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03.07.2012
Studio Visit> Fougeron Architecture
San Francisco-based Anne Fougeron is known for elegantly-detailed residential projects.
Tehama Grasshopper in San Francisco.
Courtesy Fougeron Architecture

San Francisco’s Anne Fougeron is one of the torchbearers for women in architecture. As one of the very few to head up a design practice in the city—or in the country, for that matter—she’s learned how to make it through struggle.

“This profession is so unfriendly to women,” she said. “It’s hard for us to get work, it’s hard for us to be taken seriously. But it’s not a nice field for the guys either—so you have to buck up and just do it.” Committed to modernism and its rigors, she’s known for her elegantly detailed residences, and has made the jump to larger projects, including a branch library for the city and multifamily housing (a breadth of work explored in her recent monograph from Princeton Architectural Press).

Trained at Berkeley, Fougeron started her firm in 1986, after stints at Marquis Associates (which then became SMWM), Daniel Solomon’s office, and the redevelopment agency of San Jose. She built up the business while single-handedly raising her daughter, a feat of multitasking that has made her “very disciplined and efficient,” she said. Her office in Union Square now comprises six people. “We bring an interesting combination of strict modernism which has been culturally and socially reorganized. I’m interested in a dialogue with the context, in having a dialectical interaction—it’s not about ‘the object is the object,’” she said. “You can call that a feminine trait, if you like.”


 

Buck Creek House

Big Sur, California

Located on a Big Sur cliffside, this house takes its cues from earlier homes in the area, whose organic forms were meant to merge with the landscape. The long rectangular form steps down as it follows the edge of the slope; the two primary volumes are bridged by a glass-walled library. To ensure its structural soundness, the whole building is cantilevered 12 feet back from the edge. Instead of wood, this oceanside home will be clad in copper, developing a deep patina over time.


 
 

Ingleside Branch Public Library

San Francisco

The firm triumphed in a design competition to create one of San Francisco’s newest libraries, the Ingleside branch, which opened in 2009. To give the building civic stature, a white metal canopy is suspended over the roof, giving it the sense of a grand pavilion. The children’s reading area, an oblong room, has pride of place: It’s located right on the corner and has an immense picture window.


 
 

Wisconsin Street House

San Francisco

A complete overhaul of a poorly organized four-level house, the architectural intervention here goes well beyond knocking down walls to open the interior spaces up. A new main staircase at the back realigns the home along a new circulation spine, but the star of the show is an exterior wall of faceted panes, turning the house into a giant prism that reveals new views of the garden and downtown.


   
 

Tehama Grasshopper

San Francisco

A South of Market warehouse posed an interesting problem: how to domesticate it without reducing its industrial essence? The solution was to insert a 16-foot-square glass-walled courtyard, open to the sky, and add a separate volume above, a penthouse that holds the master suite. The amenities of suburban life—a tranquil backyard, fulsome natural light—are injected into the gritty urban context. Meanwhile, the penthouse (the “grasshopper” perched on top) gets a dynamic range of city views. The project won the firm’s its first national AIA award in 2008.

Lydia Lee