Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2012

Member Linoblock Prints from the 2010 OWA Retreat

OWA Program Feb. 21: Maria Cristini; Set your Priorities and Vision for your 2012 Success!

Maria Cristini, certified Professional and Personal Life Coach will present:
Set Your Priorities & Vision for Your 2012 Success! Clarifying your vision and setting your priorities straight is a game changer.  Do this and focus your expertise and passion to create bigger, deeper results professionally while honoring your own needs and lifestyle for the rest of this year.

 Leave this workshop with:
  • A vision that you’ll be excited to celebrate at the end of 2012
  • Your top priorities clearly defined for the year
  • Breakthrough goals for your year-end success
  • Steps for how to use your vision and priorities as a decision making tool
  • Easy ways to anchor your vision throughout the year

  • About The Facilitator:
    Maria Cristini, CPCC, PCC is a certified business and life coach.  She maintains her own business coaching private clients, leading teleclasses and facilitating workshops.

    Maria’s clients imagine our world to be a better place and they want their work to be dedicated to creating that future.  They are business owners or work in non-profit or for profit organizations. Working with Maria moves them from being spread too thin, not reaching their full potential, feeling at a crossroads and wanting to know their next best step, to feeling certainty, empowered and able to communicate clearly.  Maria helps them focus their expertise and passion to create powerful results professionally while honoring their own needs and lifestyle. Her website is at

    if you have questions contact Rachel Slonicki or Cameron White.

    Members, if you plan to attend please RSVP here.

    Time: Feb. 21, 2012 from 6:00-9:00 PM
    Place: Herman Miller Showroom
    1 Kearny St #900 
    San Francisco, CA 94108
    (corner of Kearny and Geary)
    map (map location corrected on 2/8/12)

    Please Note: If you plan to attend we must have your name and the names of any guests you plan to bring prior to the event due to building security. You may RSVP yourself here and you should contact Rachel with the names of any guests you plan to bring. Also note that non-members will be asked to contribute $10 for the event - or they may join the OWA!

    ACE Mentoring Program starts up February 8


    The ACE Mentoring program is starting on February 8. We meet at the Kaiser Oakland Hospital Replacement jobsite office, at 380 West MacArthur, Oakland. The program will begin on Wednesday, February 8, and run until May 11, on Wednesday afternoons from 4:00-6:00 pm. We especially need architects for the program, and others such as landscape architects and interior designers are needed too. It is not necessary to commit to the whole 13 weeks (there is one week off for spring break). We also need speakers.

    If you are in San Francisco or another area, there is probably an ACE program starting up near you. If Oakland is convenient for you, please consider joining our group. Here’s some information from the website,

    "Will there be enough architects, construction managers and engineers to fill the industry’s needs ten years from now? The ACE Mentor Program of America, Inc. is working hard to make sure there are. ACE is an acronym for architecture, construction, and engineering.

    The program’s mission is to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in the integrated construction industry through mentoring; and to support their continued advancement in the industry through scholarships and grants.

    ACE is a unique partnership among industry professionals — architects, interior designers, landscape architects, mechanical, structural, electrical, environmental and civil engineers, construction managers, college and university representatives, and other professionals from related corporations and professional organizations — who work together to attract young people to their professions.

    Industry professionals volunteer to become mentors to high school students in order to introduce them to the professions and encourage them to pursue studies and careers in these fields. In return, the industry get a much-needed boost of new talent."

    Being a mentor is both fun and very rewarding. Most of the kids really learn a lot, and appreciate getting to know the mentors. Let me know if you can participate, or have any questions.

    Cameron White

    A Reminder to Pay Your Annual Dues

    by Eliza Hart
    It’s time to renew your membership in OWA for 2012. You may now renew online with Paypal. We need your support, so if you have not already done so, please renew today by logging in and clicking on the renewal link.

    Members thank Mui Ho for Hosting the Annual Holiday Party

    by Eliza Hart

    The Holiday Party was held on December 10 at the residence of Mui Ho, one of OWA's founding members. On behalf of the Steering Committee and the members of OWA, we thank Mui and her husband Bill for opening up their home for this well attended event.

