My name is Marek Stoklosa (silent “e” in my first name). I am a licensed Architect, a member of the AIA (American Institute of Architects).
City of San Leandro, California – Best Adaptive Reuse Project-General Foundry Services Building.
Eco-Structures Magazine, May/June 2004, ”Straw Boss” – A Straw Bale House in Walnut Creek, California, becomes showcase for Sustainable Design. Article described Robert and Lily Joe Residence built with Rice Straw Bales and Recycled Steel. Article by Kim O’Connell
Walnut Creek Magazine, March/April 2009 ”Shades of Green” – Article about Robert and Lily Joe Residence, Built with Rice Straw Bale and Recycled Steel. Article by Deborah Burstyn.
Contra Costa Times – Article about Robert and Lily Joe Residence in Walnut Creek
Valley Times – Pleasanton – Articles on Arroyo Commons, Housing for the Disabled, built with the use of Rice Straw Bale and Recycled Steel.
Conferences and Speaking Engagements
I have participated as a Speaker at various National and International Conferences:
August 2004, Rice Straw Products Expo 2004, California Rice Growers Association. Lecture Subject: Use of Rice Straw Bale and Recycled Steel in Main Stream Construction.
September 2009, National Technology Conference, Wuhan, China. Lecture Subject: Rice Straw Bale and Recycled Steel in Construction.
May 2011, Architecture on the Edge, National Architectural Conference, Vancouver, Canada, sponsored by Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and Architectural Institute of British Columbia. Lecture Subject: Rice Straw Bale and Recycled Steel in Main Stream Construction.
As far back as I can remember, I had a pencil in my hand and a piece of paper on the table in front of me. I was maybe around 3 or 4 years old…
I would draw buildings, trains, cars and people, with a passion that is rarely seen in children that age. Buildings in particular have always amazed me. I have lived, after all, in a thousand-year-old city, with its mix of art, building styles, narrow streets, and architectural mysteries. In second grade at school, I was fortunate to have a fabulous history teacher. For an eight year old boy, Mrs. Pollo seemed ancient at 70… but with her unusual energy and devotion to bring us young brats to various city museums, she was one of us. These trips took place on first Friday of each month. We were ignited by her history lessons and descriptions of exhibits we saw. I would often navigate to paintings by the 18th century Italian painter Canaletto, whose work mesmerized me because of his almost true-to-life depiction of cities, street scopes, period life, and most of all, Architecture. I remember I would stare at these paintings for hours. Often on weekends, I would visit these museums again, just by myself, to see these paintings again and again…
My path from home to school led through the Old Town, so riding the tram I would pass by Gothinc Cathedrals, Renaissance Palaces, Baroque Churches or an Eclectic 19th Century Building, and so on. I would gaze at these beautiful things, full of details, colors, obvious proportions. I would imagine myself one day designing buildings and drawing them. Some days when I had more free time, I would sketch these buildings from either my memory or I would go and sketch them from nature. When I was about 12 years old, I would stop at antique bookstores while walking back from school to read or just gaze at numerous ancient engravings, paintings and drawings that adorned various old books. I was basically devouring these treasures with my eyes. I would stay there for hours, sometimes to the concern or amusement of the bookstore staff. Often, my monthly allowance went to buy one of the books….well, now my collection is very impressive. Around the same time, I quickly begun to understand the styles and why these styles were created and why buildings were designed certain way. When I was in high school, I had a chance to see other cities and countries, which broadened my insight into masterfully-designed architecture. So drawing on all that experience, by 16 years old I already knew I was going to be an Architect. At the end of high school, I enrolled into the School of Architecture. Entrance exams were brutal. These exams eliminated 2/3 of all applicants – the most grueling of all was a three-day-long, freehand drawing examination. I guess my paper and pencil encounters at such a young age helped!
Coursework at the college deepened my design and stylistic knowledge. College professors exposed me to the Modern Style of Architecture.
JAGIELLONIAN UNIVERSITY GATE, KRAKOW
Most of all, I learned the principles on which each past style was created and why. I also learned about design methodology differences between building practices in one region to another. People sometimes ponder why Gothic Churches in Britain are wider, shorter and heavier looking than their slender “brothers” in France. Your average tour guide will never explain this difference! It has to do with the climate, soil composition and materials used. Mind you, engineering as we know it today did not exist at the time that these churches were constructed. The College inspired me to pursue Modern Architecture, with its free and unconstrained expression. By that time, I had visited most of old Europe’s treasures. You can only imagine my amazement at seeing buildings as well as cities I had studied in school. Everywhere I went, I sketched: whole buildings, small parts of buildings or elements of these buildings like windows, columns, pavements, and arches.
It is common knowledge within architecture schools (AND outside of schools) that Italy is the birthplace and cradle of the best Architecture in the World – well some of my friends may disagree, especially those in France, but I digress… Therefore, at that time as a young student, I had decided that to be a true Architect with roots, I needed to learn Italian and spend some time in Italy to learn from the masters. I did it, and the decision paid off. If nothing else, I was able to read Italian texts, and words on old buildings, and most importantly, to communicate with my peers. All of these experiences widened my design foundation. Having this knowledge allowed me to understand principles of Mediterranean Culture and Architecture, its roots, which you can not get from books or tourist visits. Living among people, breathing the same air, and talking to them while being part of their everyday life teaches the craft with soul.
GOTHIC STYLE-UNIVERSITY COURT YARD, KRAKOW.
