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Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2021

Volume 49:2 | Search

If you would like to see corrections to this newsletter or to submit articles or suggestions for future newsletters please contact the Newsletter Editor at newsletter@owa-usa.org.

In this issue:
Life during lockdown - Marda Quon Stothers


Editor's Note:

by Mui Ho    |  
 Share #1459

The rewarding part of being the editor of our newsletter is that I get to talk to our members and reacquainte with them. Through our informal conversations and emails, we managed to get into subjects beyond just the article they are preparing. Often their opinions and thoughts on issues related to or beyond the article tumble out and are very illuminating. These communications allow me to share thoughts on architecture as well as politics that we seldom have had a chance to do before. I wonder why? Is it because of conventions that stress polite social conversation and exclude serious subjects, or are we just not in the habit of talking about architecture with our colleagues.


Our New Steering Committee Member

by Suzan Swarbacker    |  
 Share #1470

Factory OS Tour with OWADP in 2018 (Pre-Fab Modular Housing) (Suzan in back row)


If the saying is true: third time’s the charm, then this is my lucky term on the steering committee!

A lot of life has passed since my first time on the OWADP committee. About 35 years to be exact. So, what happened in the meantime you ask? Marriage, children, work in Indonesia, and lots of CA onsite projects including the SF Airport, several Ritz Carlton hotels, 2 shopping centers, and a new Google campus at Moffett Field.

I feel lucky to have worked in design all these years. I also have a civil engineering degree, and my first job after undergraduate school was related to obtaining a Ph.D in civil engineering. It turned out to be not very fun. Instead, one OWADP founding member, Wendy Bertrand, persuaded me to apply for a rotating internship with the U.S. Navy. The internship sent me to work onsite for the Camp Pendleton Hospital, a fabulous project from beginning to end. That federal government job evolved to hospital projects with KMD, and then Ratcliff Architects. Soon enough it became clear that I most enjoyed the programming, the design, and the CA for big projects, especially hotels.

In my day there were 2% women who stuck it out in architecture and interior design. Three years ago, working on the Google project, where most of the engineers were young women, I heard the same worries that have not changed in 35 years. “Where are the women partners? Where are the women who dropped out after they had children? Why does no company hire women part-time while they are raising children?” Go to the link below for an in-dept NSPE article covering this topic in 2017. https://www.nspe.org/resources/pe-magazine/july-2017/worrisome-workplace-readers-respond

The Covid pandemic will change the work habits of employers, I predict, including the work-from-home p/t mothers who are highly employable with their skill sets. Hopefully, the world will be kinder to OWADP mothers after this disaster. We anticipate that the shortage of graduates in the architecture and interior design profession will force employers to hire women part-time. A huge boon for women with children. Maybe one silver lining. However, working from home is isolating, stressful and usually not fun. Some people claim they remain highly productive but that is not my observation.

Yes, I did continue to work while raising daughters who are now young adults. As kids my idea of fun was walking them through buildings, noting the height of the ceilings, the acoustics, and the colors that a designer chose for that space. The girls swore they would never be interested in fire sprinkler systems in ceilings, or how to logically find bathrooms in a strange building, but one of them works for the architects who designed the Uber headquarters in SF.

To date I have at least 2 goals while serving on the Steering Committee. One is to create a questionnaire asking each of you to analyze the good/the bad/and the ugly during this pandemic. The second is to ask you for ideas to encourage more women in any aspect of the design business to join OWADP. Our group must be inclusive, not exclusive, as each of you knows. Please contact me with your ideas to help achieve these goals.


White Columns and Elongated Dome

by Bobbie Sue Hood    |  
 Share #1462

Olmsted redesigned the "back side" of the Capitol to make it grand and handsome - and to connect it to the White House and other government buildings. His work is what made it possible to conceal the underground tram or railway which runs from the Capitol to the Old Nacy Building and other office buildings for the House and Senate. It is a very interesting example of where an architectural/landscape goal contributed directly to planning and architecture decisions which modernized (by making invisible, underground) connections between the Capitol and it's "server" buildings. My whole goal was to talk about how buildings become iconic - what separates ordinary buildings or indigenous buildings from designed architecture.