    Members at the 2010 Holiday Benefit Party

    Hamilton Family Center Thanks OWA for Donations

    by Eliza Hart
    Dear OWA,

    On behalf of the board, staff, and community of Hamilton Family Center, I would like to thank you for making the holidays incredibly special for our families.
    A few days before Christmas, one mother shared with her case manager how much her daughter wanted a baby doll, and the case manager was thrilled to find out that the baby doll had already arrived and was waiting to be wrapped. A father, upon receiving the bag of gifts for his daughter, asked “Are these really all for Nicole?” At holiday parties, parents and children decorated amazing gingerbread houses together, laughing and eating half the candy as they decorated. Overall, the season was graced with beautifully wrapped gifts, delicious homemade food, and cheerfully decorated rooms. Without the support from volunteers and donors, none of this would have been possible!
    It was encouraging to hear stories from so many people who donated. Companies, churches, and individuals not only collected toys, but also spread the word near and far about what Hamilton is doing. A five year old girl saved money to buy two Barbies for one of the children living here. Other donors have experienced homelessness directly or in their families and wanted to help those currently facing this challenge. Your stories inspire and encourage us to keep doing what we do.
    Thank YOU for caring and helping make the holidays memorable for families and children experiencing homelessness. Please let us know if you’d like to get involved in other ways throughout the year. Check out our website for more information:
    All the best,
    Debbie Wilber
    Project Potential Services Coordinator

    You can also view an article in the Chronicle that featured Hamilton Family Center "here"

    A.C.T. Presents a Play About Architects

    by Joanne Winship

    American Conservatory Theater Puts on a Play about Architects

    A.C.T. announces the world premier of a new play called HIGHER, by Carey Perloff. "In this smart and sexy new play, two American architects dive into a high-stakes competition to design a memorial in Israel.  They're also in love-but don't know that they are vying against one another.  Higher whisks us from sleek New York studios to the shoes of the Sea of Galilee, as the architects confront their own pasts in a race to make their mark on history." 

    It will run Feb 1 - 19 and tickets are $10 off if ordered by Jan. 25 using code HIGHER.

    Design San Francisco, Feb. 1-3, 2012 and a Special Event

    by Gabriela Chamu

    Design San Francisco is an annual event that is put on by the San Francisco Design Center. The dates are Feb. 1-3 this year and is directed to people in the design industry with keynote speakers, workshops, and seminars. Also, many showrooms have sales during this time.

    OWA Member Gabriella Chamu invites you to attend her showroom's event "A Century Chair is About to Implode!"
    As part of Design San Francisco, MacQueen Home is hosting this event in which Alex Schuford III, Vice President of Century Furniture, will destroy one of his Century chairs to reveal how well it is made. This event is Monday, Feb. 1, 2012 from 2-3:00PM just outside the MacQueen Home Showroom, 2 Henry Adams St. #408, San Francisco. Please RSVP by January 27, 2012.

    Book Circle 3: Women and the Making of the Modern House

    by Inge S. Horton

    Women and the Making of the Modern House by Alice T. Friedman

    This is a report of the discussion at the OWA Book Circle meeting on November 10, 2011, at Wendy Bertrand’s house. The book we discussed is Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History by Alice T. Friedman, 1998, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.

    The discussion of this fascinating book began with an observation about the cover design of the book. The jacket of the hard cover book was based on a photo of the glass house by Mies van der Rohe for Edith Farnsworth and features soft, pale colors on the house contrasted by a reddish-brown tree. The paperback edition shows a frontal night photo of the house with a glowing golden interior and purple color of the minimalist structure in front of a dark blue background and is much more vibrant and appealing. This comparison made it clear how important the cover design of a book is.

    All present members of the book circle were enthusiastic about this book as it presents an unusual perspective of architecture, the relationship between architect and client, and in this case famous architects and their often wealthy, independent female clients. Alice Friedman, a Professor of Art History at Wellesley, selected six famous houses by notable architects for her investigation of the interaction of architects with women clients and how their collaboration influenced not only a particular house but also architectural history. These houses in the order presented are the

  • Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, California, for Aline Barnsdall by Frank Lloyd Wright (1915-23),

  • Schroeder House for Truus Schroeder and her children in Utrecht, Holland, by Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schroeder (1923-24),

  • Villa Stein-de Monzie for Gabrielle de Monzie and her well known friends Sarah and Michael Stein and their son, in Garches, France, by Le Corbusier (1926-28),

  • Farnsworth House for Edith Farnsworth in Plano. Illinois, by Mies Van Der Rohe (1945-51),

  • Perkins House for Constance Perkins in Pasadena, California, by Richard Neutra (1952-55),

  • Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, by her son, Robert Venturi (1961-64).

    In the Conclusion, two contemporary houses are presented, the Bergren House in Venice, California, by Morphosis (1985) and the Draeger House in Berkeley, California, by Franklin D. Israel (1994).

