WORK. It's what we do, what we obsess over, celebrate, complain about, get paid for. We may call it Art, but it's still work. Particularly for creative types, where we do our work must have something to do with how it turns out, for better or worse - yet we rarely get to see behind the curtain.

We would like you to share something about your special place where creativity blooms. So where do you work?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Waiting for the Big Kahuna in Berlin

 Meet Ben the Bavarian. Ben came to Berlin, a city of opportunity, with at least two big ideas. The first idea was this: serve Hawaiian style coffee. The second, maybe more significant idea was this: serve drive-thru customers.
Ben is a cheerful, energetic fellow. He notes that his is the ONLY drive-thru coffee stand in all of Germany. This first-to-market stance excites him, though it hasn't yet  and seems to have awakened the customer base. Ben remains undaunted. Germans love their cars and love their coffee. It's only a matter of time, he believes, and when they come round he will be ready.
Plenty of room - no waiting

 Ben's stand is located in the Mitte, a rapidly developing district in East Berlin. Though there are vacant parcels to either side of his shop, it's very likely that will change soon.

The young, creative class that moved to East Berlin over the past decade and enlivened the city with imaginative pop-up art and homespun commercial ventures is rapidly being displaced by large-scale corporate development.
The huge, rumbling development industry is rolling into all corners of the city, assembling large plots of land for huge mixed use building projects. It's only a matter of time before Ben's little shop is displaced for something much larger, sleeker and more expensive. In the mean time, Ben will cheerfully brew you a cup of Kona coffee with a coconut milk foam. Prost!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


A study in restraint
Architectural student Hank Butitta was tired of designing buildings that weren't real for clients that didn't exist. He wanted to do something real, to work with his hands and put his ideas into practice, so he bought a used school bus and converted it into a clean, modular live/work environment. He presented his bus for critique - complete with a kitchen, bathroom, beds, storage, and even a floor made from recycled gymnasium maple. Imagine his fellow students, with cardboard models, digital fly-throughs and paper renderings - I'll bet Hank's crit put some of them to shame.
 After his final presentation,  Hank and his co-conspirators left  for a 5,000 mile tour heading West. Summer's winding down, but they have just about reached the halfway point. 
On the Road Again
We applaud the practical ingenuity of a student stretching the conventional boundaries of study. His modular work/live space is well thought out and neatly executed - bravo to Hank.
You can see more photos, video, and follow their travels over at Hank Bought a Bus. (via Home Designing, Gizmodo, Le Monde Tue Nini)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Deep under cover in the Jungle

We've always taken a light-hearted view at Whereuwork. An inch deep, a mile wide, simple profiles of "creative caves, by and for creative folks." Now and then, something comes along that catches us by surprise, like the home and workplace of Glenn Greenwald.

 Mr. Greenwald is a journalist of deep passion and conviction working in the arena of civil rights. He is a man in the thick of it, jousting with world leaders, shining a light in the darkest recesses of the CIA, NSA, MI6, Interpol and God knows which other secret spy agencies.We would have assumed, if we gave it any thought, that Mr. Greenwald of course lived in New York or London, close to his adversaries and publishers. Not so - this from a report in the New York Times on Tuesday:

"..Greenwald lives and works in a house surrounded by tropical foliage in a remote area of Rio de Janeiro. He shares the home with his Brazilian partner and their 10 dogs and one cat, and the place has the feel of a low-key fraternity that has been dropped down in the jungle. The kitchen clock is off by hours, but no one notices; dishes tend to pile up in the sink; the living room contains a table and a couch and a large TV, an Xbox console and a box of poker chips and not much else. The refrigerator is not always filled with fresh vegetables. A family of monkeys occasionally raids the banana trees in the backyard and engages in shrieking battles with the dogs.
Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
Greenwald does most of his work on a shaded porch, usually dressed in a T-shirt, surfer shorts and flip-flops. Over the four days I spent there, he was in perpetual motion, speaking on the phone in Portuguese and English, rushing out the door to be interviewed in the city below, answering calls and e-mails from people seeking information about Snowden, tweeting to his 225,000 followers (and conducting intense arguments with a number of them), then sitting down to write more N.S.A. articles for The Guardian, all while pleading with his dogs to stay quiet. During one especially fever-pitched moment, he hollered, “Shut up, everyone,” but they didn’t seem to care..."

We are astonished that a man so active on a worldwide basis, so engaged in civil rights battles, can do serious work from a jungle retreat - complete with screaming monkeys.  Our (tin foil) hat is off to you, sir.
If you haven't heard of Glenn Greenwald, well then, you are simply not paying attention. You can find more (much more) HERE.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Esprit de Cream

Edward, dishing the scoop.
I recently had the pleasure of wandering in downtown LA on a balmy summer's night. Once you leave the shiny business and museum district and head South and East, the streets start to feel softer, freer, like old familiar shoes (well worn, a bit scuffed, perhaps a bit pungent, too). People were hanging out on corners, browsing at the Last Bookstore, waiting for the bus - it's a real live gritty city, alright.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a brand new housing complex and what I took to be a hipster bike store near Fifth and Main. A cacphony of spinning gears and bobbing wheels in a tall picture window, a queue of people staring into their phones.
Peddler's also does house calls - with a portable churn.

