SmithBuilt Project: Sightglass Coffee on the New York Times Blog

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio, Press on August 16, 2011 by smithbuilt

Following in the footsteps of coffee innovators Blue Bottle and Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco SightGlass Coffee Roasters is my newest completed project. The New York Times T Magazine has published a beautiful slideshow about Sightglass. Read on for the story of how we built it.

Over the past year, Sightglass Coffee, Jared and Justin Morrison’s coffee roastery and cafe on Seventh Street and Folsom, has been selling coffee from a kiosk set inside an old warehouse they’re renovating. Tarps separate the espresso machine from the construction zone, and everyone who stops by for a cappuccino stoops and cranes as they stand in line, trying to see past the plastic.

SmithBuilt worked for months rebuilding the structural steel and beam interior. I am always reminded of a boat every time I look up at the elaborate old ceiling with its’ complex series of trusses.

The epic industrial space (last a sign-painting shop) still looks a mess, but it’s actually nearing completion.  We have just finished polishing the concrete floor, prestained with coffee, and the crew is getting ready to paint the exterior, punch a hole in the ceiling for the roaster’s heat vent, and finish constructing the bars.

It’s a huge space, actually, which will be divided into half cafe, half production; like most microroasters, they’re projecting that wholesale beans will be a big chunk of the business. The coffee roaster occupies a prominent place at the front, and there’s an oval coffee bar in the back and a mezzanine for storage and seating.

The front bar was constructed with a poured-in-place concrete top, diamond-polished to a worn matte finish. The front of the bar is clad in zinc sheets, hand sanded and patina washed to produce a dusted carbon effect.

As an interior wall finish we employed a Japanese wood flaming technique called Soh-sugi-ban a historical technique that has been used in Japan for centuries. The char on the wood helps protect it from water as well as making it harder for the wood to catch fire in the future, as well as just looking beautiful.

Recently Completed Project : Sight Glass Coffee

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio on August 15, 2011 by smithbuilt

The subtle yet satisfying detailing and use of materials throughout the project is the result of designing for a truly collaborative and explorative construction process.  A collection of talented craftsmen contributed to the one-of-a-kind features of the space, from recreating the Japanese art of Shou-sugi-ban for a decorative burnt wood siding treatment to piecing together over 38 reclaimed steel joist hangers for a custom light fixture. See more photos on the Boor Bridges site. 

SmithBuilt Project: Sight Glass: The Ancient Japanese Technique of Shou-Sugi-Ban

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio on August 14, 2011 by smithbuilt

Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it. Traditionally, Sugi, or 8Japanese Cyprus, was used. Nowadays, designers and architects have used other species of wood like Douglas Fir, Cyprus, and Oak. The process involves charring the wood, cooling it, cleaning it, and finishing it with a natural oil. Although time consuming, the final product is not only gorgeous, with its rich, silvery finish; the charred wood also resists rot, insects, and fire and can last up to 80 years.

Jesse surveys the boards prior to the burning process.
Jay ignites the planks with a roofing torch.
Before we perfected our “vortex box” technique we tried a standing wall burn. 
Jesse at the burn.
Jay removes the softer burned out sections with a wire brush exposing the standing grain. This process yields that beautiful “standblasted look” but with a black carbon patina. 

SmithBuilt Project: Sight Glass: Polishing the Countertops

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio on August 14, 2011 by smithbuilt

Once the molds have been carefully removed, we check for voids and begin the polishing operation.

After the molds have been removed, Justin and Jerad begin the polishing process with a Diamond embedded grit pad.

Water polishing the counters- starts with a 200 grit pad and moves through the grits to finish at 800 grit before the sealing process.

SmithBuilt Project: Sight Glass: Pouring Countertops

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio on August 10, 2011 by smithbuilt

Concrete is a challenging medium-heavy, difficult to mix, (especially with additives) and tricky to achieve consistent finishes. The mold construction must be spot on because every blemish shows and the molds must be strong enough to withstand the vibration process. Vibration consolidates concrete in two stages: first by moving the concrete particles, then by removing entrapped air.

