06/11/2013 12:25 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2013


When I was a student at Cal, I was very particular about where I studied. I needed to find just the right part of campus, with the right noise level, in the right library, in the right room. Well, in my senior year I finally found this spot of spots in Moffitt Library. A spot where all positive vibes would come my way, helping me to get on that mystical and rare study train without even trying to hop on! Okay, so I did try -- a lot -- but the room certainly made for a pleasant atmosphere conducive to getting things done.

I didn't know what it was about the design of that space that got me in the mood for business, but I did know that I was attracted to its aestheticism.

Sometimes it takes a trained eye to appreciate the artistry of architecture, which is often unassuming and meant solely for convenient functionality. The designs of Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott (known as IWAMOTOSCOTT Architecture ), however, are hard to pass off as merely practical. This San Francisco-based duo works to create designs that move beyond their function to create spaces that can be called nothing less than perceptual experiences. As part of their mission statement, IWAMOTOSCOTT works to establish "strong environmental and site relationships." Many of their designs turn stagnant buildings into flowing organic forms through the use of curving and weaving shapes, and earthy materials. They have designed anything and everything from houses, to Mac stores, to art installations, to libraries.

My favorite room in UC Berkeley's Moffitt library is one such example of a design by IWAMOTOSCOTT that brings movement to a still and quiet space. The ceiling is the most notable feature since it appears to be an undulating wave made of paper-wood modules. The paper-wood module is a favorite design concept of IWAMOTOSCOTT and can be found in many other of their works creating similar waves or just pure organic shapes. In the Moffitt room a grass green wall creates a landscape that is extremely reflective, capturing the movement of light and passer-byres. The wall and the ceiling both seem alive, yet the subtlety of the illusion brings a calm over the whole space.

While this room is one of IWAMOTOSCOTT's simpler designs it is a nice representation of what their work aims to do -- bring a natural feel in to the sturdy walls of a man-made structure. Their more elaborate designs, like Voussoir Cloud and Jellyfish House, take the theme of combining surface and landscape to an extreme.