Once inside, it became clear that something else was going on. A dapper fellow on a roller-racer was peddling away, cranking the whole moving window art piece with every stroke - but also churning ice cream! A long chain through the wall was turning an iced tub in the back room, churning out oodles of delicious ice cream and sorbet.

"Peddler's Creamery" is the brainchild of Edward Belden and a dedicated crew of idealists who are determined to think different. PC is a Benefit Corporation, a new class of business that considers social and environmental costs, as well as profit, in their business planning.
Hey, maybe corporations can be people after all...

Edward says the hardest part was the initial funding. Once he got a few committed partners, the momentum took off. Now, there is a 'Peddler's Club' - a de facto waiting list for the honor of spinning the ice cream churn.
Sophie churns, the kinetic window art turns like a clockwork.
Their excellent ice cream and sorbet features local, organic, dairy, non-dairy and vegan ingredients. They are committed to their local neighborhood; 5% of profits are donated to social and environmental causes.
Nouveau Cyclistes are alive and well in South LA, and the food scene is all the better for it.

Hungry for more info? Check out for the, ah, scoop.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Finding a Home for a Dream House

 This week we are pleased to have a guest blogger and accomplished journalist with a personal story to share.
By Hilary Abramson

They call it The Wisteria House.

Near the edge of the Sacramento River, vines the size of an elephant’s leg twist around even thicker poles from berm to trellis.   Bare-root in the winter, they create a lattice against skylights through which the sun warms aggregate floors.  Spring’s purple blooms reserve their show for the flat roof, since most of the energy goes into the green canopy that cools everything down come summer.
It has taken more than three decades to create this sustainable umbrella. Now that it is done, it is time for me to leave.  The dream is fulfilled. It is the right time to pass it on to someone who will likewise love, respect and care for it.

This is the house that Brent Smith designed.  An artist at heart (and former Sacramento high school art teacher), Brent might be the only California home designer to have a bronze plaque in a park across from City Hall: “Brent Smith, humanitarian,” it reads. “He truly believed that we were here to transform matter into spirit and touch the soul.” 

When he was killed by a city bus in 2002, Brent was 61 years of age and perhaps best known for designing the downtown Quinn Cottages homeless village to which he donated his time and money. He also created the Rumsey Wintun Tribe Village as a multigenerational development and other homes in northern California.

But it is Sacramento County’s first passive-solar, Wisteria House – built in 1978 -- that is probably his most widely published design.
Brent and I had met two years earlier in his University of California, Davis, extension course on building and designing your own, small energy-efficient house.  A Jersey girl to whom “do-it-yourself’ meant doing your hair without help from a professional, I enrolled on an impulse. Once in the sway of Brent’s intensity and philosophy of living, his obsession became mine.

Those were the days of “small is beautiful,” and Brent walked the talk. He believed homes should be “sacred” and reflect “vocabulary” of their surroundings without imitating other designs.  He preached designing homes with expansion in mind.  Design what you need, he’d say, in a way that offers multiple use of space and provides with integrity of design for adding square footage for children and/or elders.  Why build huge spaces and waste precious energy heating and cooling them for one or two people?  How many American dining rooms sit empty while a couple eats in the kitchen or den?

The Wisteria House, for instance, is 1,065 square feet of open space with insulated, moveable shojis, several of which lift out to create space for the dining area to seat up to eight people. In place, those moveable doors offer privacy for a second bedroom/study off the dining room.  The foundation of 36 poles deep in cement was separately engineered for earthquake and flood and remains level today.  Brent’s vision for more than two, pared-down dwellers was to add another story. 

Those were the days when farmers and only a few urban individualists willing to deal with wells, septic tanks and floods lived off the Garden Highway, a two-lane road separating the Sacramento River from riparian and farmed fields. I bought three-quarters of an acre two miles north of the Elkhorn Boat Dock, and when Brent’s course was over, I asked if he would design a small, pole house that would put us “above the flood.”

On retreat at California’s first commune—Ananda in Nevada City—Brent met the head of its construction company.  These builders meditated after their lunch breaks and you could eat off the planks they cleaned at the end of each day.  They named the house “Haridasi” (daughter of God) and to this day, “J’ai Guru” (long live the Guru) remains carved in the cement holding the country mailbox.

Despite this backstory – and a redwood hot tub in the master bedroom/bath area under a dome-shaped skylight—the house is timeless. Many visitors have remarked that it feels like combination of a New York City penthouse and a coastal Sea Ranch house.

