As the architect gets in my cab, he tells me he needs to go back home to Philly. I tell him I’ll take him as far at the San Francisco Airport. Cab driver joke. As we’re driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, he opens up about the meeting he just had with a Japanese developer who wants to build a city in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert. He’s doubtful that it will fly but he’s talking to anyone about any commission, given the state of the economy. He says his buildings are mostly academic with ‘green’ components. “I was LEED-certified way before it was popular,” he says. I have to think there can’t be a lot of green in the desert.
The traffic on 19th Avenue southbound is ‘stop and go’, so we have time to talk about architecture, which I love to do. After some discussion of the buildings we like in San Francisco and Toronto, I ask the architect if he knows how Frank Gehry does it…how he designs with those intuitive, freeform shapes of his, like with Bilbao. “Gehry is an very creative architect with a lot of heart who’s timing was perfect. He managed to be there when the new money was available for new design,” he says. “His structures work on a human scale, too. I keep telling my students that if they just use a pencil on paper, they’re likely to put more humanity into their buildings. It’s a more direct connection to your heart,” he says. I get it since I use a pencil in my other career. “Spoiled by CAD,“ I suggest and he agrees.
By this time, we’re arrived at SFO and he needs to get to his flight. “Good luck with your building in the desert,” I shout. “Thanks, I’m gonna need it,” he answers.