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[whitespace] Stan Field
Christopher Gardner

Field's dream houses make balanced habitats for urban utopia

By Traci Hukill

When architect Stan Field looks back over Santa Clara Valley from his favorite vantage point in Portola Valley, he sees a complex world that's a little out of balance: Silicon Valley's highway infrastructure, high-tech campuses and modest skyscrapers lie like a blanket woven from steel and concrete over the flowing landscape that once gave up bumper crops of apricots, prunes and cherries. One of Field's goals as an architect is to integrate the technological and the natural more fluidly, "to let the architecture dialogue more with the landscape so it becomes an extension of the landscape."

Eighteen years ago Field left a thriving firm in his native Cape Town, South Africa, for a 12-year stint in Jerusalem, where he worked extensively in stone. "I began to yearn for the contemporary world," he explains, so he moved to Silicon Valley six years ago. The jump from stone to silicon jarred him.

"I'm not really high-tech-oriented," he says. "and it was quite foreign to me. I still sort of draw very much freehand, though I do have people who work with CAD. I think it's very important that we don't allow computer graphics to determine aesthetics, and that, in a sense, is what's happening with architecture. Lots of it is starting to look the same.

Name: Stan Field
Age: 54
Occupation: Architect, Stan Field Associates
City of Origin: Cape Town, South Africa
How Long Here: 6 years
Hobbies and Interests: Surfing, jogging, resisting wife's vegetarianism
Favorite Place in the Valley: Portola Valley

"You see, the computer has its own language, it sets up a kind of mindset, a way of thinking. Even though we say it's only a tool, we end up getting sucked into its framework."

Just as he would like to see local architecture dialogue with the natural landscape of the area, he would also like to see computer graphics converse with human creativity. "I'm now quite excited at the potential of using the graphic in a much more freeform manner," he says. "By weaving the speed and accuracy and potential of the computer with free thinking, one certainly can arrive at greater heights."

In the meantime, Field focuses on the material manifestation of his key concepts. In a recent project for a high-tech client, Field recycled redwood from old wine vats and combined it with zinc to create a quilt of old and new, warm and cold. Occasionally, he says, the mellow aroma of wine wafts through the house.

The valley is a good place for a new concept in architecture to take hold, and fertile ground for broad cultural growth. "I'm tremendously optimistic about it," Field confides. "I get a sense that beneath it all there's quite a deep understanding of the bigger issues. I just get a sense, especially in Palo Alto, that in the '60s and '70s there was a lot of experimentation, and it has rubbed off on the place's mentality, so that people are more open to searching for new directions. Strangely enough, they're quite conservative in many respects, but underneath it all, open-mindedness and creativity prevail."


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From the January 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro.

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