Life in the Bay Area

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in architecture, culture, culture, education, travel | 2 Comments
Life in the Bay Area

Written by Adam Bugele

A.B. – Sightseeing my first weekend in the Bay Area


Within a matter of hours my life completely changed on January 3, 2014. Christmas break with my girlfriend (now wife) and family outside of St. Louis, Missouri was swapped that day for a plane ride to San Francisco, California, and a new life for eight months. Moving to a new city on my own was a first, but since living in California, I can definitely use the word ‘first’ in describing numerous experiences. Sitting down to analyze every aspect of my life and education since that day in January made my appreciation for that internship opportunity grow to new heights.

A.B. – A glimpse at my cozy 125 sf Berkeley apartment, directly adjacent to U.C. Berkeley’s campus


Anticipating a new place before arriving is like that first great idea that pops into your head as a designer. There are elements that stand true to your original idea, but often as time passes those ideas can change into something completely different. This is how I feel about the time I spent residing in Berkeley and working in San Francisco.

A.B. – My daily 30 minute commute between Berkeley and San Francisco


The Bay Area offers a very unique landscape. A contrast between land and ocean complimented by abrupt hillsides explain both San Francisco and East Bay, but in separate dialogues. San Francisco’s famous urbanized hills are encompassed within a seven-mile wide peninsula that welcomes the Pacific Ocean while the East Bay is hugged by an eastward facing ridge-line running north-south with the San Francisco Bay due west towards the city. As a newcomer it quickly became evident that understanding the natural landmarks surrounding me would ease the complexity and scale of several cities nestled so closely together. Obviously San Francisco is considered the hiatus of the Bay Area, but many cities lie a brief subway ride away. The commute home from work was a thirty-minute train ride under the bay through Oakland, where I lived in Berkeley. Visiting San Jose and Palo Alto was also just a forty-five minute train ride south, in the opposite direction. Every single experience I gained during my 8-month stay was only possible through public transportation—I didn’t have a car!

A.B. – Left: Enjoying Baker Beach just southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge; Right: Exploring an abandoned concrete watch tower atop Point Bonita, located across the GGB from San Francisco.


Raised as a Midwesterner, there are certain qualities that define the type of person I am by the way I grew up. A generalization such as this is not so apparent in the Bay Area. The biggest difference I noticed between Northern Californians and Midwesterners is the level of free-spiritedness. Everyone there walks to the beat of his or her own drum. My initial realization of the community’s disposition occurred while dining out to brunch with a family friend not long after arriving in Berkeley. We were waiting to be seated when I noticed a mother and her two sons exiting the restaurant with their skateboards in hand. I couldn’t help but watch them leave as all three hopped onto their boards down the sidewalk.

A.B. – Embracing San Francisco culture at the 2014 Bay to Breakers run with a coworker and his brass band.


Apart from the city’s older, more brutal architecture, newer developments are showing promise for a modern aesthetic in the SOMA district (South of Market). An exciting and long anticipated skyscraper, the Salesforce (Transbay) Tower, designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, is well under construction. Many other new towers are currently under construction within the SOMA district as well, which sits adjacent to downtown’s Financial District. Other notable buildings include Morphosis’ Federal Building in Mid Market and Mario Botta’s SFMOMA. The MOMA’s newly finished addition is also worth noting, designed by Snohetta. Mentioning the Transamerica Pyramid as architecture takes a lot of confidence; it sits more comfortably within the category of San Francisco’s landmarks and icons. Another notable building is the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). In 2013 it received the city’s first LEED Platinum rating. As a part of SCB’s 2014 “Sustainable Action Week,” I had the pleasure of participating in a guided tour by the building’s lead systems engineer. The most impressive of the building’s sustainable systems included its water management system. The “Living Machine” collects blackwater runoff from the city’s sewage drains, which filters into grey water for each sink and toilet in the building. The remaining runoff of blackwater feeds planting beds on the sidewalks and entry lobby. The living machine’s water capacity is limited to about 5,000 gallons. Any amount that breaches that volume overflows back into the city sewage drains.

Source: Transbay Tower (left) and Transbay Transit Center (right), designed by Pelli Clark Pelli


Source: SF Federal Building, designed by Morphosis (left); SF Public Utilities Commission designed by KMD/Stevens

Existing SF MOMa designed by Mario Botta (left) and new addition designed by Snohetta


Downtown San Francisco acts as the epicenter of the Bay Area’s workforce and economy. As the center of business it is sometimes called, “Wall Street of the West.” Since the recent recession, San Francisco’s economy in the past several years has steadily regained its footing. A great example of the city’s recovery is Solomon Cordwell Buenz’s recent success; the firm where I had the pleasure of interning in 2014. Based out of Chicago, SCB landed One Rincon Hill in 2007, a residential project in the SOMA (South of Market) district. The company saw Rincon as a great business opportunity, therefore establishing a second office. When the recession hit the office’s staff was reduced. In the previous year, SCB’s San Francisco’s office grew back to sixty plus staff – a true sign that the city’s economy was gaining steam.

Source: One Rincon Hill, designed by SCB


Moving to the Bay Area from a small college town opened many doors to my life. All the aspects of what a big city can offer (such as San Francisco) both personally and professionally is a big reason I ended up in Atlanta after graduating last year. Learning from a diverse group of people in a professional environment at SCB opened my eyes to what the field of architecture was all about. It also set a great precedent for office culture and camaraderie, which is reminiscent here at SBS.

Adam Bugele was born just outside St. Louis, MO and attended Kansas State University where he graduated with a Master of Architecture in 2015. He loves sports, being outside, and is an expecting father.


  1. Jane bugele
    September 21, 2016

    Great job on the blog Adam! I loved it! Proud of you son!!

  2. Judy Aehle
    September 20, 2016

    Great description of San Fran and your time there. Enjoyed reading the blog and the photos are great. I’m a big fan. Of course, I am glad you landed in Atlanta as your next adventure.


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