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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

380 Bretano way in Greenbrae, California by PIQUE llc

April 17th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Article source: PIQUE llc


Family back yard development and global headquarters for Riedel Research Group.


These two lots on Bretano way are steeply sloped and have a north-western orientation. The contours form a concaved amphitheater-like shape focusing on the existing pool and the house’s back patio. The area is dense with foliage but there are pockets of clear space that create sheltered little moments as you walk upon them. Both large public areas and these isolated spaces exist and the differences in scale offer a variety of experiences. There is an overall sense of protection and inward focus while on the site. The downward momentum of the land combined with the expansive canopies of the oak trees makes the space feel immediate, protected and calm. This is a wonderful contrast to the other very dynamic systems that are presented in this booklet and this contrast may be fruitful as we begin to establish common design intent.


  • Architect: PIQUE llc
  • Name of Project: 380 Bretano way
  • Location: Greenbrae, California

While the site generally focuses in on itself, there are opportunities for spectacular distant views of the valley, Mount Tamalpais and brilliant sunsets. The diagram to the right shows the solar paths throughout the year overlaid on a 360 degree view of the site. Due to the density of the foliage on the site and its position on the hill, the morning light will be mostly shaded. As the day progresses, the site opens up to the sunlight. One study we plan to do is an investigation of the daily cycles of David, Annie and Ellie for a one week time span. This would be an interesting way to analyze and discover exactly when and how this family may use the back yard. After living in cities around the world, David, Annie and Ellie decided to move to Marin County for numerous reasons. Not least of which were the seductive climate, and a vast network of friends already living in the Bay area. These friendships go back decades in some cases – it is safe to say that there will be many hours of entertaining in this new backyard.



The geology of the Bay area is a very dynamic and complex system that operates on a scale that is millions of centuries long. Due to the fact that a primary reason the Riedels have moved back to this area is for its natural beauty, and a major portion of this project will involve sculpting the terrane, we decided to gather a bit of information about the geology of the place in effort to better understand the reasons for its landforms. At the center of the Earth is a solid metallic core. Around the core is the molten mantle, which comprises most of the planet. The upper mantle is a relatively cool and rigid outer shell. If we think of Earth as a fruit, the core would be the pit, the mantle would be the juicy flesh, the upper mantle would be the rind. There is also a thin solid skin covering the upper mantle which makes up the continents and ocean floors, called the crust.

There are two types of crust: oceanic crust and continental crust. Continental crust is a raft of relatively light rock, mostly granite, floating like a marshmallow in a boiling pot of hot cocoa. It moves as it is pushed around by the forces below. Oceanic crust is heavier basalt, like a skin of cocoa that has formed on the top. This skin is connected in large plates over the mantle. Because they are solids on top of a liquid substrate, the plates move, bump into each other and push each other around. Oceanic crust is constantly upwelling and oceanic ridges, cooling and moving as a plate away from the ridge. When it reaches a floating continent it slides below, getting pushed down into the hot rock below and re-melting. The forces and stresses caused by this process make mountains, earthquakes and volcanoes.


The San Francisco Bay Area is renowned for its precarious position at the intersection of the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The San Andreas fault line relieves the pressures between the two plates with continual slippage and occasional earthquakes. Once a subduction boundary where the Pacific Plate was pushed below the North American Plate (see diagram opposite page), it is now a transform boundary, meaning that the Pacific Plate is slipping past the North American Plate (carrying the west edge of California north at the rate of 1”/year).

The rugged topography that Marin County is famous for was shaped when the San Andreas was still a subduction fault as evidenced by a large amount of radiolarian fossils (microscopic single celled organisms that coat the ocean floor) can be found in the strata of the county. As the oceanic plate moved below the continental crust, the movement scraped the oceanic crust against the land mass folding oceanic deposits with radiolaria into the continental crust and ultimately shaped the dynamic ridges and valleys we see today.