Smithbuilt Project: Radius House in the New York Times

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio, Portfolio on June 16, 2010 by smithbuilt

The Radius House was featured in the New York Times. 

SmithBuilt Project: Radius House on the American Institute of Architects Tour 2010

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio, Press on May 18, 2010 by smithbuilt

Marin Home

Tour lets

nature be

your guide


Tracey Taylor, Special to The Chronicle Wednesday, May 5, 2010

If there’s one thing the houses featured on the American Institute of Architects’ Marin Home Tour teach us, it’s how to work with, not against, nature when crafting dwellings. Each of the five homes on the May 15 tour embraces the landscape in which it is sited to such an extent that the boundaries between structure and nature are often pleasantly obscure. Whether it’s the Sausalito home that gives itself completely to the panoramic sweep of the bay, the crescent-shaped home in Mill Valley designed 50 years ago to follow precisely the contours of a forest ridge, or the newly built house, also in Mill Valley, that tucks itself into a steep hillside and then uses the resulting verticality to stunning effect: All have grabbed the gorgeous Marin scenery and run with it.

SFGate: San Francisco Living Home Tours

Posted in Design/Building Portfolio, Press on May 14, 2010 by smithbuilt

SFGate is running an article about the Ames Cottage on the AIA tour. Check it out here. 

Smithbuilt Project: Little Lane Studio

Posted in Artwork, Design/Building Portfolio, Portfolio on May 13, 2010 by smithbuilt

When my friend Julie asked if I would help her to design Little Lane Studio– a children’s art school, I jumped at the chance. It seemed like a great way to revisit my former teaching career while focusing on something really important-teaching kids art.

Designing a space that is compelling from a kid’s perspective was an intriguing challenge that I couldn’t wait to get started on. Julie and I discussed my collaborative style of working and set up some initial design sessions.

We keyed off of Julie’s inspiration board- a series of images that she had collected to help define the mood and tone of her artistic space.

Through our conversations we decided that building out the space with recycled materials was the appropriate look we were trying to achieve as well as conveying the right inspirational message to the kids.

After deciding that the space should house some large art tables we set out to Heritage Salvage. Our friend and owner of Heritage Michael “Bug” Deacon pointed us towards some re-sawn structural parralam beams that were perfect for our project.

We talked about needing two tables of differing heights and decided that to conserve space that they should be able to nestle.

I welded up some table bases from 2 x 2 x 1/4” galvanized angle iron with 4 x 4 x1/4” galvanized legs and found some heavy duty casters. I sized the smaller table to roll under the larger one for storage when not in use.

I joined the beams together to create a table surface and coated them in an epoxy resin.

We also used the beams as benches and found some beautifully patinaed siding boards that we re-sized and milled for the bench backs.

Lastly, we wanted to create “a nest” serving as a metaphor and a visual focal point -for home and creativity.

And as luck would have it, while on a trip to the San Francisco recycling center, I was able to talk a guy into helping me load a gigantic wisteria vine that he had just pulled out of his mother’s backyard into me truck. Score.

Tillandsia Garden At The Plant Cafe

Posted in Press, Vertical Garden on May 13, 2010 by smithbuilt

When the owners of The Plant Cafe Organic, Matthew and Mark first approached me about a vertical garden they were interested in something dynamic and unusual that fit with their dining concept of “the waiting room of a Finnish sauna set in a Tokyo airport”.

Something modern and organic-I suggested a large boarderless Tillandsia piece composed of nine 1/4” plates of cold rolled steel patinaed with a solution of copper suspended acid wash.

My assistant Jesse and I set to work constructing the large “backer panel” receiver on which the steel plates were to be secured. The backer was then preliminarily fitted with the steel panels to mark the positioning of each panel, and the backer was secured to the wall.

We then constructed transport frames to move the steel in order to receive the patina and later to serve as placement rigs while we worked on the plantings.

During assembly, each panel was numbered and secured to the backer in the corresponding location.

This is one of my favorite pieces as the patina, although tricky, is quite unusual and has continued to grow and change over time just like the plants.