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Design & Inspiration

Q&A with Nash Hurley, our San Francisco Showroom Architect

Q&A with Nash Hurley, our San Francisco Showroom Architect

Our San Francisco showroom sample wall

For years, on the corner of 8th and Brannan in the Design District of San Francisco, was a building known to locals as the Dwan Elevator building. In spite of the signage still hanging on the buildings facade, the space had not been occupied by the elevator company for years, and had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Seeing the buildings potential, we signed a lease, and have moved our headquarters to San Francisco!  With the help of architect, Nash Hurley and the folks at VITAL, our vision for a new San Francisco showroom and office space has become a reality.  As we watched the buildings design evolve and contractors start knocking down walls, we began to wonder where Nash gets his inspiration, so we asked him a few questions.

How would you describe your signature style?

Nash – Digicraft. I have always been inspired by the detail and richness of Arts & Crafts architects like Greene & Greene and feel fortunate to be practicing in an era where personal computing empowers individual designers to engage in vast industrial supply chains as part of the design process.  Apologies for making up a word like Digicraft, as an alternate my friends and I in grad school always called it CADhand because it's the combination of the digital with hand craftsman like techniques that led to the most interesting results.  Simply put, I like to use computers to make extremely well crafted buildings.

Showroom display design

Completed showroom displays

What role does green building play in your work?

Nash – I think everyone I know would describe me as a green architect but I would shy away from describing myself that way–mostly because I am unclear what many people mean by green.  I believe that every building project presents a unique opportunity to creatively transform materials and resources into an environment that makes people better.  As a result, VITAL cares a lot about the things that the green movement cares about...smart energy use, clever reuse of materials, indoor environmental quality, feedback on mechanical systems performance and data richenvironments, but we don't care about green as a goal in and of itself.  People always want a richer life experience, our architecture aims to give them just that.  Along the way we want to be sure that we are doing everything that we can to be wise in our allocation of resources to make that environment possible (materials, energy, water...even air)–but I think that's just being a good designer and reflective of what our world needs these days.

Can you tell us about the house you grew up in?

Nash – 102 Green End Avenue in Middletown Rhode Island–known to all our childhood friends simply as "102".  It was a simple house where my sister and I occupied the top floor that was a converted attic.  It's most notable feature was a greenhouse that my parents added in the 80s to make the kitchen the default family hangout place.

Showroom pattern wall in progress

Completed Pattern Wall

What or who inspires your design?

Nash – The mission of our clients is always the most important inspiration for our design process.  That said, quality crafted objects like sailboats, antique cars and shaker furniture are important reminders for what people can make when they set their minds to a vision.  It's important to remember what's possible.  When we make a building that looks better than a 1960s gullwing it will be a good day in the office.

What is your design philosophy?

Nash – 

(1) Start by understanding the client's need.

(2) Figure out multiple strategies that will fulfill that need.  Work with the client to set a clear direction for the project by selecting a specific strategy.

(3) Have fun, be creative, draw/drink too much coffee/draw and make models to test out how and what the strategy will look like.  When in doubt make a big model, if still in doubt make a bigger model.

(4) Find an amazing contractor or fabricator who can make our ideas sing.

(5) Budget some time to be around to help keep things on track as the realities of making and site logistics push back on our nice clean design drawings.

Plan view of our new San Francisco headquarters

What architects do you admire and what inspired you about their work?

Nash – Today I have to say SHoP Architects.  I think it's amazing what they have done for the industry in such a short time.  I feel it's also important to remember that SHoP has largely made it's own success through hard work, which is very different from the standard architectural tradition where a firm is made as a spin off a previously successful firm.

Plan view of our new San Francisco headquarters

What were some of the biggest challenges you tackled for our new space in the Design District?

Nash – The biggest challenge was to design something worthy of the Fireclay brand.  Fireclay has a rich history of making beautiful tile for more than 30 years, and they needed a space to reflect not only that history, but also the future growth of Fireclay.  Besides that there was all the standard stuff of making, like out-of-level floors and tricky framing moments associated with an old industrial building.  But to be honest, the contractor and Fireclay were so proactive in solving those issues themselves that very few of them ended up in my court as something to solve.  It's challenging enough to make a good space, and Fireclay needed something great.

In San Francisco?  Come say hi!  We are located at 901 Brannan St.

Hours: M-F 9:00am - 6:00pm

Phone: (415) 697-2044