Newsletter | May/Jun 2022

Editor's note

by Mui Ho

We are continuing our thoughts on 'inspiration', the theme for our September retreat. I am happy that many old members have contributed articles on this subject. I get to know some members better by reading their pieces on inspiration. Even though we are a small organization, we do not always get to know each other well.

On the same note, we thank Suzan Swarbacker, a 30-year plus OWA member, who has come on board our present Steering Committee and has collected biographies of other new Steering Committee members for our newsletter.

What has inspired us recently?

by Jiane Du

As an architect and designer, how many times have we heard from others and within the profession, that we are not relevant, buildings can be built by builders and real estate developers who have the economic resources, therefore control our built environment. This kind of statements have always made me furious and frustrated me until I learned about Sarah Williams Goldhagen’s book “Welcome to Your World : How the Built Environment Shapes our Lives” from her talk at an AIA convention. In Sarah’s book, she reminded us as architects and designers, that how we design and build, profoundly shape our feelings, memories, and well-being, and argues that we must take advantage of this knowledge to construct better places that we live, work and play in every day.

Think of how listening to a piece of music can change your mood or a book can transform you to a different world and atmosphere, or a good film permeates our lives with story lines and dramas. Each of these arts affects us in ways that are powerful and real, but each does so only when we actively engage it, for a short time on a given day. On the other hand, our relationship to the built environment differs from that of any other art form. The place we inhabit affects us all the time and how we feel, whether we choose to pay attention to it or not. What is more, the built environment shapes our lives and the choices we make in all the ways that other arts do and combined. The architecture we inhabit affects our moods and emotions every day. Good design with thoughtfully composed ordering systems, sensuously active materials and textures, deliberately constructed spaces, create coherent places that have a powerfully positive effect on all of us.

Taking an illuminating journey around the globe and into the brain, Sarah’s book reveals that the built environment and its design matter far more than anybody, even architects, ever thought they did. Using cutting-edge research in cognitive neuroscience and environmental psychology, she articulates the ways in which a room, a building or a public plaza affects us, and details our reactions to form, pattern, light, color, sound, texture and more.

It has been a long time since I have been inspired and read an architecture book from preface to finish. We, as designers know that design matters. But many of us find ourselves stumped when make the case for why design matter, and matters crucially to people’s lives. Whether your client is a school district superintendent, a store shop owner, a real estate developer, a city’s development agent or an owner of a house, “Welcome to Your World…” formulates some tools for us to articulate why a well-designed place matters and how it affects our well-being. It also reminds us of why we chose this profession and how we can make a difference in shaping of our built environment.

Inspiration 2022

by Ann Wright

I am currently going through a transition in lifestyle from working to being retired. From self support by work to support by pensions, annuities and other savings. It is a time of reassessing values, motivation, health, comfort, enjoyment, possessions, habits and dreams. I am spending a sabbatical year seeking to reduce stress, to developing better health habits, to clean out both physically and mentally, unused, non-functional and unnecessary accumulated life detritus. I am searching for renewed life purpose and meaning through exploration, recreation and evaluation.

Ann has also been making quilts. After her retirement, she will be spending more time on her quilts and other sewings.

What Inspires Me

by Betty Woo

What inspires me? A seemingly simple question because creative inspiration comes from everywhere. I discover a novel taste combination and create a new dish. An interesting rock formation results in a new vignette in my garden. But one inspiration has affected the trajectory of my life.

Dorothy Louie Lee was the mother of eleven children of which I was number nine. Mama worked incredibly hard caring for her children and extended family, all the while working at the businesses that she and my dad serially owned; a hotel, grocery store, restaurants, a liquor store and later, her own home-based seamstress business.

In those days, there were no strict Building Codes so whatever Mama dreamed up, she simply went ahead and did. As a new baby arrived every couple of years, she hammered out more bunkbeds. When there was no room for more bunkbeds, she bought lumber and had some transients help her erect a large room addition to the back of the house. My aunt Mae recalled lying in bed, able to see sunlight through the wall boards. My mom was no architect, but she was fearless. The room was not much more than a shack. For heating the house, she dug a basement for a gas heater with a grate on the main floor. (My sister Judy had burn scars on her leg for years, after falling on the grate.) It was a good thing we had a big yard, because Mama continued to add on various rooms over the years.

Later, we moved from Tracy to a large elegant Spanish style mansion in Stockton. My mother continued making alterations to the big house, removing the butler’s pantry and making the kitchen more usable among other things. When I asked why a change, she would explain the reason. I sometimes credit that house as one of the reasons I became interested in architecture.

Mama was a true artist, an amateur photographer (I still have her darkroom equipment), gourmet cook, landscape and floral designer and a fashion designer. She created entire trousseaus and fashions for clients. (She designed, embroidered and beaded my sister’s wedding gown ensemble.)

She taught me that nothing is impossible and that when you know that you have to, you can do anything.

Meet one of our new SC member - Nazila Duran

Nazila Duran – knew that she wanted to be an architect since high school. She completed a Bachelor of Architecture from SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. She went to work for the famous Canadian architect Arthur Erickson but soon moved to Japan where she lived and worked with Arata Isozaki for over 7 years on world-famous award-winning projects.

Upon her return to the US, she chose to live in New York where she was a senior designer with KPF and SOM. She had the opportunity to work on great landmark projects such as corporate high rises and interiors, historic preservation, and National Parks projects, including the Hamilton Grange.

However, she soon encountered the glass ceiling. It seemed impossible to be on a partnership track as a woman, let alone as a design partner in those firms. That seems to still be the case today, 15 years after leaving SOM even with the pressure of diversity [from the general public].

Nazila became more and more involved with design and management of transportation and aviation projects. She enjoys the complexity of airports. For the last 10 years she has been a program director and owner representative at major airports such as LAX, Houston, SFO, managing expansions and modernizations, starting with the selection of architects and engineers as well the contractor teams, followed by managing the design and construction of the programs. SFO Terminal 1, Harvey Milk Terminal, is her latest project that just opened.

Baskets by Mui Ho

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