Annual Show and Tell: Small Firm Forum

Thursday, January 5, 2017
Free AIA members / $3 Guests
Brown bag lunch (BYO lunch)

1.5 CES LUs

This month two of our own will share their work with us:

Matt Baran founded Baran Studio Architecture in 2010 at the peak of the Great Recession.  Prior to that, he had spent 15 years working for various architecture firms, including KMD and the Jerde Partnership. In his spare time he worked on concepts for architectural robots that shifted their form and location to adapt to various contexts.  This work won him an AIA award in 2006, and a scholarship to UC Berkeley to complete a master’s thesis on adaptable robotic architecture.

Upon graduation, he began to teach at UC Berkeley and the Academy of Art, further continuing the exploration of his initial findings in several undergraduate and graduate studios. He found his first opportunity to put his ideas to the test when he purchased a property near the 580 freeway in West Oakland. He worked on the construction of a dwelling that employed the adaptive theories he had been exploring academically. Additional projects followed, and this allowed him continue his explorations in built form.

Currently Matt continues his efforts, working closely with staff and clients to further explore architecture that is closely adapted to its context. This means designing a project through extensive analysis and research into deeper frameworks that include the physical and phenomenal environment, history, culture, and belief. His work and notions of architecture continue to adapt.


Rebecca Schnier of Rebecca Schnier Architecture decided in high school that architecture was her calling. She was passionate about functional design and detail. Early influences included growing up in a George Rockrise house and a trip to Japan in 1970, where she was exposed to that country’s traditional architecture.

In her pre-college years Rebecca was enamored with ballet. Hours of crowded dance classes heightened her exteroceptive awareness of space, how bodies move and adjust in relationship to surroundings. Attention to balance, proportion, and hierarchy later translated into her built work.

Rebecca sought out a well-rounded liberal arts education, away from the Bay Area where she grew up. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College (located in the middle of nowhere) and then a Masters in Architecture from Columbia University (located in the middle of everything). At Columbia her studio critics included Kenneth Frampton, Steven Holl, and Robert A. M. Stern. Rebecca spent ten years working in New York, Zurich and Paris. She designed residential penthouses and worked for Mitchell Giurgola Architects – and then decided it was time to return home to the Bay Area. She has had her own local firm for over 20 years. In her work she strives for an architecture that is thoughtful, purposeful and artistic. She specializes in contemporary, organic design with an eye towards timeless elegance and historic building traditions. She currently serves on the board of the Treasure Island Museum and is a former long-time board member of San Francisco Heritage, the City’s primary architectural preservation organization.

Learning Objectives:

After completing this program, attendees will…

  1.  Gain insight into the variety of service niches other small firms are exploiting.
  1.  Learn how other small firms juggle design, client needs and business realities.
  1.  Gain insight into the important relationship between inner drive and rewarding work.
  1.  Gain a useful perspective that ties one’s own challenges to those others face and master.


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