When in my fourth year of Architecture School, I took part in an international competition to design an ecological, self-sustaining community. It was a chance to learn about energy conservation, passive solar energy principles, and usage of various recyclable by-products in buildings – this Project became sort of a Green Architecture seed to blossom at much later years. I graduated with Masters Degree in Architecture in 1977. My Masters Degree thesis project received a special City Prize as the “Best Student Design for the City.” The Design was this super-modern City district with shops, community centers, cultural complexes and housing all connected by road and rail networks.
To my amazement, shortly after graduation from the University, I was offered a job at one of the most progressive firms in Europe. It was located in the Netherlands and led by famous Modern Movement pioneer Professor Jacob Bakema. I enjoyed working there, interacting directly with the principal and his equally able partners. My skill of freehand sketching and understanding existing context was put to use when designing modern buildings in harmony with the existing context of the historic city. I worked there with many interesting people, and I am fortunate to still be contact with my colleague Bouke Den Ouden after all these years; he keeps me current about the firm, his life and Architecture. The Internet is great!
WAWEL CASTLE-CATHEDRAL (GOTHIC AND RENAISSANCE)
Eventually I moved to North America. First, I settled in Canada’s West where I worked on building designs in a very cold climate. I began my practice there in 1982 while participating in the growth of this oil-rich region. In a process of my practice, I have cultivated close relationships with my clients, which have lasted to this day. I have designed some wonderful projects for them that have been enjoyed by users and the public. Most significantly, I worked with the local Italian community, designing a large-scale Church Community Center, a priest’s house, and later, homes for many of the community members. Two of the homes were special. One was for an attorney, Mr. Tony Cairo, who wanted a house that looked like a traditional courthouse. The mission was accomplished by designing a Post Modern Home. Tony’s brother Vincent, a Doctor, asked for a house design in a super modern style with stainless steel cabinets, etc. Both brothers have remained my closest friends to this day and even after Tony’s recent passing, the “courthouse” home remains in the family. People do not want to part with buildings I have designed for them.
After few years, tired of cold winters, I have moved my practice to sunny California. San Francisco had this magnetic quality similar to the city I grew up in. Although it is a much younger city, it has its own charisma. I fell in love with San Francisco and I fell in love with my wife there. My goal now was to reach my American Dream.
Eventually I “hung my shingle” in Pleasanton, part of East Bay in San Francisco Bay Area. Here, I gained a following of many clients who gave me opportunity to design wide range of projects. My first was an office building, where my office was located from April 1989 through April 2014. My clients Jo Betty Allen and Jim Allen have become my best promoters. great friends and landlords. They have introduced me to large number of clients in the Tri-Valley area. Thanks to them, my office was located for all these years right in the heart of beautiful downtown Pleasanton.
In 1995 I was fortunate enough to be asked by Mr. Gordon Burkhart-Schultz to design housing for his developmentally-disabled employees. Gordon requested to design a “sustainable project that felt good.” Gordon’s father, a famous scientist, sociologist and creator of modern workplace environment criteria, had a hobby of tinkering with straw bales and clay applications for walls. His hobby inspired us in the direction of rice straw bales, and that is when the Student Design Competition ”seed” from college years really blossomed.
To learn about straw bale use in buildings, my client and I endeavored on a pilgrimage of sorts to New Mexico and Arizona, so we could see what straw bale enthusiasts have been building there. There is quite a robust straw bale cottage industry. Once there, we learned relatively quickly about what not to do, and how to approach design with Straw Bales. The idea, after all, had to work in a major urban area of seismically-active California. Shortly after, I designed an elegant, sustainable system for Gordon – truly Green, using Rice Straw Bales and Recycled Steel (heavy gauge and light gauge).
Initially, the project was met with quite an opposition from the City and from neighbors. But with perseverance and our persuasive abilities, Gordon and I were able to successfully get a permit and build this Green Project. To our joy, it was approved as originally conceived! The idea was a pioneering solution that needed approvals from the Building Department. Our approach when discussing system principles with the Authority with jurisdiction, as on all Projects, was to be absolutely clear and honest about all aspects of the solution. Building officials realized that the system had merit because it adhered to code requirements and this secured Permits. These permits were significant because they were awarded by one of the most seismically-active urban areas of California – this is very difficult to achieve. The approval was important – our system solution moved straw bale from a rural cottage industry to mainstream construction.
GOTHIC STYLE DETAILING
Throughout the years of work, I have found another fascinating niche to concentrate on – Pre-school Design. I started down this interesting path with a husband and wife team (Rajitha and Ruwangi), who in turn started a pre-school in their house, and eventually culminated in a proud collection of pre-school facilities and learning centers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area – all designed by me. As in all of my work, I looked for beautiful, simple yet functional design solutions that kept the kids in mind. I focused on a design that would enhance their experience, create a fun learning environment, and allow them to enjoy new discoveries every day. Pre-school projects were where I introduced IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) principles into the project process. Wow, I hope you are not bored reading all this so far??? Well, if you’re still here…
My work has been published in trade magazines and local press. I have been invited to speak at various conferences, nationally and internationally. Also, some of my work received awards.
When I design buildings, I keep close contact with clients to guide them in the entire process. I like to create a team approach with common goal. Often when the project ends, my clients have “withdrawals” and wish that our design meetings with creative sessions could continue…. This translates to long-lasting friendships.
Currently, I am fortunate to be working on Adaptive Reuse projects in the realm of building retrofits, additions and remodels of religious facilities. The goal is to combine spirituality, budgets, building/zoning codes, and function into a unique overall experience for parishioners. Another venue that opened up for my design has included hospitality industry projects like hip restaurants, event centers, etc.
In April 2014, I relocated to San Jose, California, where I now have my own office building next to exciting Santana Row Center. This new location is an oasis of calm.. a place to contemplate designs and be inspired by shimmering waterfall among dense and tall bamboo forest. This translates to more creative work.