The Fire Devastation Continues

Our Hearts go out to those in Southern California

It is Friday Morning December the 8th, 2017.  The fires in Northern California are now 2 months old.  Our community has been recovering strong with an amazing amount of volunteers, new organizations, many fundraising benefits, and an impressive amount of clean up completed.  As Architects, we have essentially had our boots on the ground advising those who have suffered loss, exploring individual moments of devastation, and coming to terms with the ways in which we can offer our expertise in a capacity that is effective and affordable.

With the burst of fires in Southern California, the on-going disasters are now moving toward our Southern California studio in Sand Diego.  Our hearts go out to those that now face the fight that we are just now coning to terms with in Northern California.  Asquared Studios would like to let everyone know that we encourage you to use as a resource as much as possible in navigating the difficult process that comes next.

Please look back through our journal posts over the last two months to find the information that we offered with regards to fire recovery.  Also feel free to reach out to us to simply ask questions.  We are here FOR YOU!

With Love – Tony, Jessie, Capri, and Kola.

Rammed Earth Construction Begins

The First Rammed Earth Wall Gets Rammed!

Thursday marked a big moment for us at Asquared Studios.  Our Partner Jessie Whitesides, first read “The Rammed Earth House”, by David Easton, in 1997.  Now, 20 years later she has seen her admiration of his expertise in earth building come to life as a significant part of one of our current projects.  This single family home in the hills of Sonoma is now well under construction.  In our previous post related to this project we explained the complexity of the “simple box” plan for this single family residence.  Now, a significant amount of the structural steel has been installed and the largest rammed earth wall has been rammed.  As with most minimalist design elements, the simplicity of the finished rammed earth product requires a great deal of complex coordination and preparation to come to life.  To give you an idea of the complexity of what we have created here, we finalized our construction drawings about 1 year ago this month, and since then we have been coordinating the intricacies of connecting the rammed earth walls to perpendicular concrete walls, burying steel columns in the wall to support a floating roof, and installing plate steel door and window surrounds into the rammed earth formwork.  So, when Rammed Earth Works (David Easton’s Construciton team) began filling the walls with our custom mix design on Thursday morning we reveled in the excitement.  Rammed Earthworks has developed an efficient method for filling the walls with stabilized earth materials and ramming the material to a specified compaction.  We are impressed by the dedication of his team, and we anxiously await the removal of the formwork in the coming week.  For now we are excited to share a few process photos and videos with you through the links provided below.

 

      

Rammed Earth Delivery System

The Ramming Process Inside the Wall

DEBRIS REMOVAL DEADLINE IS TODAY

Today is the deadline to OPT-IN to have the Government clean up your property

We are 5 weeks from the start of the devastating Northbay wildfire and the deadline for opting in to have the Army Corps of Engineers conduct lean up services on private properties is here.  In most cases we have recommended to the people who have contacted us for help to OPT-IN for this service.  The reason for this is that the Architectural Design process will take longer than the clean up process.  It is our understanding that the clean up process is due to be complete by February 2018.

We have spent much of the last 5 weeks educating those who have lost their homes about the Architectural Design Process.  Complete Architectural Professional Services includes several design and documentation phases of work prior to the time that a permit submittal can be made.  Depending on the size of the residence or structure defined in the scope of work for any given project, the design process can very anywhere from 6 to 12 months.  With February just 3 short months away, we believe that allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to clean up your site as part of their established process will not affect the design and permitting schedule for a new residence, and will allow for the most efficient and effective process for having your site cleared of debris.

