sixteen feet.  Good aerobics going up!

This is the nice little turn the stair takes at the top to bring you to an entry hall.  That topmost balluster has some serious beef to it.

Here is the payoff view, courtesy of a big hole in the wall.  They ran two completely separate stairs from the street level vestibule up to each apartment.  It would have been more efficient to run one stair up to a landing at the second floor, have a keyed front door to that apartment and then continue up the stair to the third floor.  Hmmm,  why?  My friend, Stephanie, suggested that maybe this made each apartment feel more like your own home by having a nice front door actually open onto the street.  A good reason perhaps and a question to be carried along to further explorations.


Seattle Seeking

I was in Seattle in January pounding the damp pavement, slinging my camera and notebook in search of things to jangle my nerves (the ones connected to my eyeballs)  when I found this gem of a building just east of downtown a ways.  I love it that this building can express itself in a very modern way while at the same time behaving very well as a responsible urban citizen.  Note the ground floor retail complete with awnings and covered entries making the pedestrian experience worthwhile.  Then above there is a bit of form making and articulation including the strong corner.  Frank Lloyd Wright got himself in quite a twist over the cornice of the older buildings of his day, saying they should not have this ornament at the top.  I can get somewhat behind that idea but this  building makes for such a fine detail at the top with those roof overhangs.  Note the way the balconies below are in alternate bays to the  “cornice” elements (overhangs).  There is a second floor office use and then the three stories of residential on top.   Sorry to not know who the architect is.  Seattle just seems to do a lot of good buildings like this.

Mixed Use Building detailSeattle Mixed Use Building


My Latest Article – The Line That Connects

The Hospice Della Trinita De Pelligrini With Composite Diagrams of Solid/Void, Function and Axes from the article

Well it is time to blog on.  The new website has been up for a few months and I just recently published my latest article on the Central Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects Website.  I have been writing for about the last nine years on an almost monthly basis.  It is a way for me to keep searching and exploring the ideas of architecture while conducting an architectural practice that can range into very technical and practical work.  I love the balance of being able to do the really nuts and bolts craft of architecture and then fly up into the delicious clouds of architectural musings.  CLICK HERE FOR  THE LINE THAT CONNECTS BY SAXON SIGERSON


A Mysterious Little Santa Cruz, CA Building

Santa Cruz, CA church

I discovered this building while cruising Santa Cruz looking for some architectural entertainment.  The front elevation is pretty straight forward but come around the north side and whoah!  There is this cut away at an angle where the roof stays straight and the wall is angled back.

Santa Cruz, CA church

I love the little opening in the front elevation that takes you through to this funny space.  It is a little like the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.  Except that the reality seems to be the same on each side of the threshold.  There was a service going on inside and I was not able to see the impact of the outside geometry on the plan.  I love imagining the decisions that went into this building’s design.  Who made the call to create this geometry and what was the reaction when that idea was shared with others?  Then what did people say when they saw the finished building?  I make no assumptions that it was an architect involved here although if you look at the symmetrical, hierarchical composition of the arch top window and the two rectangular side windows,  there is clearly some design sensibility at work.  So many questions!  This one is on the list for future research.

The Architectural Adventures Of Saxon Sigerson

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