Archive Page 3


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.


Ideas That Inspire Me

Alexander Book Cover

The Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander is a book I use on all of my residential projects and many of my commercial projects.  It is a great tool for allowing clients to communicate their wants and desires for a project back to the architect in a very architectural and sensitive way.  It is also great for the architect as a reminder and inspiration in making wonderful alive places for people.

Some years back I wrote,

I think this is the most sensitive and compelling treatment of the human condition as it relates to places and spaces I have found.  Every student should be handed this set by their professor on the first day of design studio.  Unfortunately Alexander’s work is not held in too high regard in most architecture schools.  One of my professors said that this work leads one to believe that creating architecture is a recipe process.  He has a point but the ideas in this book can be used intelligently and combined with bigger more artistic ideas about form making and profoundly meaningful architecture to great effect.

The structure of the book is laid out in 253 patterns to use in design.  The scale ranges from the region to the room and are not thought of as a finite list but rather a beginning to be added to over time.  Each pattern addresses a particular situation such as natural light in a room by basically stating a problem, discussing the issue and then stating a design strategy or feature to resolve the issue.  Below is partial list of the patterns and then the Pattern, Marriage Bed.  This book makes great reading even if you are not actively designing something.  There is a companion volume, The Timeless Way of Building that is best read before using this book in depth.


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


Saxon’s Workspace & promo

The Ship's Cabin of My Work Life

A Few of The Ideas of Architecture

This is a photo of my workspace also known as an office and when I am feeling particularly artistic I call it my studio.  Most of the time I don’t call it anything, I just have a great feeling about it and all the wonderful work experiences I have had here.  Most of those moments have happened when I am alone as  sole practitioner (aka hermit architect), but there have been plenty of great moments with clients in the studio and also with many different people on the phone.

I recently had coffee with my friend Peter Saucerman after a lovely bike ride and he suggested the idea of designers and creative types sharing pictures and thoughts about their workspaces.  I loved the idea and we have just this January of 2011 launched the blog You can see more of what I have to share on the topic by going to the site.  Also we are inviting others to post here and will be building the blog in the next months.  I love getting people to share something of themselves in this way and it seems like ready-made material for individuals to tap into.

A last word on my bookshelf shown at left.  For me, the ideas of architecture are paramount in my workspace.  It seems obvious, but I really like to have my space express this priority.  I do this by having all those idea vessels very close to where I sit; 5 feet to be exact.  when they get beyond 6 feet I am a much less interesting person.

The Architectural Adventures Of Saxon Sigerson

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