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Architects' names to drop

Diane Dorrans Saeks | June 17, 2011 | Story Best of the Bay

Watch out, Stanley, Jim, and Peter. Two young architects have emerged as the go-to team for anyone in San Francisco who is now—our track record to the contrary—serious about modern architecture. On shabby stretches of SoMa, in bleak, former industrial buildings, Joshua Aidlin and David Darling (of Aidlin Darling Design) are creating sleek urban structures that look nothing like their surroundings, signalling that the city is finally committed to a significant architectural future. And they’re raking in clients from two different, but equally Bay Arean, corners: design-savvy restaurateurs who want to create chic neighborhood hubs and tech titans who are just as eager not to attract attention.

One public triumph was their low-budget transformation of an abandoned pupuseria in the Mission into the highly popular Bar Bambino. The bar has a cool modern vibe along with a handcrafted sensibility—wine bottles turned into an artful chandelier; a wall clad in cedar plywood. Another culinary jewel is the elegantly rustic Bar Agricole, in SoMa, which just won this year’s prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design. Indeed, awards for Aidlin and Darling are piling up. Their 11th Street building, which houses Bar Agricole, as well as several offices, has received more than 20, and in June the duo dined at the White House as 2010 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards finalists (they were finalists again this year).

Perhaps that’s why they’re attracting so many of the region’s bold-name tech talents, though unfortunately their handiwork for these rabid privacy seekers won’t be on display. “Our new clients are so public in daily life that they want to be anonymous in their off-duty life,” says Aidlin. Luckily, more exhibitionist clients are waiting in the wings. Darling, who is passionate about wineries and vineyard structures, is currently designing a winery on a 500-acre ranch in West Marin and one for the hype-worthy Scribe guys in Sonoma (See “Winery as Boho Buzz Factory,” page 90). They’re signed on for a sheik’s residence in Qatar, and there’s talk of a private club in Italy.

Another point of Bay Arean distinction for the innovative architects: Aidlin and Darling donate more than 10 percent of their firm’s time to pro bono efforts, including San Francisco’s Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse arts center, on Ocean Avenue, a project to transform a former trolley barn into a dynamic arts–job training center for the neighborhood’s teenagers.


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