Who Said it had to be Brick and Mortar?

photo by Bernardo Grijalva

High style can come in all different shades or in this case; materials.

For all you architectural and design enthusiast that want to see some industrial grade materials put to good use. San Pedro Square Market is a great case study of how the old can be made new, bigger and better. Add some corrugated steel, industrial grade doors, beams and more importantly, good design sensibility and you get a space that is a real pleasure to experience.

If the human experience is the most important element considered when creating a building, simple, thoughtful design solutions like these I believe will be the new norm.

A great organization that is currently employing some celebrity and starchitect power that is using such Design / Build methods to do some good down in New Orleans: http://www.makeitrightnola.org/

Read more.. Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Is it Japanese?

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva www.bgpix.net

Gamble House photo by Bernardo Grijalva www.bgpix.net

I’m sure that the Green brothers drew part of their inspiration from the East when they designed the Gamble House, also known as the David B. Gamble House was constructed around 1908 to be used as a winter home for the Gamble Family.

The mild climate of Southern California along with a spaciousness of the west made this area of Pasadena an attractive retreat for the well to do from the harsh cold winters of the East. Modest in it size by today’s standards of what a single family home should feel like for an affluent family. The Gamble House has been referred to as the archetypical American Art and Craftsman example of architecture and response to the formal highly ornate Victorian aesthetic. A complete contradiction to all things spindly, covered in paint with line that mirror those of ancient Greece, the American Art and Craftsman movement was made popular by furniture designer and publisher Gustav Stickely during the early 1900’s.

Minimalist in nature when compared to the highly decorative standard of what architecture should look like for the time. The Green brother’s were forward thinking in their approach to embrace the simple natural spirit of the Orient. Leaving the materials exposed and allowing for the rugged craftsmanship of the joinery and metal work be admired, I can’t help but think of how admirable it would be to live in a chic downtown loft, with it’s exposed beams and brick work.

My quick detour from a vacation trip to the sunny south made the visit to this area of Pasadena, a real treat. Armed only with my trusty DP1 point and shoot, I was somewhat worried about the deep shadows that the eves created that morning. In a perfect world architecture always has the perfect amount of light thrown on it to create the perfect exposure but, the truth of the matter is with buildings or dwellings they are made to protect from the elements and the Green Brother realized the importance of the large eves to shade of the sunny Southern California sun. Their solution for creating an outdoor living area where the outdoors could be enjoyed anytime of the day without the harshness of the sun being a nuisance was beautifully done, their aesthetic influences of the Orient could easily be deciphered by one simple glimpse at the Gamble house and one could easily see why the question could be made: Is it Japanese?

Bernardo Grijalva

Read more.. Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Greek Prespective

I recently got a call from a fine art consulting agency that was looking for some architectural photography for a project that they were fulfilling for a client. I have to admit that I was somewhat setback that this company considered me an authority in terms of historical architectural photography in and around my hometown. Certainly not an academic in the traditional sense of what an architectural historian might look or sound like, setting all the art history jargon aside, I can honestly summarize why I shoot by simply saying that I get a kick out of making pretty pictures of the world around me. Being blessed with living in area rich in history and with a few somewhat significant contributions still standing in and around the downtown area, I thought it very prevalent to pull an old image out of the files and write a couple of thoughts about an old building that I have visited throughout the years.

The First Church of Christ Scientist built in 1905 and designed by Willis Polk has served as a literal pillar of civic and religious pride in the downtown area of San Jose. I often like to think of the building as the little mini Greek building, because of its small scale in comparison to the Iconic columns and large portico. The First Church building is a modern sample of the larger than life edifices that the Greeks were known to create. They were also known for playing on the human perspective of how we judge the size and alignment of lines, when standing near the base or in front of the building, you can’t help but follow the columns from the base all the way up to where the columns meet the frieze, ending at the portico that seems to be a huge massive triangle or pyramid that floats in the sky. I warn you, if you hold this position with your head long enough you might risk injury. All jokes aside, the Greeks knew how to convey the idea that their buildings were made for or by a higher order, I’m sure there are numerous studied arguments or theories why the Greeks chose to build there buildings in the manner in which they did, one thing is certain though, vanity or outward appearances was definitely one of the key motivators.