I just thought it very interesting that the insurgency followed Frederick Law Olmsted's directions! He made the building truly in the round - with no backside!

I could find no explanation for the weird columniation of the East facade with two pairs of double columns on the outside of the main portico and two single columns sort of like a doorway in the center. Anyhow, I thought all of those subtleties were intriguing and fascianting. You can play a lot with columns and masses!

I think few if any modern American architects including our heroes and heroines are very good at monumentality - something that the Italians and French and Chinese are very good at, for example. We temp to be too democratic to do good monumental buildings. The amazing thing about the Capitol is that it is American and monumental - a very successful piece of architecture in my view. And many, many different people worked on it.


Like pornography, good architecture is hard to define. But you know it when you see it. How the attack on our National May Save Democracy in the United States: The Power of Great Architecture when It Really Counts.

For the past 12 years or so, since the election of Barack Obama, a black man, as the president of the United States, our country has been increasingly churned by vicious, often false right wing fascism. This anger arose from many people who saw people of color and women leaders as threats to White Supremacy. Conspiracy terrorists fueled by right wing media have inflamed people who felt that their own privilege and white supremacy was losing clout. Right Wing media founds ways to inflame science-hating “left-behinds” to pass tax breaks for the wealthy and priviledged ,further separating the haves from the have-nots.

These discontented science-hating and conservative Christians descended on Washington DC in response to the President’s claim that he had been cheated out of victory in the November 3, 2020 presidential election A preplanned “demonstration” was fueled and equipped not only to march on the Capitol in Washington DC but also to “take” the capitol and remove any elected leaders who opposed deposing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Our errant President egged on raucus civilian demonstrators who quickly proved to be seditionists aiming to kill Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, Mike Pence, the Republican VP, and any loose anti-seditionist senators or representatives hanging around the building.

There was inside help as well – still being ferreted out by the FBI and Intelligence services. But the seditionists actually took the Capitol for about six hours, even as additional police and national guards were denied entry to Washington DC for fear it would “look bad.” Terrified Senators and Representatives were forced to hide and shelter in place. The demonstrators refused to wear facial masks, which has assisted the FBI in identifying them. But it has also spread COVID-19 to elected leaders in the Capital.
This political trend has been happening for years - the splits in how Americans perceive reality have been growing, as citizens found themselves in liberal or conservative “silos” with different and often opposing views of reality, power, and justice. But somehow the deep crevice did not inspire significant action to stop the rumors and conspiracy mongering until the seditionists attacked our beautiful, historic Capital. I have wondered what could possible heal the crevice in our political realities, if anything, and there is hope at last on the horizon It is in the form of a building constructed over about 150 years, which has become a symbol in America and around the world of the most powerful democracy in the world – the United States. In the end, it was the architecture itself – a monument which represented a healthy democracy world wide, which inspired the FBI, capital politics, and Washington bystanders to throw the seditionists out of the building and restore order.

As the building was breeched and threatened, it inspired good people to stand up and fight for what was right and do it without wasting any more time. The building saved itself because of what it represented to America and the world beyond.
The 2020 Pandemic has been an unprecedented test for architects as well as other Americans to redefine what they stand for, and what remains standing even in the most challenging of times. We realize that symbols and doing what’s right supercedes ordinary concerns like health, money, and time. We concentrate on what’s really important, what gets us up in the morning to work through the day, even when we have no clients to serve, or codes to meet.

We think of how to restore natural vegetation, whether our local bird life needs some supplementary feeding, and whether or not we are irrigation native vegetation enough to ride out the drought that has accompanied this terrible pandemic in California.
Residential architecture has kept me feeling secure in this pandemic even as I saw increasing victims on TV. Native birds have experienced a comeback a background traffic noise stopped.