In contrast, people who choose the OPT-OUT option will have a good deal of additional coordination to manage to complete the process.  The first order of business will be to hire a General Contractor who can coordinate site analysis, inspections, demolition and clean-up, and final testing.  The first order of business is to get the initial site analysis scheduled and completed.  Next, a private inspection company must be hired to perform initial site testing.  The initial testing has been noted to range between $500 to $1,000.  Basically the inspector will remove 3 to five sample bags of soil and send them out for testing.  Once the initial testing is complete a demolition company can remove the debris from your site. The results of the initial testing will then be attached to the demolition debris so that the landfill knows what is coming into their facility.  The closest landfill will be in Vacaville, which will have significant transportation costs.  Finally, following the completion of the demolition, the original testing company must come back and test the soils again.  Of course the cost of the private clean up process will vary depending on each individual site, we understand the range of costs will start at $25,000.00.

The consideration of choosing to OPT-IN may depend on several items: 1. Individual insurance policy limits for demolition,  2. Whether your site is isolated or within a large area of impacted homes  3. The intent to leave or remove the foundation (see MKM ZFA document attached) 4. Timeliness of Army Corps demolition  5. Your trust in private verse public services.  We have also attached a 3 page PDF from Sonoma County describing wildfire debris management.

With the rains upon us this morning, we would also like to extend a warning to be careful if you and your property are on a hillside or in a sloping area.  The rains are going to create dangerous conditions as most of the vegetation, trees, and underground infrastructure that help to hold soils in place have been annihilated and/or damaged to point at which they will not stabilize the soils.  We understand the large sinkholes have already developed in areas of Fountain Grove.  We urge you to act wisely and stay safe!

Sonoma County Wildfire Debris Management

Structural Foundation Recommendations

Northbay Fires Day 19

Extent of Fire devastation begins to become evident

 

Asquared Studios comes to the end of the third week of the Northbay Fires with a new perspective.  This morning, the news has described the Tubbs and Nuns fires to be 4 days from complete containment.  Firefighters must continue to check fire lines and search for hot spots.  For many, this work seems to be happening in the background this week.  The skies have cleared and we have had a week full of oddly hot days, people returning to work, and wineries working hard to finalize the harvest season.  Our partner, Jessie Whitesides, is no exception in getting back to work in an effort to establish a small bit of normalcy.  Getting back to work included traveling to our current job sites for the first time since the fires began.  She inspected sites in Glen Ellen, Sonoma, and Yountville, and has been left with the overwhelming feeling of WOW!  There is a new shape to our beloved and distinct landscapes; new views have opened up, the colors of the hillsides have changed, and the remnants of beloved structures and lives remain in piles of ash amongst a selection of relics that stand like skeletons awaiting their opportunity to impose fright to the rituals of the upcoming Halloween festivities.

It is difficult not to become a rubbernecker … not out of interest in determining what happened, but out to of true amazement at the awesome destruction that ravaged our counties just 2 weeks ago. The site of firefighters, the forest service, utility companies, and tree trimmers are everywhere. Traveling on some of our most rural roads reveal entirely new views over our valleys and a dramatic sense of how quickly the fire moved across the ground surfaces.  Guardrails are twisted and fence lines are incomplete, both with wood posts burnt from the ground up with the tops of posts still attached to their horizontal barriers.  Even with all of this there seems to be a strong under current of community remaining strong and coming together to clean this mess up and move on with our fortunate lives.  At Asquared Studios we applaud this, and we will do everything possible to offer our expertise to these efforts.

Asquared Studios expected this event to affect our business.  The affect is just now becoming evident in the shear volume of calls we have received in a short number of days.  Anyone who has worked with us in the past knows that our primary mission is to provide a high level of professional services to our clients with a unique Principal Led Delivery System.  What this means to our clients is that each and every one of our projects receives the personal attention of a studio principal throughout the entirety of each project (see our “for you” section of our website for additional information). We are committed to offering this same level of service while working though this rebuilding period.  Our partners, Tony Garcia and Jessie Whitesides are currently developing a strategy that will allow us to service each and every one of you that have been recommended to us through our beloved network of clients and friends, because together #WEBUILDWINECOUNTRY!

      

DISASTER RELIEF : WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO TAKE?

