Lake Tahoe House
Joe Fletcher Lake Tahoe House
Stefan Hastrup, Mary Griffin, and Eric Haesloop
Charlie Davis Stefan Hastrup, Mary Griffin, and Eric Haesloop

Whether working on a vacation home, a small institutional project, or a full-time residence, Turnbull Griffin Haesloop is all about the site. The San Francisco–based firm has gained global respect for its way of blending architecture with the landscape, using one to enhance the other. Which one does the enhancing depends on the individual situation. “Some sites are so spectacular; with others, it’s about coaxing out the essence of the site,” says principal Eric Haesloop, FAIA, LEED AP.

Haesloop and fellow principals Mary Griffin, FAIA, and Stefan Hastrup, AIA, LEED AP, have always integrated sustainable design principles into their work. Now, their clients are more interested than ever in green building strategies. “We’re finding that people are choosing both systems that generate power and sustainable materials for the rest of the house,” Griffin says. Along with its architectural services, the firm also offers in-house interior design by Margaret Simon, ASID, the sister of firm founder William Turnbull Jr., who died in 1997. 

Turnbull Griffin Haesloop provides a first-class example of how to build on an important architectural legacy. The firm’s work espouses the ideas of Turnbull (who was married to Griffin), but its portfolio stands strong on its own. Its thorough and thoughtful approach has earned it not only piles of design awards, many from the AIA, the Canadian Wood Council, and residential architect, but also a deep well of satisfied clients and collaborators.

What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?

One of the most gratifying aspects of residential practice is getting to work closely with the clients, to give form to their personal aspirations and realize the potential of the place in which they are building. With residential there is an intimacy in really trying to make this house custom. There’s a directness to the design problem and process, [to] the combination of people and place. Also, working with the contractors. Without them it wouldn’t happen.

What is the most frustrating aspect?

One of the most frustrating aspects (aside from getting permits and entitlements) is often trying to incorporate new design ideas, materials, and technologies that then get priced out of the project.

What is your mission statement or firm goal?

We believe architecture is primarily concerned with establishing a “sense of place,” inspired by the uniqueness of each site and each client. Since the concept for each of our buildings is rooted in its environment, we are particularly attentive to topography, microclimate, vegetation, and solar orientation. We listen carefully to the aspirations and requirements of our clients.

What is the most indispensable tool in your office?

A toss-up between the computer and the espresso machine.

What software does your firm use?

AutoCAD, SketchUp and V-Ray.

Who is your ideal client?

Our ideal client is the new one, that respects our work and is open minded to explore new ideas with us.

What is your favorite building?

This is a hard question to answer because between the three of us we have so many favorite buildings that span from the Pantheon and Hagia Sophia up to the recently completed Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We are constantly looking at diverse precedents but what we really love and resonate with are places, buildings that respond to and enhance their settings.

If you didn’t have the time to design your own house, who would you hire?

It would be fun to live in a house designed by Glen Murcutt or Peter Zumthor.