Posts Tagged ‘Palo Alto’

Reading The Land

October 7, 2013

This article was first published in The Jerusalem Report.

Karoo Wilderness Center, Karoo, South Africa. (Courtesy of Field Architecture)

Karoo Wilderness Center, Karoo, South Africa. (Courtesy of Field Architecture)

Stan Field looks back on his long career in architecture and sees a single line extending from one end of the world to another. This line has followed the natu ral landscapes of three countries on three different continents, all of which played home to Field at one point in his life. It has traversed his native South Africa’s vast wilderness, Israel’s ancient wadis and terraced hills, and, in the last two decades, Northern California’s lush vineyards and giant Redwood forests.

All architects know how to read blueprints and plans, but Field has a unique ability to read the land. The natural terrain, the “groundscape” as he calls it, inspires his designs. Field doesn’t impose buildings on a piece of land. Instead, he spends a long time getting to know the land, and he allows it to inform him what kind of structure belongs there.

“I design architecture that belongs to the place and the time,” he says. “We’re dealing with a holistic approach. Sustainability is at the heart of it. Everything is connected… Climate and comfort, energy, water, air, wind and geology — all of these things are the forces that shape architecture and environment. I’m really talking environments rather than specific buildings or structures.”

Father and son team: Jess and Stan Field (Courtesy of Field Architecture)

Father and son team: Jess and Stan Field (Courtesy of Field Architecture)

Field always takes the same approach, no matter what the scale or location. It could be a private home on the African veld, an urban planning scheme to unite East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem following the Six Day War, or a community center in a poor South African township. It could also be a posh winery north of San Francisco, an automobile factory in Hawaii, or a new synagogue building he is currently designing for a Conservative congregation situated just three miles from his office in Palo Alto, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.

On a sunny August morning, Field hosts The Jerusalem Report in his office on the mezzanine floor of a building that also houses the cheerfully decorated headquarters of a children’s book publishing company. He flips through the pages of personal sketchbooks and architecture books with his designs dating back to the early 1980s, when he was chief architect of Jerusalem. Many of the images depict the surrounding terrain, and, amazingly, the structures in them do appear as though they have been almost pulled out of the ground.

It is clear from Field’s passionate manner that he has no intention of slowing down. However, at age 69, he seems to be pausing to take stock of what he has accomplished. His retrospection might have something to do with his selection as the 2012 Sophia Gray Laureate, an annual honor bestowed in recognition of a South African architect’s contributions to society.

“It’s the South African version of the Pritzker,” says Field, referring to the annual Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture.

It might also be related to the fact that several years ago, he took on a full partner for the first time ever. That partner is his 37-year-old son, Jess, who, with his cutting edge technical and digital skills, is positioning Field Architecture for the future, while keeping it firmly rooted in his father’s unique vision.

The rest of this article appears in the October 21, 2013 issue of The Jerusalem Report magazine. There is no online version available at this time. A pdf copy is available upon request.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

An Architect Whose Partner Is Nature

September 5, 2013

This interview was first published in JWeekly.

Stan_portrait-01

Stan Field

Name: Stan Field
Age: 69
City: Palo Alto
Position: Principal, Field Architecture

J.: Sustainable architecture — that’s what you’re known for. What is that?

Stan Field: A holistic approach. Everything is connected. Climate, energy, water, air, wind and geology — all of these things are the forces that shape architecture and environment. I’m really talking about environments rather than specific buildings or structures. It’s more about shaping the environment that belongs to a bigger ecosystem and ecology.

J.: You were the chief architect of Jerusalem in the early 1980s, and later had your own firm there. And you’re a native of South Africa. So why did you relocate to Silicon Valley in 1990?

SF: America is a highly technological place. I wanted to be at the cutting of this new revolution that was unfolding. But to my amazement, Palo Alto was backward when it came to architecture, as compared to technology, where it was at the forefront. But it was almost as if it didn’t matter. People were in their garages discovering things … so the built environment was secondary. But it’s catching up now. I arrived here 23 years ago, and I like to feel that I’ve actually contributed to this awakening.

J.: You’re involved in some design projects in the Bay Area Jewish community?

SF: Yes, we have two synagogue projects here in Palo Alto — Chabad (of Greater South Bay) and Kol Emeth. We are now entering the design phase for Kol Emeth, and it’s very exciting. We’re proposing using rammed earth construction (a building technique that involves making walls by compressing a damp earth mixture of clay, gravel and sand into a mold). It’s an ancient technology that people have been using recently as a way of building sustainably, economically and responsibly. We’re using an ancient technique with new insight.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Go West, Young Techies

June 13, 2013

This article was originally published as the cover story of the June 14, 2013 issue of JWeekly.

1_coverA dozen and a half young Israelis in their 20s and 30s live together in a big house in Menlo Park. They go grocery shopping and cook dinner together. The bathrooms are shared. This might sound like a bunch of college students trying to save on rent, or the cast of a new season of the “Big Brother” reality TV show. But it’s neither.

These young people are some of Israel’s top young entrepreneurs, and they are in Silicon Valley to take part in a program run by UpWest Labs.

Begun in January 2012 by a group of seasoned Israeli-American high-tech leaders, UpWest Labs is an accelerator that brings teams from early-stage Israeli startups to Palo Alto for an intensive, three-month experience meant to expose them to the U.S. market and help them move their companies to the next level.

“It’s about accelerating the time to market for these companies’ products, and about leveling the playing field for Israeli startups,” said Shuly Galili, who used to lead the California Israel Chamber of Commerce, and now runs UpWest Labs with partners Gil Ben-Artzy, a former Yahoo vice president, angel investor Liron Petrushka and operations expert Yael Winer.

“Israelis are strong on technological research and development,” Galili added, “but they don’t usually have good access to the main market for their products — the U.S. — nor do they have the required connections to U.S. funders.”

Whereas young Israelis a generation ago went to Los Angeles in search of entry-level jobs in the entertainment business, or to New York to work for moving companies or in electronics stores, now they flock to the Bay Area’s Silicon Valley and Manhattan’s Silicon Alley as founders of high-tech startups.

UpWest Labs team members (from left) Liron Petrushka, Yael Winer, Shuly Galili and Gil Ben-Artzy photo/maki oshiro

UpWest Labs team members (from left) Liron Petrushka, Yael Winer, Shuly Galili and Gil Ben-Artzy photo/maki oshiro

Thanks to the excellent computer coding skills young Israelis gain in the army and in top-notch engineering programs at the country’s universities, as well as a can-do Israeli attitude, it is not surprising that Tel Aviv is often tabbed the No. 2 high-tech area in the world; with some 700 startups, it is second only to Silicon Valley in startups per capita.

But operating in Tel Aviv’s Silicon Wadi is not enough.

Better-known Israeli Internet companies have shifted some if not all of their operations to the United States. Waze, a mobile mapping company that uses crowdsourcing (contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community) to supply real-time traffic information, is now headquartered in Palo Alto. Waze has been all over the tech news in recent days, after being courted by Google, Apple and Facebook. Google beat out the others and acquired the company this week for a reported $1.1 billion.

Click here to read more.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

 


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