Asquared Studios provides information for working through your recovery after a disaster

 

We are now half way through day 14 of the wildfires that have ravaged the Northbay.  In the last 14 days Tony and I have been discussing my volunteer experiences at the Local Assistance Center to determine if there is a way for us to be of more help to those in need.  We recognize that there is simply A LOT of information to digest for those who are suffering total loss and for those who are faced with the monumental task of assessing damage to structures that survived the fires.  This damage will likely stretch far beyond the visible aspects of flame and heat damage, most notably extending into architectural finishes, wall cavities, and ceiling cavities that are filled with all forms of insulation. As a result of our conversations we have assembled a simple outline or guideline that you may find useful in determining a process for recovery after a disaster.  The link provided below will take you to the PDF of this outline.

We urge you to be cautious when returning home!

Disaster Relief : Insurance Recovery

 

Northbay Fires Day 11

Asquared survives the fires and volunteers to aid in relief

 

We are now on day 11 of the largest wildfire in California history.  As of today, many of the fires are contained to a high percentage allowing many to return to their evacuated neighborhoods.  Over the last 11 days many of the residents of the Northbay have had no choice but to operate their lives simply one hour at a time.  The same has held true for Asquared Studios Santa Rosa. Jessie has been spending her days volunteering at designated relief centers, checking on safety, and caring for and hosting displaced families.

In addition, Jessie has been volunteering at the LAC (Local Assistance Center) in Santa Rosa, which is a remarkable assembly of community services brought together in one common location so that the victims of the fire have a “one stop shopping” center to re-build their lives.  There people are able to replace birth certificates, drivers licenses, marriage licenses, tax paperwork, and talk to professionals from city and county services and utilities.  Trader Joe’s has donated shopping bags to help people keep track of all of the documents they will now carry around with them until they can restore some normalcy to their lives. Sitting in as a Santa Rosa Architect offering advice to those who have lost their homes, Jessie has answered questions about the cost of re-building, the process of working with an architect, how to interact with the city and county agencies, and has generally provided a shoulder to lean on for those who have never been through the building process before. As Architects the education we provide to the general public and our own clients alike is one off the greatest contributions that we can make to our community. Please, if you know someone who is in need of re-assembling their life and home, send them to the LAC, located at the Press Democrat Building on Mendocino Avenue.

We have also been involved in discussions with our local chapter of the AIA known as the AIARE. Please know that our professional organization is working diligently to be a strong advocate for our communities to guide the re-building process and offer professional advice to those in need.  Several members have been involved in fire destruction recovery in the recent past, so we are able to learn from those experiences and provide better and more accurate information relative to the current needs.  All of us will be working with both the city of Santa Rosa Economic Development Department, the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department, and the Napa County Building Division to understand what expedited services they will be providing for all of our planning and building permitting needs.

A new map describing the devastation to structures themselves has been released.  To grasp the magnitude of destruction that we will be dealing with please feel free to click the link provided below.

Map of Destroyed and Damaged Structures

WEBUILDWINECOUNTRY

Asquared is spreading the word: #webuildwinecountry

As most of the world now knows, we are on day 8 of the most devastating fire event in California history.  The past week has been filled with housing refugees, sorting out volunteer efforts, trying to stay happy and healthy, and mobilizing professionals whose expertise is going to be needed in our communities now more than ever.  We have even been in contact with some fire fighters to know that they are working their asses off, suffering outrageous cases of poison oak and 14 hours days, then returning to the fairgrounds for a warm meal and to sleep in tents on the ground before heading out again in the morning.  Our hearts and hugs go out to all +/- 11,000 of them.

We feel fortunate to know that we have lost only one of the buildings we have completed over the last 20 years.  Unfortunately that building was an historic renovation and was full of museum memorabilia that can not be replaced.  Our loss and the loss of so many others is going to take years to re-build.