First Church of Christ has been abandoned for sometime now. Despite being past it’s glory, the building is owned by Barry Swenson Builder and has been included as part of a master plan to be restored and flaked by 2 huge high rises on either end in the not so distant future. It’s not certain when this project will ever materialize but, I am certain that the current downturn in downturn in the real estate market has an influential decision on postponing the such ambitious endeavors, perhaps until a time when the Greeks get their house in order.

Bernardo Grijalva

Read more.. Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Tracings May 2012

Chapel of The Chimes photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Chapel of the Chimes is a magical place, part Gothic, and part Baroque with a hint of the morbidity of death surrounding the entire building. One can’t help but feel part of fictional story that is set in a kingdom far far away. The closest experience I’ve had to being in a medieval castle came a couple of month back earlier this year when on assignment for a commercial shoot. I knew of the Chapel for some time now having read about it in an editorial piece about a book based on the Chapel, I vaguely remembered that first image I saw of the Chapels interior, it was a vignette like portrait of one of the open air windows, photographed from one of the courtyards looking into another courtyard, framed by an intricately detailed archway. I knew that this was a place I had to visit.

Mostly comprised of a series of courtyards linked by series passageways, the interior columbarium is a tranquil setting and a pure eye candy experience for those fascinated with the ornate. The fountains that are scattered throughout the interior and adorn some of the courtyards provide a perfect focal point for the eye. Reminiscent of a setting from the Moorish world, the subtle sounds of the water running through the fountain helps set the mood for visitors. The Chapel of the Chimes is a beautiful menagerie of nooks, windows and passageways that are testament to the creative genius of Julia Morgan’s aesthetic. Possibly the most fascinating example of historic architecture in the Northern California area, the Chapel of the chimes is a treasure and experience that should be listed among the top places one should visit when visiting the Bay Area. And like all best things in life, a visit to the Chapel of the Chimes is free. Brown bag a lunch and if the Chapel inspires you to want to learn more about Morgan’s work, make the short trip over to the Berkeley Campus to see how Morgan was influential in forming Berkeley’s architectural identity.


Read more.. Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Promotion can be Attractive with Bill Blew, Blogging

Bill Belew


Not exactly how I wanted to spend my Saturday morning but, having really felt that blessings come in many forms or guises. Having subscribed to the ideology that great artist work on the content of their work rather than the promotion of it, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that this morning’s seminar has been very insightful and somewhat relates to my original principal that good content is king. Embarrassed in the sense that I truly believed that promotion is best left for entities that are concerned about their bottom line and any real artist should steer clear of any notion of coming across as pitchy. New to the idea of Blogging and writing about my work and how I relate to the world around me when it comes to all things Art and Design and really interested in getting the word out there about my photography art work I’ve been surprised to learn that the actual writing or journaling about my work can be the attraction or aesthetic. All thanks to Bill Belew.
Read more.. Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Life Imitates Art

It’s not often that I take the time to read all of the captions or editorial copy when it comes to art books but, “Rooms to Inspire in the City”, by the husband wife team duo Annie Kelly and photographer Tim Street Porter is a must read for anybody with an interest in design and architecture. Published by Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. the medium format size 255 page book is a compilation of several different stories about beautifully designed interior urban dwellings from around the world. As an apartment dweller myself, I had a peaked interested in some of the suggestion and ideas that Kelly offers towards the end of her book. Part documentary in the featuring some of the design world’s well know players, like Jonathan Adler’s chic implementation of his 60’s mod like aesthetic into a New York apartment. Kelly’s writing is also insightful in her analysis of the state of the publishing world, the influx of stylishly designed home products now available to the masses as well a the role the internet plays in how we get our stories and ideas for inspiration.

Tim Street Porter’s airy atmospheric vignettes are beautiful to look at, captured in the old school film tradition that he is know for, his flawless manipulation of light and exposure illustrate each space in an honest and straight forward manner, free of the common overly saturated colors and lighting that is so common in today commercial advertising environment.

