BIO

As a child Bruce Bolander was good at drawing and math, skills which elicited the suggestion "You should be an architect" enough times that it stuck. He attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in architecture for that reason. Bruce graduated cum laude in 1989 after several years of "learning by doing." In Cal Poly's workshop he learned to build elegant, one-of-a-kind furniture with steel and castoffs, and he still loves to build. His love of building and his years of hands-on construction experience allow him to relate and work directly with on-site workers. Now an architect, Bruce designs residential and commercial structures, his commercial niche being creative offices including film production and editing facilities. He has intentionally kept his architectural firm small in order to work closely with clients. Based in Malibu but willing to travel, he has designed buildings in Newport Beach, Mammoth, Chicago, and New York City. Justifications for his designs include simplicity, functionality, aesthetics, maximum use of light, integration of the building with nature, and clients' wishes. Bruce has gone beyond an inclination toward math and drawing to develop a sense of what a structure's full potential might be. 

Philosophy

Although he contracts out the actual construction of his projects in order to focus on design, Bruce Bolander considers himself a builder first. His firm takes on a broad scope of work: a client might commission, for instance, a piece of furniture, a small bathroom remodel, a new single family residence, or a large commercial project, or any combination of these. Bruce is an architect and an interior designer for residential and commercial clients and will provide as many or as few of these services as a client desires. His is a small firm, consciously so: although he will travel outside of Los Angeles and even across the country for the right job, he is interested in practicing architecture and not in running a large business. Bruce's interest in what he calls "dross"--literally the impure "junk" that floats to the top of molten metal--began in his early furniture designs and continues in his architecture and interior design. As an artist he can appreciate a client's request for a Vola faucet simply because of its beauty. At the same time, he is not interested in spending money just for the sake of spending it. Although his work may be lauded (or censured) for its subtlety, Bruce says that he is not a minimalist. Rather he is interested in simple, reductive solutions. Like most architects, he wants to maximize light and fresh air, to capture views, to make rooms feel big enough but not too big, to make the most of geographical space and vistas by choosing the perfect spot on a site for a building. His means of achieving these goals, however, stand out because they are pragmatic. For instance, he, like many others, considers himself a "green builder." However, he believes that a 1,000-square-foot concrete house is more sustainable than a 10,000-square-foot house featuring bamboo and other green materials. In fact, he says, "I like small houses." This statement echoes the "I did it because I liked it" philosophy he learned from one professor in architecture school, but his reasons are practical too: "There is no 10,000-square-foot 'environmentally sensitive' house," he says. "To be green, don't build more than you need." Placing windows to provide maximum air and light flow is "greener" and makes more sense to Bruce than the most efficient air conditioner on the market. "Smaller, more well-thought-out space; making some things a little more durable; windows that open; outdoor spaces that people can use--these, to me," Bruce says, "are socially responsible decisions." Ideally we use environmentally sensitive materials and build with a long view, but too often the long view is missed. With many businesses it is important during the design process to plan for future growth and expansion so that work doesn't have to be torn out, abandoned or otherwise wasted later on. Bruce's interest in the rawness of "handmade modern" began in his early furniture design and extends to interior design and architecture. He finds inspiration in texture, color, methods of fastening, and unexpected materials. Frank Gehry said that "buildings under construction look nicer than buildings finished," and Bruce agrees. "Many buildings--modern buildings--lose the human touch," says Bruce. "They look overly finished, like a machine made them. I prefer work that looks handmade. I like to see the process and have the finishes be a bit raw. I don't make stucco try to look like steel. If I use plastic, as I do in many kitchen designs, it looks like plastic--not like granite." Most of all, Bruce is interested in making a project work for everyone involved. Because of his hands-on construction experience, he is able to relate directly to the tradesmen on site. Because he is budget-conscious as well as appreciative of great art, he can find the balance between starkness and excess. And because he has spent years working for a variety of clients--individuals, couples, families, businesses--he knows how to work with each client's desires and visions to make each project, in his words, "a portrait of the client." Charles Eames famously drew a diagram showing the overlap of the interests of a design firm, a client, and society, the overlap signifying a successful project. Bruce strives to make a house or building right for the site, right for the time, and right for the client. About a home built in and around a grove of oaks, Bruce was enthusiastic rather than daunted: "Any site has its characteristics, which I see as a positive thing because they start to define the project. It gives us things to work with. If you go in and cut down all the trees, then the site becomes just like anything else." About working with the client's vision for a beach-view family home: "It wasn't about wanting a specific type of window or faucet. It was more like, 'We value the outdoors, we value the beach, we value family. . . . Oh, and we want to be able to hose the house out.' . . . The front door is just a simple blue garden gate. You walk in through the yard, turn the corner, and come face-to-face with this big surfboard holder--at that point you know an awful lot about this family." Bruce uses color, texture, materials, and surrounding natural elements to their greatest advantage, creating that custom portrait each time.

As a child Bruce Bolander was good at drawing and math, skills which elicited the suggestion "You should be an architect" enough times that it stuck. He attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in architecture for that reason. Bruce graduated cum laude in 1989 after several years of "learning by doing." In Cal Poly's workshop he learned to build elegant, one-of-a-kind furniture with steel and castoffs, and he still loves to build. His love of building and his years of hands-on construction experience allow him to relate and work directly with on-site workers. Now an architect, Bruce designs residential and commercial structures, his commercial niche being creative offices including film production and editing facilities. He has intentionally kept his architectural firm small in order to work closely with clients. Based in Malibu but willing to travel, he has designed buildings in Newport Beach, Mammoth, Chicago, and New York City. Justifications for his designs include simplicity, functionality, aesthetics, maximum use of light, integration of the building with nature, and clients' wishes. Bruce has gone beyond an inclination toward math and drawing to develop a sense of what a structure's full potential might be.