Asquared Studios is working hard to bring together a collaborative of professionals who area abel to offer relief to the victims of the devastating fires that still rage through Sonoma and Napa Counties. We have a lot of ideas floating around and we are working on outreach to bring the ideas and people together. If you are interested in staying in touch as to what can be done to help be sure to check back with our journal. I will try to keep my activities posted here. We are building a web site for “webuildwinecountry” so that we can distribute information efficiently and effectively. #webuildwinecountry was established to identify with the greater sense of community in our area. we don’t just want to “re-build” we want the community to come together so that “we-build” our community effectively.

We recognize that the devastation has reached way past the wine industry and that our area has much more to identify with than “Wine Country”, so our commitment will not stop there, but will encompass all in the Northbay. The Northbay is a melting pot of Artists, Professionals, Cyclists, Farmers, Artisans, Foodies, Philosophers, and much much more. Please join us in our efforts – we welcome your expertise and knowledge.

We share just a few images that express the amazing community effort that is building to care for…..well….everyone!

Cheers – Asquared Studios

Jessie Whitesides + Tony Garcia

 

Asquared Studios Builds with Rammed Earth

Asquared is excited to be building a new residence using Rammed Earth

 

Asquared Studios has an exciting new project under construction on a uniques site with a unique mix of materials.  When we began work on this residence we described the design to the owner as “a simple box”.  As anyone in the profession of Architecture knows, using the term “simple” is a dangerous proposition, as the creation of a “simple box” requires the coordination of a complex set of details to remain true to the architectural intent.  The term “simple box” has now become a running joke between us and the owner of this unique new residence, as the material selections of Rammed Earth, Corten, and large expanses of glass have come together to create one of the most complex set of drawings and details that we have ever developed.  The challenge has been inspiring, and now, as construction is underway and the foundation expresses the true form of the “simple box”, and we are beginning to witness the form of our efforts.

We selected Annadel Builders as the general contractor for this project.  Their team has proven to be professional and extremely detail oriented.  The foundation was painstakingly formed with 2×6 board form foundation walls and literally hundreds of anchor bolts that will tie the foundation to the floor, the rammed earth walls, and the steel structure that allows for the large expanses of glass and and floating roof lines.

The rammed earth walls will be the first to be erected, and we are looking forward to working with David Easton and his incredible team at Rammed Earthworks.

We will be following this project through construction in our Journal, so please come check it out again!

Cheers – Jessie Whitesides

Asquared Studios Gets Involved with the Community

Asquared is the Architectural Consultant for the Roseland Village Re-Development Team

 

Asquared Studios Partners Tony Garcia and Jessie Whitesides are proud to be members of the new Roseland Village project in Santa Rosa.  Selected to be the Architectural Consultants in collaboration with Kellogg and Associates, Asquared is excited to be a part of new mixed use re-development project in the heart of the Roseland area of Santa Rosa.  The project is to include a public Plaza, Mercado, Joe Rodota Trail improvements and affordable and market rate housing.

On Wednesday night we participated in the well attended community design workshop at Roseland Community Center.  It was an inspiring evening and a great opportunity to meet the residents that this project will benefit.  We found the evening to be a huge design success!  Kevin Kellogg hosted the evening with MidPen Housing and the Sonoma County CDC with the goal of having the residents get involved with the project design features.  This workshop structure allowed each resident to have a voice in the vision for the features of the outdoor plaza, site circulation, and landscape masterplan.  Each design team member conducted 3 exercises with smaller groups of residents; the exercises included mapping out the current circulation patterns around and through the site, recognizing the current features and destinations in the area as well as defining future destinations they would like to see, and inspirational image recognition and story telling.  The community was overwhelmingly engaged, and the story telling component provided the design team with invaluable feedback for the spirit of the anticipated design and masterplan.