My favorite touches:  Water running down Japanese chains inside plexi-glass downspouts; the plexiglass overhang keeping the front doorway dry and allowing full view of the wisteria-protected entrance; the ability to close the house “like a box” against too hot or too cold weather via counterbalanced, vertically drawn window shutters and hanging, insulated doors; standing in the hottub watching flames in the fire stove – and the sun going down over the river.

The Wisteria House has had many admirers.  In 1982, Architects David Wright and Dennis A. Andrejko featured it in a six-page spread in Passive Solar Architecture, logic & beauty (35 Outstanding Houses Across the United States).  That same year, Sunset magazine showed it off in two pages.  In 1983, Fine Homebuilding magazine took six pages to describe the house and how it “works.”

It is my hope that the next occupant keeps the spirit of The Wisteria House in tact. There are enough McMansions on the river.

As Brent wrote in 1996 in Dialogues with the Living Earth (New Ideas on the Spirit of Place from Designers, Architects & Innovators), “We just can’t afford to continue building unlovable buildings, towns and cities.”

Hilary Abramson is a long-time California journalist.  An award-winning staff writer at Sacramento’s two mainstream, daily newspapers for nearly 20 years, she was known particularly for news-feature profiles of movers and shakers in the capital and of people living on the under belly of California. She has also been managing editor of the venerable Pacific News Service, a health policy investigative reporter,  a public radio contributor, and consulting researcher/writer for nonprofits and foundations.  Priding herself on finding stories before the pack, Abramson has placed freelance work in The Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, The Oregonian, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, and others.

Hilary can be reached at

Realtor Maggie Sekul can be reached at (916) 341-7812  For a virtual tour

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A River Runs Through It: Bridge-tending in the Delta

Paintersville Bridge, Sacramento Delta
 Rashid will tell you he has the easiest job in the world. He is a shy man, quiet, not prone to look you in the eye, and he likes his solitude. Rashid is a drawbridge operator in the Sacramento Delta. His job is to sit in the small, tidy shack hanging off the side of the bridge and wait for tall boats that may come up or downriver.

A boat captain will signal - either by phone or radio - and Rashid starts raising the bridge. It's a by-the-book process, starting with an alarm bell to stop auto traffic. Step by step, barricades are lowered, clearances confirmed, bolts unlocked, motors engaged and in a couple of minutes the bridge is raised to allow the yacht, high-masted schooner, barge or river boat to pass under.

 But most of the day is spent sitting and watching the river roll by. There's time for reading, writing or studying. There's also plenty of time for loafing, watching television and eating. It takes some discipline to avoid these temptations.The office is surprisingly pleasant, with clear view of the river and of the bridge roadway.

 Approaching the Paintersville bridge, I had romantic visions of writers like Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder or Jim Dodge sitting in lookout stations on Desolation Peak, in splendid isolation, creating their American classic novels and poetry. The difference with a bridge is that you are not exactly isolated. Every car or truck that crosses announces itself loudly and with plenty of vibration.

 The Cal Trans District 4 operates six bridges in the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta. Paintersville, Steamboat, Isleton, Mokoloumne, Rio Vista and the big gold beast in downtown Sacramento. Counties operate few more.Most of the delta bridges are the Bascule type. They pivot upwards, thanks to immense concrete counterbalances. A few are lift bridges or turn bridges - which operate exactly as they sound.
There is an undeniable appeal in the solitary profession of bridge-tender. Our world is overrun with data and congestion, over-saturated with complexity and multi-tasking. imagine the simplicity of walking down that narrow plank path to your little shack hanging off the side of a bridge, knowing you only have one direct, simple responsibility. That's something to day dream about while stuck in traffic, eh?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Public Transportation

Addison is bringing bike repair to the people. For those who are lazy, preoccupied, procrastinating or simply too cheap to keep their bikes in good running repair, he could be your savior. If you stop in at Insight Coffee at 8th & S on a sunny Saturday morning, you might just find him outside the front door, laying out his tools and portable bench. He's been around the bike scene in Sacramento for some time, including a stint at Edible Pedal.
Addison's neat little pop-up street shop
What we like best about his operation is the thoughtful setup of his mobile shop. A place for every thing, not  too much everything, Just what's needed for a quick Saturday morning repair. It all breaks down to fit on a Surly trailer for the trek back to his permanent shop at 23rd & S Streets.

Stop by for a nice hot coffee, freshly and expertly brewed, and  get that nagging shifter or dragging brake cheerfully adjusted by an expert - while you sip.

Who knows? you might learn something new about your bike and have a better ride home to show for it.
At the very least you could have a friendly conversation with a knowledgeable fellow, trying to make the city a better place for bikes.

You can also find Addison at his shop, Public Transportation, near the corner of 23rd & S Streets in Sacramento