• Credit: Jonathan Feldman

feldman architecture, san francisco

This simple, elegant staircase plugged into an adjacent retaining wall may seem like an easy detail to pull off, but the opposite is true. “Stairs have to be one of the most precise things because of the codes, and retaining walls are usually imprecise because they are purely structural,” says architect Jonathan Feldman. Combining the two requires meticulous planning and pinpoint implementation.

The first thing built on the site, the 12- to 18-inch-thick retaining wall is a major, visible structural element in the house, so Feldman wanted it to be dramatic. He used form boards that were sandblasted to produce a wood grain impression on the wall and inserted powder-coated T-shaped steel rods to support the treads and handrail. “It was really hard to get them in place with all the forms,” Feldman says. The treads and handrails are Doug fir, in keeping with the rest of the house. “This is not a design detail for the timid,” the judges said approvingly. “You need tenacity to the end of your days to execute it in this fashion.”

principal in charge / project architect: Jonathan Feldman, Feldman Architecture
general contractor: Brian Groza, Groza Construction, Monterey, Calif.
engineer: Mike Hicks, Fulcrum Structural Engineering, San Francisco
photographer: Jonathan Feldman

  • Interior specs were guided by the clients’ green leanings.

    Credit: John Todd

    Interior specs were guided by the clients’ green leanings.