A Very Creative and Green Urinal Room


Today I came across the coolest private “pee-only” room I have ever seen. In this little room, this whole system is installed on the back wall. It was shocking to me that the “sink” sits right on top of the “metal urinal”. After you finish your business down in the urinal, when you wash your hands, the water from hand-washing would run directly down to the urinal underneath to “flush” it. Amazing! This is a good design that recycles greywater immediately. I learned something really smart today.

organic tofu desert place and factory at ho sheung heng, sheung shui, hong kong – may 17, 2013


Big Building Swallowing Small Building in One Piece


I have seen many new buildings that have kind of incorporated existing buildings into their designs. But they usually just keep parts of an existing building for example a dome, a façade, a ceiling or a lobby. Or they may keep the physical structure of the old building but totally gut out the existing social life.

There is rarely a case that a complete old building is being preserved in a new building like the one in the photo. I guess the social life or the use of the shop could have changed too but in no way it was forced to give up its own separate identity, or forced to socially and economically integrate with the skyscraper. No comment here for other design aspects of this semi-postmodernist skyscraper. However the effort to keep the original shop has really made the building project more interesting.




619 market st., san Francisco – 12:18pm, jan 26, 2013

A Poor Example in Solving the Problematic Driveway Space in Front of a Victorian House’s Garage

two benches and a funky street sign, two pots of plants

A typical San Francisco Victorian House has a garage underneath the main building on the ground or below-ground level with a driveway leading to the garage and a flight of stairs going up from the front sidewalk to the main entrance foyer. As San Francisco is becoming more urbanized, this leftover driveway space has become more problematic especially in areas close to commercial streets. A lot of time when the car is gone, this empty privately-owned space is occupied by the passer-bys and the urban nomads, namely the homeless and the full-time street dwellers. The businesses conducted by these third-parties constantly create nuisance to the upstairs and the downstairs, even though many garages have been converted into shops and eateries already. I am very interested in how people attempt to solve this spatial problem and I would like to share what I just observed a few days ago.

These four slightly setback Victorian houses in the middle on this short block of lower Fillmore St. all have their garages converted into shops. The negative space in front of these garages presents a unique opportunity for a small shared plaza for these shops or something special. But somehow nothing creative or special is done to make the most of out of that empty space. I wish they have done more than just simply putting furniture or plant to fill up the space. For example, they can re-pave the area with bricks or different pavement that define the place better; or they can put up a large awning or canopy above that space to make it a more appealing outdoor dining spot; or the four stores can put up some similar street furniture and signage to make this space identifiable; or they can put up a simple landscape scheme that make the place a little urban oasis.

The randomly placed benches, tables, rocks and overgrown plants may be nice and practical, but they definitely do nothing to make this space unique and memorable.

a table with four chairs, two piegons

five rocks and a pot of plant

a lot of plant

overall streetscape

east side of lower fillmore st. between sutter and post, san francisco – 2:00pm, jan 27, 2013

The Stunning Garages of Mrs. Doubtfire’s Neighbors


Two nights ago, me and my buddy Steven watched Mrs Doubtfire, a 1993 classic movie set in San Francisco featuring Robin Williams and Sally Field, again on the television. We were so fascinated by the neighborhood Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed that we decided to check it out today. On our walk down towards Mrs Doubtfire’s house from Fillmore to Steiner, I was overwhelmed by all the stately homes lining the two sides of Broadway.

But what astonished me even more were the highly ornate garages of Mrs Doubtfire’s adjacent neighbors. The woodwork, brickwork, landscape and metal railing are just superb! I decided to take some photos and share with everyone.






mrs. doubtfire’s house at corner of broadway and Steiner


steiner st. with the church tower in the background, frequently seen in the movie

south side broadway st. between fillmore and steiner, san francisco – 1:23pm, jan 27, 2013

An Endorsement on Solar Power from a San Francisco Lutheran Church

St. Francis Lutheran Church

On a recent walk in the Church and Market neighborhood, I discovered that the red-brick church on Church Street has been harvesting solar energy from the photovoltaic panels that were installed non-discretely on the south side of their pitched roof. The panels look pretty good on the roof probably because they sit flat on the roof and the two colors match.

This open endorsement on solar power has got me to think that the design of most churches is actually perfect for laying out solar panels. Most churches are elongated on the east-west axis. As a result the long pitched roof faces south and north on each side. In the northern hemisphere, the best orientation for a simple angled roof to harvest solar power is the south side. This makes the south-facing side of the long pitched roof a perfect location for the solar panels. Also the fact that most churches are taller their neighboring buildings ensure the solar cells have enough exposure to the sun rays. It’s interesting how a place of worship can be so fitted for generating solar power.

solar panel

st. francis lutheran church @ 152 church st., san Francisco – 3:06pm, dec 31, 2012

SF “City” Target – A Failed Attempt to Capitalize on the Idea of a “Downtown Store”

city target's lobby

The story of the City Target began with the failure of the Metreon. The ill-conceived development of the Metreon and its surrounding complex had never attained any commercial success or success in any way. After many attempts to vitalize the Metreon, they came up with this idea of having a Target Store so-called “City Target”. Well, the local newspaper San Francisco Chronicle praised the brilliant concept of having this “downtown-styled” mini Target and how it would be the savoir to finally revitalize the Metreon. Skeptical as I was, I decided to swing by and checked it out. Well, it turned out it was just another Target Store.

Yes, the fact that Target is in a downtown is already a “milestone” for, I don’t know for who, but probably only for Target stores for the sake of being in downtown. The store has an attractive lobby that it kind of shares with Starbucks located down the escalators. Other than that, it is really just a smaller version of a typical Target store. The idea of “a downtown store” has not been expressed in anywhere once you are in the store. I thought maybe they would have elaborated the grocery section to make it more “neighborhood-friendly”. Maybe they would sell some special funky items or goods that made them “cool” and “urban”. Or they would have done some “different” interior design to brand itself a “city” store. No they don’t have any of those. Well, at least I am not disappointed after my visit. In the end, it’s a Target store and yes, it’s good to have one in downtown.

city target

789 mission st, san Francisco – 7:15pm, dec 16, 2012

Where Is the Church??

I came across this street sign and said to myself, “it’s weird they have a sign for a church…”. I looked at the direction that sign was pointing to and still couldn’t “see” the church. Apparently the clients really can’t find the church, even with a sign.

In my humble opinion, the design of this church does not quite work. Architects from the classical time had overcome the challenge of making the church visible in a built-up city from afar and around by creating soaring spires for these churches and placing them at a strategic position, like at the front of the church or at a street corner. Christopher Wren, architect of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, had designed several churches using this principle in the 17th century congested city of London, Church of St. James Garlickhythe is an great example of that.

around church of st. george the martyr, toronto