We sat down with Michael Garcia and Farid Tamjidi who head up the architecture and design firm Garcia Tamjidi. Here we discussed how they met, their career influences and advice they’d give to their younger selves.
Can you tell us how Garcia Tamjidi Architecture Design was conceived?
We first talked about working together after graduation during late studio nights at the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. We realized that we connected very well in terms of pressure-testing and critiquing each other’s ideas and design solutions, and shared a mutual respect for each other’s work ethics. After graduating, Michael worked in commercial high rise design and Farid in residential and retail. We stayed in contact, always sharing insights into what we were working on, keeping track of each other. Twenty years ago we felt that we’d gained enough momentum that we could confidently start a practice; we’ve been fortunate to be able to critique, pressure-test, and collaborate every day since then. It also helps that we have a very similar sense of humor.
What word would you use to describe your aesthetic, and how is it integrated into your projects?
Pure and simple on the outside; a very complex matrix of limitations and effort on the inside. We like to think of our work as reaching for something beyond the categories of “modern” or “minimal.”
Can you explain your process when beginning a new project?
We gather as much information as possible, identify the client’s needs (both known and unknown), and then we begin to iterate, test, re-test, re-iterate. We see our role as a constant process of questioning what might be understood or standard, and looking at it from a new perspective. We add and then we remove until we feel that the architecture is beginning to represent the ideas we and the clients are most interested in thinking about.
What would you consider to be the biggest change in the field of architecture and design since you opened your firm 20 years ago?
The rise of social media and the influence of technology on not only the built environment but also how we experience it.
Have there been any notable influences on your career?
Farid is a huge fan of contemporary art and photography, and finds inspiration in his travels. (He has a dedicated Instagram account for his travel photography – @faridtamjidi). Michael is a musician, surfer and organic gardener. He is influenced by music, art, the ocean and good food.
How did you end up in San Francisco and what do you think its effects have been on your work?
We both loved the area when we were in school and felt like it was a “small big city” where our ideas and work ethic could have better traction. It has its own identity, outside New York and LA, and we like being part of the mix here – the people who live here are fascinating and always on the cusp of the new. Technology and social media have changed how we view geography – so we don’t feel tied to the city as much as we feel at home here. It’s exciting for us to be in San Francisco and have our thumbs on the pulse of the world.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?
We’re currently working on a large office project in a canal-side building in Amsterdam for a company who will be expanding into Copenhagen and Tokyo. We’re a small firm doing large firm work for clients like US Bank and Apple, and as a result of that breadth a lot of our clients have gone global and then brought us with them.
If you were to give your younger self advice in regards to a career in architecture, what would it be?
Stay patient and persevere – and be glad for the heavy grounding in theory and architectural history that you got in school. Don’t worry about the fact that other programs offered more technical education – the deeper understanding that you’ve gained from emphasizing the theoretical in school will pay off. Continue to have faith in your abilities and leverage everything you’ve learned – the ways you’ve been taught to address context, syntax, the sociological and psychological impact of your work. Always keep a sense of history at hand – there’s so much to learn from all those who came before you.
Photography by Joe Fletcher