The next community design workshop is scheduled for October.  In the upcoming workshop the development team will be presenting 3 design options for the masterplan that account for all of the information and inspiration gathered from the first workshop.  The residents will have the opportunity to offer comments on each design, helping the design team to develop the final masterplan direction.  We look forward to seeing the Roseland Residents in October!

jessie-roseland-workshop tony-roseland-workshop

Asquared Studios Collaborates with The Professional Music World

Designing a MDI Foot Controller
For a Professional Musician

 

One of the things we find so interesting about our profession is that the expertise we have gained over the years to have a critical eye and an exceptional aptitude for attention to detail, can be applied to the “design” of many things outside of the architectural realm.

A couple of months ago my brother Jody Whitesides, approached me to help him realize a vision he developed for a much needed, compact, complete, and technology driven MDI foot controller.  As a professional musician he recognized that the industry was missing a vital piece of integrated equipment that would make the show playing life of a musician much easier.  He had a desire to create it.

When he first reached out to me he described his vision and the research he had completed for manufacturing, expenses, and his expectation for performance.  Knowing very little about the music industry I could offer nothing about the effectiveness about his ideas, but I could lend my expertise to the process of material selection, design, and assembly as well as the development of the shop drawing information for the successful manufacturing of the equipment.  Over the course of a couple of weeks he assembled the precise measurements and information that I requested from him, until finally we were at the point I could give life to his ideas.  For hours we would screen share while he watched me draw his foot pedal.  I completed the plan, sections, and elevations while he decided on a identity and a logo.  The result of our collaboration: “HIVE”

HIVE is an all in one MDI foot controller now used by Jody at his live performances.  It incorporates traditional foot pedals, device switches and buttons, and adds a USB hub and connections, as well as powers a high definition screen set to mirror his computer, to provide live visual feedback, allowing masterful control of the sound coming from his guitars.  We are proud to present the video below of HIVE!  Our first collaboration between Architecture and Music.

HIVE

Tesla and Tasting

Asquared Studios and Mending Wall Winery Install Tesla Charging Station
Napa County
August, 2015

 

As Architects we are faced with the challenges of meeting all sorts of local and federal codes and regulations while solving the design problems that our clients approach us with in each and every project.  In recent years the number of challenges we face has increased exponentially with the requirements of “green” or “sustainable” design movements.  In California we have incorporated a Green Building Code into our standard level of practice, and at Asquared Studios, we have found that with the growing pains for accepting what these means to design solutions waining, the silver linings are rising.  A whole new world of research, materials, and technology has opened up.  For example, we have been provided the opportunity to become more aware of the trends in the automobile industry to provide alternate fuel vehicles to the market.  One of the largest influences on the industry is Tesla Motors.  With their technology reaching into the future, the accessories and services they offer inspire attractive solutions to the requirements we now face in the design of preferred parking and charging areas at commercial + public building designs.

At our recently completed design for the Mending Wall Winery, we feel proud to have had the opportunity to be introduced to the charging units and services that Tesla provides it’s customers.  The owners of Mending Wall had the foresight to not only move forward with the installation of the now required electric vehicle charging stations in the visitor parking area, but to make one of these stations the modern and attractive Tesla specific charging station.  Now, Tesla driving visitors can find their way to the Mending Wall Winery and enjoy an exceptional tasting experience and all the while charging their vehicle.  See the Tesla website for all available Tesla specific charging stations.

Tesla Motors – Mending Wall Winery

Living Pictures With Lytro Illum

Asquared Studios Explores Living Pictures with Lytro
Sonoma County
June, 2015

 

A couple of months ago Jessie Whitesides, my partner and Architect, shared a discovery with me about a camera and technology that was new to us. She called with excitement to tell me about a product by the name of LYTRO, exclaiming, “can you image being able to change the focal point after the picture is taken?”. Of course the promise of this sounded great. Because we make every effort to take all of our project photos ourselves, we wondered if this technology might have benefit to manipulate our photos in post production to focus exactly on the features we want to highlight.  We did not necessarily make moves to explore the camera immediately, but on my recent trip to Santa Rosa we decided to give it a try as we were looking to capture new project images.