    The author states in her introduction that houses commissioned by women seem to be among the best work of the architects, probably because the programming deviated from the standard program and the clients were in most cases deeply involved in the design process. Our discussion focused on the relationship of architect to client and how the clients have influenced the buildings, how architecture is experienced, how the programming is different and responds to the way a few unique women wanted to live. Of course, the programming was developed together by the client and her architect and responded to the circumstances of each woman, most of them pursuing a house for a nontraditional household. While for example Aline Barnsdall wanted a representative house as part of larger arts/theater complex in a public park on top of Olive Hill in Hollywood to be designed by a famous architect, Truus Schroeder sought a modern architectural expression for her progressive ideas about women and family life and how she could live closely together with her three children and also include the architect who was her friend and lover.

    Members of the group also expressed their own experience for example how, as a child in a household of artists, he did not have a conventional living room but the space was the art studio of the father. Generally, it is not possible to buy “raw” space (except in lofts) but houses and apartments are designed to respond to what clients supposedly want and the clients have to buy or rent what the developers offer, a vicious circle.

    The daring clients, even with different budgets, were seeking to create their homes that reflected their customized mode of living. In choosing to build a house for themselves and their household they expressed the importance of their position as independent women seeking domestic environments created specifically for themselves. Members of our book circle hope that the book will encourage readers to also pursue their own needs or wishes as one of us was inspired to change the program of her house and use of rooms to accommodate her artistic endeavors. It is not always necessary to dedicate the largest room in the house as the “living” room and one could instead create an artist studio in the space.

    The case of the collaboration of Elizabeth Farnsworth, a doctor, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is an example of how the architect was not mainly interested in his client’s needs but saw the commission as an opportunity to realize his own ambitions in designing a house based on his perfection of a glass house without solid walls. Farnsworth, although she spent a lot of time in the architectural office, may not have understood the implications of living in a minimalist glass house during the design phase. The cost overruns of the Farnsworth house resulted in a long legal battle and also public discussion in the press and even is mentioned in Mies’ memoirs. Although she did not fire the famous architect despite delays and higher than anticipated costs and ended up enduring a life without privacy in the glass house for about twenty years she finally sold it to a Mies van der Rohe fan and moved to Italy.

    More positive relationships between client and architect are documented in other case studies. Especially positive was the relationship between Constance Perkins, a professor of art, and her architect friend Richard Neutra in Pasadena, California. They respected each other and Neutra accepted the suggestions of Perkins who was involved in all phases of creating the house and had some strong ideas of how she wanted to live. One detail she wanted was to have her drafting table near to her bed in the main room. They remained friends long after the delightful house was completed.

    We also discussed the furniture of the houses and how some of the clients, as for example the owners of the Villa Stein-de Monzie, insisted on bringing their own antique furniture into the modern house as a connection to their past in spite of their architects’ desire for modern furniture. While the ultra-modern Schroeder house included movable interior wall elements which allowed rearrangement of spaces and rooms outfitted with furniture designed by Rietveld, who started out as a furniture designer and maker. And the Farnsworth house by Mies had of course furniture designed by Mies to be part of his total design concept.
    Another topic we discussed was how we use our houses or apartments and what the house is about. How can we as architects help women to create more suitable housing in a time when, in general, architects are not playing a role in the housing market and developers are in charge as they take the risk and also the profit.

    In the Conclusions, Alice Friedman states that the lives of women have changed since the women’s movement of the 1970s and that women now have more options in choosing a different life style. She also analyses the reduction in household income and the inability of many middle- class families and especially women heads of households to afford their own home or an architect-designed home. Although Friedman mentions “group housing” and “co-housing” in her conclusions she did not analyze these or other forms of unconventional housing any further. Instead she added the discussion of two more houses to illustrate new building programs, a remodel and expansion of a house with sufficiently large rooms for the children and a house focusing on one single mother’s way to keep an eye on the coming and going of her children from her office space rather than from the traditional lookout – the kitchen.

    Although this book offers much to think about, it did miss the opportunity to explore the relationship between a woman architect and her client.
    Women and the Making of the Modern House is highly recommended not only because it is well written and provocative and includes interesting photos, but also because one learns about many levels of the architectural profession, both for a professional or for a reader interested in houses, architectural history, or modern architecture as it relates to women.

    The book is available to be borrowed from the OWA Book Circle by contacting Wendy Bertrand.

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