About SaA Studio
SaA fosters a critical practice through built work. While some projects remain speculative, our focus is always on the promise of the constructed artifact as the most potent test of the full complexity of architecture. This focus on building requires us to be equally creative and strategic, drawing into our sphere of responsibility both more abstract explorations of movement, light, and space, as well as tangible forces that define architectural production today.
While we pride ourselves on the creative — architectural solutions of clarity, economy, and grace –, our lens is always through the pragmatics of a client's needs. This includes the exigencies of budget, schedule, code interpretation, permitting, community review, fabrication methods, and construction techniques. In fact, negotiating these often competing, real-world demands inspires our creativity. Each affects the final form and content of the work; each is fodder for design.
We are committed to a highly interactive and individualized design process with our clients. We thrive on this engagement and expect that the result of our work together will always yield something that exceeds all of our initial expectations. The studio is a collaborative one and we are all first and foremost passionate designers; an enthusiasm we gladly share.
With each project, we attempt to develop and deepen our holistic vision of sustainability and the architect's role in promoting it. Certainly, product and finish material selection, emerging environmental technologies, and innovative construction techniques play a foundational role in this, but so too do less tangible aspects of design. Broadly speaking, our work attempts to foster a strategic and nuanced relationship to our surrounding environment. We research precisely the particular attributes of site and context, thoughtfully expanding upon them to arrive at forms that work in concert with key sustainability concepts. This includes fundamental issues of building orientation and siting, as well as more ephemeral qualities that highlight our bonds to the natural world.
Movement is often at the genesis of our work. We carefully choreograph spatial sequences to unfold in ways that provoke exploration and, thus, engagement with the built and natural world. At times, this is expressed through formal gestures that promote the sculptural reading of the object. Yet most often, the movement explored is a psychological one. In particular, the careful articulation of thresholds and the extension of view through real or perceived space promote a kind of mental exploration and sense of discovery in our work, even from a static vantage point. This control of spatial expansion, particularly important for small spaces, is crucial to our technique.
We see each of our projects as site-specific installations. Each maintains its integrity as a singular object, yet each is consciously deformed by the push and pull of the surroundings. The Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza speaks of the use of buildings to "make more real" the context that surrounds them — to make us understand the existing conditions or operations in a more complex way. This description of the potential of architecture serves as a guidepost for our work.
The studio culture of SaA is a reflection of its principal's unique background and skills. Neal Schwartz completed dual masters degrees in Architecture and Public Policy at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government respectively. The combination of these two disciplines establishes the foundations of our practice: the creativity to explore our client's needs in ways that surpass their expectations, and a devotion to rigorous management of complex design, permitting, and construction processes. Schwartz graduated with Distinction in Architecture, received the Thayer Award for Meritorious Scholarship, the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, as well as national awards from the Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association.
Schwartz has been actively involved in teaching for 21 years, most recently as an associate professor in architecture at the California College of the Arts (CCA), where he currently coordinates the Master's degree thesis program. From 2006 - 2009, he was on the Board of Directors for the National AIDS Memorial Grove located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and chaired the Memorial Design Committee working towards the capital campaign and design development of this national memorial. Schwartz graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in European history and has studied and researched abroad in Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.