We headed to Shutterbug Camera and became the first to rent their LYTRO.  The technology is so new that no one in the store was able to give us any advice, in fact they asked us to provide feedback to them when we returned the camera.  The learning curve with this technology is both fast and slow. We spent about an hour watching tutorials on the Lytro website, and began to get a sense of what a LIVING PICTURE is. From there we jumped in head first and started shooting our recently completed project “Richards Grove Pavilion”.  We quickly came to realize that the camera itself does not necessarily function for us the way we anticipated, and may not be the best tool to shoot overall architectural images. The camera does however, allow you to bring the finer details to life; just like as their tagline states, this is an amazing camera to capture people (and the details of those people). They refer to their images as ‘Living Pictures’.

By harnessing the entire light field, the  LYTRO ILLUM, allows you to explore focus, perspective, and depth of field within a single image in post production.

We took the camera to our recently opened winery project, Mending Wall Winery. There we were able to capture a few detail shots. The images with people as part of the context have more impact but we also managed to capture a couple of building angles that worked well. The camera software is intuitive and easy to use and it allows you to export their native file type either as a movie file or a jpeg (picture file).

As Jessie and I considered the possibilities, we imagined that if this technology could be applied to cell phone technology, people would love it. We may not run out and purchase our own LYTRO but we will certainly rent it again when needed. Take a look at some of the images and movies we captured here. You may just be inspired to tap into your inner artist and go capture a few “Living Images” of your own.

Cheers – Tony Garcia, AIA, Architect

Living Bike Rack

Living Wine Sip

Living Bar Detail

 

10 Amazing Years!

Dear Friends, Clients, and Colleagues,

The day has finally come, Asquared Studios has reached a milestone and we wanted to extend a hearty thank you! It is with great pleasure that we announce our 10th anniversary! Ten years of hard work, sincere referrals, repeat clients, and most importantly long lasting friendships. We appreciate all of the time and resources that each of you have brought to us to help us get to where we are today. Thank you for trusting us with your dreams.  This trust has not only allowed us to amass an amazing portfolio of work, but has attributed to the strengthening of the bond and professional respect that the managing partners have with each other.

Asquared Studios was imagined in 2004 by Jessie Whitesides, Tony Garcia, and Vince Stroop.  We were sitting on the floor around a coffee table, re-united for a significant birthday celebration, sharing the trials and tribulations that each of us were facing with our current employments. For hours we sat reminiscing about the years gone by since we graduated from Architecture school and the fond memories of pushing our instructors to allow us to work on design projects as a team.  We knew right then what was about to happen.  We sketched out our logo and talked about the concept of performing “Architecture Anywhere” – meaning we knew the three of us would never be living in the same region.  This quickly evolved into the original  A2The concept for our studio was fine tuned over the next coupe of months, and one by one we left our current jobs and entered full force into our dream, where we sought to create all things “Architecture + Art”.

10 years later we remain proud of our achievements.  We are still the best of friends, still professional partners, and we are still each pursuing our desired lifestyles in the regions we choose to live.  With three active studios in San Diego, California, Santa Rosa, California, and New York, New York, we have gained a wealth of knowledge and have our minds on the pulse of all things design related.

As we approach the mid-year of 2015 we find that we successfully weathered the economic downturn and make significant note that 2014 ended as one of our best yet; As of June 2015 we will have completed construction on 2 new wine making facilities, 1 contemporary hospitality pavilion, a private wine cellar, the reconstruction of an historic train stop,  2 residential remodels, and 4 schematic design packages for new construction projects, all within the span of 18 months.  In all of this excitement, we also felt it was time to create a new image for studio and the future achievements to come.

Now, we welcome you to explore our projects, our studio, our services, and most importantly the things that we can do “for you”!  Without you or success means nothing to us.  We look forward to the next 10 years and the relationships we will form along the way.  Once again…thank you!

Cheers –

Jessie Whitesides, Architect

Tony Garcia, Architect

Vince Stroop, Architect