Main at Min|Day
November 29, 2012 – 11 am
2325 Third St. #425
San Francisco, CA 94107
With a shiny smile
My name is E.B. Min I’m an architect and a partner in Min|Day architecture. My partner is Jeff Day. We have an office in San Francisco and an office in Omaha, Nebraska. I run the San Francisco office and Jeff is in Omaha.
Jeff was born in Massachusetts, lived in Maine, California. I always lied mostly in Colorado but I was born in Georgia and also lived in Carolina. I went to college back east and then came here after college, and stayed here ever since. Neither of us is from Cali. We know each other from the University of California at Berkeley. Both of us have our undergraduate degrees in something else. Jeff has a graduate degree in visual studies and so architecture program and my college degree is a double concentration in art history and in study art Jeff.
After Grad School, I started getting projects on my own and he was helping me on the side, outside the hours of his own job. We worked informally together after Jeff went to Nebraska in 2000. I move into this office in 2001. We didn’t officially become partners until 2003. It doesn’t seem like it as that long ago but it was very unusual at that time because we really didn’t have active e-mail yet, or cloud computing or collaborative tools so everything was pretty much the phone… It was very different.
When we were starting out and were both much younger, in SF there were a lot of competition. It seemed that when Jeff moved to Nebraska we might have opportunities there that would not be opened to us here. The kind of work, ideas and interests we have are a little more usual for here. And it actually turned out to be true that out of town and not from the area, people might be more interested in us. For whatever reason, now we’re getting more interesting work here. At the beginning, when we were very busy, Jeff would fly back about once every six weeks, and I would go to Omaha. Then the economy got really terrible here at the end of 2008 and after that we didn’t really have much work. He came back once or twice a year instead. In 2008, we both had a child and so now it’s just as much harder to travel.
I spend all my time on the business while Jeff spends a portion of his time on the business because mostly he’s teaching. He’s a full time professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I also teach at California College of the Arts, only one semester a year.
The building you wish you had designed?
I can’t find a good answer! It doesn’t exist yet.
The project you designed that makes you proudest?
They’re like children. I love them all.
A striking detail in one of your projects?
This isn’t a detail, but one of the most striking things we do is use colour. I think that identifies our work. We use colour very specifically and strategically in our project. When we choose colour, we’re not using colour theory. It’s all internalized, because everyone responds to certain colours or associations. In the L Residence, the way the wood gets transformed to build the whole space… I really like that detail. Wood that has been CNC milled is backlit to make the light in but also becomes the railing and the back painted blue. And when we use a colour, the entire space is blue but what we’re trying to do is use that colour not as decoration but to make it environmental.
The project you would never design?
I would never design a jail.
The ideal or perfect city?
I guess it would be here.
Do you prefer talking or drawing?
I talk a lot, but I prefer to draw because I think drawing tells so much more than talking.
The first time you felt like an architect?
I think that hasn’t happened yet.
The question that is bugging you?
In reality, how to get better projects? As far as design is concerned, I just wonder what we’ll do next?
What infuriates you as far as architecture is concerned?
That architecture isn’t taken very seriously in our country. It’s difficult for people to know what you do as an architect. It gets me very upset that people don’t appreciate architecture and design in general. As architects we don’t do a very good job explaining what we do either, so I think it goes both ways. But I do think that we’re constantly undervalued but that architects also do that to themselves.
The most ridiculous building in San Francisco?
The one that always jumps to mind right away is the Marriott hotel on Fourth Street. The one people call “the juke box”. It’s a terrible building!
The song you’re listening to over and over again?
I have a little OCD when it comes to music. I’m listening to “Forever And Ever Amen”, by the Drums.
Your message to young architects?
Besides,“Don’t do it, have a plan b”, I’d say, “You should have fun”.
Who’s the architect who accompanies you?
Obviously, I think about my design partner. But in terms of people who made it seem possible to do what we do, there are two women I worked for, early in my career. The other firms I worked for before were boring but then I went to work during three years In SEAM Studio. These women are landscape architects who had designed field practice. I didn’t really realize, stepping into it, how different it was from an architecture office. Working for them made it seems normal to do unusual work. I had been referred them because I had an art background and they really liked artists and architects. It was a very unusual place, materials everywhere, prototypes everywhere, animals running around and it was what I liked.
When I was in graduate school there weren’t a lot of women running their firms yet and there were some female professors. Being young and being female, I didn’t really think about how weird it was for women who were doing design building. They had a construction crew and they would build what they designed, and they had to find details and talk to fabricators. I think that these two women, because they also did very interesting work, very creative, very inventive and do all that, I think I learned so much from them. One of those women is one of my closest friends.
What you remember about your student years?
They were terrible! I remember studio and working late and making really good friends. I remember being very resistant to what I‘d call indoctrination. When you start architecture, it’s like you’ve been broken down and brought back up. I thought It was a really difficult process and I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy school until my last year, my third year of grad school. It was very hard.