Despite picking-up my copy from my local library, in an effort to do my part to support the fine art of bookmaking, I’ll will be adding a permanent copy to my book collection soon.


Read more.. Thursday, May 10th, 2012


Leviathan by Ace Architects photo by Bernardo Grijalva www.bgpix.net

Leviathan by Ace Architects photo by Bernardo Grijalva www.bgpix.net

May 1st, 2012

Having wanting to visit one of Oakland’s more playful examples of marine time architecture in Oakland for sometime now, I decided to make a quick turn off of highway 880 in to the Jack London Square area on my way to a commercial assignment. Losing a previous opportunity to tour the building for an Architectural History class some 10 years ago, I felt compelled to visit the building after having seen published images of it.  Leviathan by the Oakland based architectural firm Ace Architects http://www.aceland.com/index.html could fall into the category of a dream like or amusement park vernacular that makes references to the Bible, the Alameda Naval Station as well as the shipping container industry that this area of Oakland is know for.

The medium sized commercial building is an assemblage of several different textures, from the metallic brightly painted industrial finish you might find on a shipping container to the scaly or fish like texture of your ever day halibut to the more old world patina finish that is a direct result of the natural climate. The massing of the building seems appropriate and a resourceful use of the confined piece of land that it sits on.

From a far my first reaction reminded me of some of the Lego sets I use to play with as a child. After having the pleasure to finally have visited Leviathan it in person, the child like subliminal fantasy that the building was a live was abruptly realized. Don’t expect a theme park like experience if ever have the opportunity to visit it, after all it is a commercial office building but do plan on setting all prejudices aside of what Bay Area architecture is, who said there aren’t creatures living in the sea.


Read more.. Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Stanford Campus – Architectural Perspective

I truly believe that life is about the journey and I’m always baffled and at times surprised when my plans always don’t work out the way I plan them. Ideally, my first Blog entry was supposed to be about my trip to the Walker Evans exhibit at the Cantor Museum on the Stanford Campus. Instead, I’m writing about my self guided architectural tour of Stanford’s Main Quad and Memorial Church, built in homage to the founder Leland Stanford by his widow Jane Lathrop Stanford. Designed by Architect Charles A. Coolidge during the later part of 19th century, Memorial Church was dedicated in 1903 and has been referred to as “the University’s architectural crown jewel”.

Memorial Church is situated at the mouth of the university’s main quad and it’s no wonder that the Quad’s colonnade is a destination for newly engaged couples and photographers alike. The main quad’s rows of columns and soft tranquil light are the perfect background for an ambient light portrait shoot. Despite the rainy northern California April day, the gray overhead skies served as a hidden blessing for those dark shadowed surfaces that would normally go pitch black under bright shooting conditions. Having owned my Sigma DP1 for some time now, I thought the Romanesque architectural backdrop and dark and moody interiors of the Memorial Church would serve as a perfect opportunity to try out the DP1 sepia color mode. Armed with my ultra light Slik tripod and the compact DP1, I set out with enough time for what the parking meter would allow time for, to wonder around the campus and discover if there was anything worthy to shoot for the new Blog.

Despite my second disappointment in missing out on the Walker exhibit, my first attempt due to my inability to find parking, my second due to my lack of planning and going out there on a Tuesday morning, on their closed day, of course. I was fortunate enough to walk away from that dreary rainy day with some not too shabby pics, I think Hiroshimo Sugimoto would be impressed with the somber interior of Memorial Church and I’m sure Walker Evans would have surely found my candid shots of some of Stanford’s tourist worthy of his approval.

I approached the campus with a pessimistic sensibility of knowing what to expect, having visited that part of the campus on several occasions in the past. I went into it with landscape photographer’s hat on, with a preconceived picture of what to expect but, what I walked away with were a bunch of little glimpses of time or in the spirit of Cartier Bresson, a few decisive moments.


Read more.. Tuesday, April 10th, 2012