Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2007

In Memoriam: Vera E. Jansone (1915-2004)

by Inge S. Horton
It is with great sadness that I let you know that Vera E. Jansone, a longtime OWA member, passed away on March 12, 2004, at the age of 88 years.

Vera was born in Riga, Latvia, to a family of doctors with her parents being ophthalmologists. "Since she was talented in mathematics and sensitive to the arts," Vera wrote about herself in a 1987 curriculum vitae from which I will quote, "she decided to study architecture. After a few years at the University, she participated in an architectural competition, won the first prize, and set out on a journey to Prague, Budapest, and Italy." This was just the first travel in her life full of traveling throughout the world.

"The war with its tragic events ... forced the Jansone family to leave Latvia... Vera escaped from the communists...

After "V" Day, Vera arrived in Paris with one suitcase and with a firm belief to become an architect. She continued her studies with LeCorbusier and at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts. Life in Paris was extremely hectic: work all day, study all night, attend concerts of the best musicians and dancers of the world, Sundays play tennis and during Summer vacations climb the Alps and Pyrenees with the Club Alpin Francais. Together with one young man only, she ascended the summit of Mount Blanc - the higher the closer to the almighty God.

At the Beaux Arts, she belonged to a small group of young architects from the Atelier Auguste Perret, who were fighting for the true Modern Architecture, based on the principles of Le Corbusier. After graduation at the Beaux Arts with a degree of "Architecte DPLG," Vera was offered to become an Associate with J.L. Humbaire, in his office in Paris. Previously she had been working with him successfully on several school and college projects. This proposal had to be delayed, because soon after she was granted a scholarship to the United States.

Vera came to Chicago. After three semesters at the Illinois Institute of Technology with Mies van der Rohe, she obtained her M.S. in Architecture.

Since the middle 50's, Vera has worked in Zurich, Switzerland and in the United States (New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) with the offices of Sert and Wiener: master plan of Bogota; SOM: Bellevue Hospital in New York, U.S. Embassy in Moscow; Rex Allen: French Hospital in San Francisco;
Victor Gruen: Fox Plaza development in San Francisco;
Ernest Born: BART Rapid transit station design in San Francisco; Robert Liles: regional shopping centers in California and Hawaii; Leonard Michaels: a highrise Condominium building in San Mateo;
and with other San Francisco Bay Area architects, mostly on big scale commercial, institutional and multi-family residential building projects.

Vera Jansone was a truly international architect with an astonishing range of experience. In 2003, she donated most her drawings still in her possession to the International Archive of Women in Architecture at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.

In 1952, she married Frederic de Fisher and had one daughter, who followed her mother's family tradition and became a doctor. Vera and her husband lived in Greenbrae, Marin County, in a house, which she had designed and built in 1976. Although her work was mainly in large scale projects, this house, cantilevered over a steep hill, demonstrates Vera Jansone's commitment to the International Style, her boldness and candor. The sketch is from the booklet of the 1985 OWA House Tour to Residences Designed by Women Architects in Marin County and Napa Valley.

New Book on Green Architecture

by Mui Ho
I would like to call your attention to an important new and useful book by one of our former member Alison Kwok , titled The Green Studio Handbook.

I met Alison when she attended UC Berkeley's graduate program in 1987. By then she has already taught high school science for 7 years. Being a seasoned teacher, Alison knew
how to be a good student. She was gifted and an outstanding student among her peers but most importantly, she combined her science background with her architectural training. After
practicing three years in architecture, Alison went back to
UC Berkeley for a Ph.D. in Building Science-a perfect combination of technology and design.

After finishing her Ph.D. Alison taught at Cornell University
and is now a tenured professor at the University of Oregon. She co-authored the gigantic book, a bible, for architectural students titled Mechanical and Electrical Equipment for Buildings. The recent 10th edition, adds her name to this well-respected reference book.

The Green Studio Handbook: Environmental Strategies for Schematic Design (Architectural Press, Oxford, 2007) is not intended to serve as a green building checklist nor as a textbook for environmental technology, but as a guide to provide the necessary information needed to make design judgments about the appropriate use of green strategies, to validate design decisions regarding the all-to-often used
"magic arrows", and to provide a resource of ideas on how the strategies are used in place, visually.

Co-authors Alison G. Kwok, a University of Oregon Professor of Architecture and Walter T. Grondzik of Florida A&M University, a former visiting professor at the University of Oregon, collaborated on the book in its early stages through a technical teaching seminar at the University of Oregon.

