Rome: design, architecture, what to see in 2022


“The area where we built the Mira Tower is part of a major ongoing redevelopment project of the Embarcadero area, after the 1989 earthquake destroyed the awful highway that completely blocked the view of San Francisco Bay.”. Jeanne Gang from Studio Gang, headquartered in Chicago but also based here, demonstrates how the city has been able to rethink after a major tragedy.

And its modular tower, inspired by nature and its thousands of variables, has become the symbol of a desire for renewal. Despite the difficulties of building in an area with high seismic risk and with particularly strict building laws, numerous projects are underway. From the most dreamlike and resilient The Cove of Heatherwick studiowhich proposes a floating park to try to prevent a possible and probable rise in water, to the most pragmatic Duke & de Meuronworking on the restoration project of an abandoned energy plant to transform it into a multifunctional public and private space.

as far as Norman Foster, which is also responsible for rethinking a former industrial area to be donated to a municipality that is always looking for new living and working spaces. And if it’s not always an easy challenge to build in height, as evidenced by the structural problems of the second large skyscraper inaugurated a few years ago, Salesforce Tower by architects Clarke & Partners leatherit’s clear that San Francisco is trying to find solutions to accommodate all those looking for a second chance here.


“The really big difference between the designers from Milan and those from San Francisco is that the former is engaged in constant aesthetic and formal research, while the latter tends to aim for efficiency.” Johanna Grawunder divides her time between Milan, where she collaborates Memphis study, and San Francisco, ”where they consider me more of an artist than a designer. I chose this city because I was very fascinated by it technological applications. The use of Ledie innovative materialssee digital styleeverything here is applied research ».



They also agree Mike Simonian And Maaike Evers, a duo of American and Dutch designers who have worked with companies like Google and Belkin for years: “Let’s say we try to combine the two aspects, namely to design objects for the home and offices, but also to experiment and combine inventions and beauty “. During Milan Design Week they present coffee table compassa hybrid object suitable for ppatience with modern coworkingas well as in the living room.

Photo Gabriela Hasbun for Living

“Until a few years ago, these companies were not interested in aesthetics. They were just aiming for functionality. Now they understand that in order to be unique and recognizable, they need to go further. Maybe I sense that surrounding yourself with beautiful things improves the quality of life, ”confirms Mike. But in the Bay Area, the connection between creativity and technology is inseparable, as demonstrated by Futureform’s works, a creative tandem based in the city consisting of the Canadian Jason Kelly Johnson and from the Greek Nataly Gattegno which for twenty years has proposed intersections between design, art and experimentation.

With public tasks, they design open spaces where they make sculptures and lighting installations involving public involvement, called to actively interact with The works. In San Francisco, for exampleOrbital from Mission Bay Have become a symbol of the neighborhood, but few people know about the collaboration between designers and engineers for its development. Not far away, in the rooms of Heath Ceramicsthe technology is instead excluded from the processing of ceramic products in the laboratory, an oasis where the ovens have not been replaced by 3D printers.

And precisely in Mission, the street artist Josué Rojas has also worked for years around the theme of diversity, in a constant struggle against gentrification that tends to dehumanize neighborhoods and to approve them. His works give color and heat. “Humanity in San Francisco and its extreme forms of resistance make it a unique city, ”Grawunder concludes.


“There was a time when Silicon Valley companies were the flagship of the United States. Today, perceptions have changed a lot, and I think large corporate campuses, conceived as symbols, would no longer be designed that way. Especially the Apple’s headquarters in Cupertinosigned by Norman Fosteris a kind of mausoleum and monument to Steve Jobs’ ego, which before his death had decided on every detail, including the Italian chef in the kitchen “, Michele Masneri, author of the book Steve Jobs no longer lives here published by Adelphi is in no doubt: the giganticism of Silicon Valley has become somewhat less. Yet construction sites are everywhere.

The most impressive is Google, which it has ordered BIG And Heatherwick Studio to make one ecologically sustainable headquarters and Mountain View. The risk culture comes from the nineteenth-century gold rush and continues to this day. Here was the Wild West, and this approach has been inherited, so if you present the project to a crazy app, they will listen to you and maybe fund you. “Then the local spirit, between the dreamer and the freak, gives everyone a chance. Silicon Valley is unique. They tried to move it, but Northern California is a wonderful place to live.”he concludes Masneri.

It is evident on the roads that cross the ‘peninsula’, as they call it here. Among single-family homes, English gardens, futuristic construction sites and universities like Stanford that bring talent technicians and not only. These are the ones who are already imagining our future.


San Francisco, like all tourist cities, suffered more than others during the pandemic. But he took advantage of this long stalemate to invest in hospitality and the food scene. A perfect example of this revolution was the inauguration in November last year of the new one Stratford hotela stone’s throw from Union Square.

The historic building from 1910 has been converted into a boutique hotel at Studio Hatchwho played with sophisticated elements of European taste for rooms, decorated by the works by the photorealistic artist based on Sausalito Eric Zener. The more lively and urban BorgerM which bears the signature of the Dutch, as for the other branches of the chain Concrete.

Photo by Mariko Reed

It also opened shortly before the pandemic Grand Hyatt at San Francisco Airport, in the middle of Silicon Valley. The structure, very quiet despite being on the slopes, has an innovative design designed by Hornberger study + Wrestling assisted by interior designers Brayton Hughes. Hand in hand with the hotel development also the gastronomic.

They range from the great renewed classics such as Bartlett Hall for star chefs, starting with I have Chee Boonwhich with its modern Cantonese cuisine has given new life to the historic restaurant Empress of China in the heart of Chinatown. And contemporary Chinese gastronomy is also talked about Mamahuhu which focuses on the sustainability of its menu. Tapas bar ideal for aperitifs is La Bande, elegant address at Proper Hotel in the heart of the city. While it sets out to cater to Silicon Valley’s prolific entrepreneurs One restaurant, ‘breath’ in Sanskrit, found in Palo Alto. The menu features Californian and Indian-inspired dishes.


«When I arrived qhe, in 1999, the high-tech world and design traveled separately. It was not considered an important element. Then it became central: every technical invention also owes its success aesthetic component“.

Photo by Robert Alexander / Gettyimages

Born in Lausanne in 1967, Yves Béhar he founded it in San Francisco Fuse project study with foresight from those who are very clear on how central design is in everyday life and with clarity from those who before the others have understood the importance of the technological boom. “The city has changed a lot in recent years, but it has not lost the element that makes it unique: it cultural melting pot. Our team also consists of people who come from Europe, Lebanon, Pakistan … ».



Each with their professionalism to share for the dozens of projects used for all sectors, from electric cars to educational robots, to shells for meditation in the office to ultra-cheap computers for children. “I am convinced that design must have a social role. It is a constant challenge and a stimulus to find functional and beautiful solutions.”

But if the dynamics of San Francisco and Silicon Valley are an inexhaustible engine, it is cultural and natural context to make the difference for Béhar: “There are few cities in the world where culture, nature and dynamic business exist side by side. You can see a fantastic exhibition at SFMOMA museum by Mario Bottarecently expanded by the Norwegians Snow capimmerse yourself in collections of the Young Museum from Duke & de Meuron. Or take a walk among the giant sequoias. And then there is the sea with its beautiful surf beaches. My favorite is Bolinas and Marin County“. From Switzerland to California one way.


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