Life during lockdown

by Marda Quon Stothers    |  
 Share #1461

February 2020 I was in ceramics classes Mondays and Tuesdays, attending an inspiring Catholic women’s group meeting and cooking for ten folks every Wednesday and trying to walk with Mui weekly. I took four trips over three weeks that month. I took a day trip to LA to meet a Spiritual Journey Group of six women commiting to journey together for a year. I returned to LA for a 5 day trip to run around and see old friends. I spent a few days in Memphis after a beloved friend died and a few days in Sacramento to discuss and consider co-housing. That was the life I loved; to travel a lot and interact with as many people as possible. In March I caught a cold which developed into bronchitis so I literally sheltered-in-place hoping it wasn’t COVID-19 for five weeks rather than my dying in 5 days.

My April trip to Australia and New Zealand was cancelled including Qantas’ route so we got our money back. Ceramics was cancelled. Wednesday meeting and dinner were cancelled. No plans back to Northern Ireland for the summer farm sitting, barn building and international conference on women’s equality. Everything is postponed.
At first I was waiting but now I acknowledge my life has changed. My work of community building, advocacy and art was retooled.

My church went to Zoom. I started baking cookies and making a “You Matter” bag for each household. With a team assembled and delivered a bag every week to 135 people. I got involved in racial reckoning with a discussion group and some writing.
The summer dragged by day, day, day, until I found a walking partner. We meet up at 8 a.m. and walk 3 miles nearly every day. My blood pressure went back down. My tenants and I visited Yosemite in July and browsed my grandfather’s birthplace in Coulterville. I left town with Suzan Swabacker for Westport during the fires AQI-5. Fort Bragg and Mendocino are still great towns. We talked development and refinance with my contractor friend. Then for election mania I wrote letters to Texas and postcards to Iowa. I rejoiced.
Such a different year! Those with regular work got very busy coping with new protocols. Since I have work that is stimulated by travel and others I floundered for several months. I still made lists. I worried. I rested. I changed. I have found a new rhythm. Call, email or text as I’d love to connect. You all mean a lot to me.


Obituary Carolina Woo

 Share #1465

Memorial from SOM web site :

    Retired SOM Partner Carolina Woo, FAIA, passed away on January 29th, 20-21, at the age of 80. During her career at SOM, Woo developed a body of work that has been recognized for its impact and cultural resonance. Woo was respected by her colleagues and was a dedicated mentor to many at SOM.

    Carolina Woo was born in Shanghai, China, in March 1940. After graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Business Policy from Columbia University, Woo began her career with SOM in 1969 in New York. A dedicated and passionate project manager, Woo rose through the firm and in 1984 was promoted to partner. She went on to work on projects that would take her to SOM’s offices in London, and later San Francisco, which served as her base while she worked to build the firm’s emerging presence in China. In 1988, she was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows for her notable contributions to the architectural profession. 

    While at SOM, Woo worked on projects all over the world, including many of the firm’s most influential projects of the period: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library & Museum in Austin, Texas, 9 West 57th Street in New York City, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Hajj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport Terminal, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, master plans for the Shanghai Waterfront in China and Saigon South in Vietnam, and later, the San Francisco Civic Center Complex and the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport. 

    Woo was an active contributor to the communities she called home, having served on the board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as a Trustee for her alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, as an advisor of the Capital Planning Commission for the City of Beijing, and as a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Urban Land Institute. Woo was a passionate advocate for the environment and for sustainable design, and her efforts made a palpable impact in moving the industry forward.

    We extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to her family.


Remembering Carolina Woo

by Mui Ho    |  
 Share #1466

Carolina on left

It is sad to learn that one's friend and colleague has passed away. It congers up many memories of the old days. Carolina and I were in grade school together when her family moved from Shanghai to Hong Kong in 1949. She had to learn a new language, Cantonese. Later, when we met again in US, she spoke several Chinese dialects fluently making her invaluable in doing business with China. She was responsible in securing all the large projects in China for SOM since the early 1980's. It can't have been easy to be the first woman partner in the most prestigious architectural firm of the era. She emphasized that her good fortune was in having very good mentors in SOM. One of the partners took her on as a protege when she joined the firm after school at the Rhode Island School of Design. She worked with SOM until she retired in 2011.


Selected projects by Carolina Woo

 Share #1467

Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai - Photo Credits:SOM


San Francisco International Airport - Photo Credit : T. Hursley


The Haj Terminal, Saudi Arabia - Photo Credits : SOM







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