Fire House #3 - The Tenderloin, San Francisco, California
Architect unknown to me
When I first moved to San Francisco I found an affordable bachelor pad in the Tenderloin. I liked it so much I stayed for 7 years. I had a love hate relationship with Engine #3 which I think was the most active fire station in the city, sending out blaring trucks at all hours of the night. I hated the sirens, I loved the building. It took me forever to notice it but once I did I started seeing fire stations in every neighborhood. They all have a similar aesthetic straddling brutal utilitarianism and civic ornament. As I discovered them individually they gathered in my memory to tie the city together in neat little bunch, and I began to feel at home.
Resurrection Chapel - Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden (more here, here and here)
by Sigurd Lewerentz
This chapel first turned me on to how powerfully the approach to a building defines the experience once inside. It is all about expectation and memory. You have a lot of time to consider this small structure as you walk down the straight quiet path lined up directly with its front door. To each side 40 foot tall trees define the lane and frame your view to the formal entry way. When you finally arrive open the door and step inside the building turns to the left, your attention is redirected to the alter at the end of a completely new axis. The effect is as flicking a switch from outside to inside - expansive to contemplative.
The Menil Collection Museum Building - Houston, Texas
by Renzo Piano
I lived in Houston for about 5 years and found it to be a sprawling city that I always thought lacked a sense of place. My memory now is that there were places, they just were not so obvious. The Menil Collection became one of my favorite spots. Being there I felt located, grounded in the midst of nowhere. The building is massive but it employs tricks of scale to seem at home surrounded by a neighborhood of tiny bungalows, all of which were painted gray to match the museum. Once inside the prominent organizing feature is a ceiling of concrete louvers which allows the light to change subtly with passing clouds.
Aaron writes the men's style column "The Pocket Square" for the San Francisco Chronicle and has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and others.