If you've never heard of Rodney Friedman or his San Francisco Bay area–based firm, Fisher Friedman Associates (FFA), it's probably because he and his associates were all but dropped from merchant-built housing in favor of architects designing the Mediterranean-style homes that now dominate subdivisions across the West. Even so, Friedman's unwavering commitment to modernism in residential architecture (especially attached housing), which he helped pioneer and fully establish in the mid-1960s before its popular demise, is paying off as that design style is slowly but undoubtedly rising from the ashes. “Others may have been [committed to modern design] at one time, but we're still locked into it as a fundamental part of what we do,” he says.
Interestingly, Friedman credits new nonprofit and public housing projects—in addition to a savvy class of younger city dwellers—with leading the way in modern design's recent resurgence. “They're more friendly to modern architecture,” he says. Since being shut out of subdivisions, his philosophy and practice have moved into multifamily and university student residences, community and commercial buildings, a few custom homes, and mixed-use projects.
Among his favorites is Golden Gateway Commons, a Builder's Choice grand award winner in 1982 (one of 11 awards FFA won that year) that sits on a bayfront infill site in San Francisco. FFA has scaled back in size since its heyday and moved across the bay to Emeryville, but it has not lost its grip on modernism and modernism's influence on architectural design. “So I don't have the biggest office,” Friedman says. “I want to be in the history books.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.