The book contains 422 full-color photographs and line drawings illustrating the application of green strategies during the schematic design of buildings. the bulk of the book includes 40 environmental strategies (e.g. green roofs, shading, permeable surfaces, passive solar design), with brief descriptions of principles and concepts, step-by-step design procedures, annotated tables and charts to assist with preliminary sizing, as well as a summary of key issues to be addressed and references to additional resources. Nine case studies selected for geographic diversity and a range of building types are also included to show how it all goes together. Practitioners, students, faculty and even the lay public will find this useful to help understand implementation in schematic design.

Postcard from Vietnam

Dear Members,

Our flight was totally full and we had a short stop in Hong Kong Airport before continuing on to Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived at 10 in the evening and the temperature was a pleasant 58?.

We are staying in this wonderful French Colonial Hotel facing the Saigon River. There is a fairly wide promenade along the river. Hundreds of barges hauling sand, logs, and other heavy materials travel up and down the river all day long. Traffic on the river is more dense than on the motor roads!

May is not the hottest month in Vietnam, March is usually hotter. June and July see a lot of rain. We had a little rain shower late in the afternoon.

Within Ho Chi Minh City the vehicular traffic is not terribly congested. Cars cost about two and one half times more than they do in the U.S. The people that can afford cars like to buy Japanese or German cars. Most people travel by bus or ride a moped. There is a lot of pedestrian traffic. The most impressive feature about the city is the very wide sidewalks that follow the Parisian model. Sidewalk cafes are popular.

The city is not that large and quite manageable on foot. The City Hall building is another good example of French Colonial building style. Most housing stock is new since 1976.

Fondly, Mui

The Greening of

by Suzanne Stewart
The members who came to the June event at got a personalized tour and presentation by OWA member Karen Kho and her colleagues at this innovative organization. They practice what they preach. We were asked not to bring beverage cups as they already had enough and didn't want to add more waste. A small but an important detail. They renovated instead of building anew, chose a location near a Bart Station, dedicated a parking space for a car-share vehicle, and offer secured bicycle parking.

They started out striving for LEED Silver, one step above the basic certification. Initially they wanted to show how green building principles could be applied to an ordinary building with a typical design and construction budget. Early on they realized they had bypassed Silver and were well into the Gold range. From there they made the commitment the spend more money and a lot more effort to go for the top: LEED Platinum! They produced a carbon neutral building that uses a minimal amount of water. The energy savings exceeds 40% compared to a similar conventionally built and run building.

Some of the ways they achieved their goals were by
*preserving 95% of the original structural elements
*recycled 75% of debris from demo and construction
*new concrete with 15-40% flyash (recycled waste product from coal-fired power plants)
*eliminated superfluous building materials
*installed recycling bins at every workstation
*hired a moving company that uses reusable and recyclable
moving containers

Other resources
To learn more about this organization and others check out these websites:

Retreat Reminder

The OWA Annual Retreat is next month! If you have not signed-up yet please do so ASAP. This year's theme is Sustainable Careers. The retreat will be held again in Sonoma County at the Westerbeke Ranch on Friday September 14 through Sunday September 16th.

Announcement: UFIA Conference in Bucharest

The 15th International Congress of the International Union of Women Architects will be held October 1-6, 2007 in Bucharest, Romania. More information may be available at this website:

Annual Planning Meeting

This OWA event was formerly called the Annual Business Meeting. Since last year's attendance was low we've re-named this important meeting to: The Annual Planning Meeting. This is essentially an all OWA member Steering Committee meeting. The goal here is to inform membership of the year's finances, goals, annual donation, etc. Some of the topics we plan to cover are :

Annual Holiday Donation: I know a lot of you were very vocal at last year's party when we asked for a ratification vote. To date that money has not been awarded to any charity. At this meeting we will be looking for a vote on IF we should donate money at all.

2008 Calendar: While the Steering Committee is working on next year's calendar we want to hear which programs you especially liked, do you want more tours, presentations, all architecture or life issues (e.g. Estate Planning). What would you like to see or hear?

New Steering Committee Members: We strongly encourage any members, new or long time who have an interest in serving on the SC to attend and let a member(s) of the SC know of your interest. Some of the roles on the Steering Committee are: Newsletter Editor, Website Editor, Event Photographer, Event Host, Meeting Minutes Recorder, and other one-time roles. The time commitment is manageable as we meet for couple of hours every other month. Each Steering Committee member is responsible for organizing one calendar event. Of course we help one another as we can.

So please mark your calendars for this meeting. Let us hear from you!

OWA Calendar Jul/Aug 2007

See the complete 2007 calendar here.

Tue, Aug 14, 2007
6:00 pm
OWA Program Panel Presentation on Careers in Architecture
Hafele Showroom
151 Vermont Street, SF 94107

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