A unique aspect of this area that is a result of the subduction momentum is that the makeup of the terrane of the bay area is almost entirely a mélange (The mélange typically consists of a jumble of large blocks of varied lithologies of altered oceanic crustal material and blocks of continental slope sediments in a sheared mudstone matrix) due to the thorough mixing of minerals. As these folds (or terrane) get forced farther inland, they continue to grind against each other and mix together. Here is an interesting excerpt about the mélange as it relates to Greenbrae:

“All of the previously-described Franciscan and Great Valley complex terranes in the map area are tectonically enclosed in an argillite matrix mélange that has been called the Central terrane (Blake and others, 1982, 1984). However, these rocks do not comprise a terrane in the strict tectonostratigraphic sense, in that they are the result of combining rocks from several terranes.


Most of the mélange matrix consists of sheared mudstone (argillite) and lithic sandstone, within which are mixed numerous blocks and slabs of greenstone, chert, metamorphic rocks, serpentinite, and other rocks. Although treated as a single terrane, the mélange is actually the result of the tectonic mixing of rocks derived from several terranes: the rocks that would form the sheared matrix from an unnamed and almost completely disrupted terrane, the chert, greenstone, graywacke, and metamorphic blocks from accreted Franciscan complex terranes, and the serpentinite from the Coast Range ophiolite.

In a few places, such as the abandoned quarry along Hwy 101 at Greenbrae (San Rafael quadrangle), it is possible to see preserved slabs of interbedded graywacke, mudstone, chert, and tuffaceous greenstone that probably represent the original sedimentary accumulation that has been subsequently sheared to form the mélange matrix. Such rocks have yielded both megafossils and microfossils (radiolaria and dinofl agellates) of Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous age (Blake and Jones, 1974; Murchey and Jones, 1984).”



Riedel Research Group is an equity research and analysis fi rm focusing on Asian, Latin American and Emerging European markets. The Greenbrae headquarters manages 31 analysts in 15 countries covering 320 stocks and issuing about 600 reports per year. It is a unique business model and has gotten much recognition within the financial sector.

There are (among many) two primary systems that effect this business and how the Greenbrae headquarters operates: the fluctuating markets and time zone differences. The top portion of the diagram below maps the trading hours of each of the specific markets that RRG deals with based on the Pacific time zone. Here you can clearly see that the sun never sets on RRG. There are open markets in their respective locations/time zones that cover the entire 24 hour cycle. This diagram also illustrates the work hours David needs to work, and therefore the hours he will be walking through the project, as well as the off hours in the mid afternoon when the family will be using the space together for recreation. By getting to work at 5am, he can catch the end of the Emerging European markets and the entirety of the Latin American and American markets.


Within this cycle of time zones, there is also the dynamic fluctuation of the markets. The adjacent diagram is a study of the applicable markets for a one month time span. The number on the right hand side is the amount the market fluctuated. The main intent in making this diagram was to illustrate how actively these specific markets swing in such a short amount of time; however, in making this image one thing that became particularly interesting is that these markets fluctuate proportionally to how much they are trading. So for example Thailand only fluctuates by 60, but it is only trading in the 700-900 per day. Brazil fluctuates by 7000 but it trades in the 10,000-12,000 trades per day. So even though the stock markets are operating at a smaller capacity, they still experience a proportional fluctuation.

Another interesting aspect about the markets that we discovered in diagram making is how the dynamics of the stock markets are similar at any scale of time. Below are four market charts; one each for a day, a month, a year and a decade.

The fluctuations are nearly identical at all four scales, to the point that if the x-axis was masked hiding the timeline, one could not tell the four of them apart.



A few points of interest that we are starting to find in studying these systems is that the fluctuations in geology of the place this project sits on, the fluctuations in the markets that this business deals with and the overlapping cycles of the people who use it are all incredibly dynamic and will have an effect on how this place is used and perceived. And while these systems are equally dynamic, they operate at incredibly different scales of time. It would be interesting if this project could be a bridge between those timescales.


Three different time scales:

This top image shows paleomagnetic dating of the history of the earth. Paleomagnetism refers to the study of the record of the Earth’s magnetic field preserved in various magnetic minerals through time. The study of paleomagnetism has demonstrated that the Earth’s magnetic field varies substantially in both orientation and intensity through time. Paleomagnetic study is incredibly important for geologists in determining the time of geologic activity.

These two graphs show the fluctuation in climate factors (temperature and rainfall) through a year. This is the most tangible cycle for the project as a “bridge” as its time scale effects are directly linked to the time scale of this back yard (sunlight and seasons) and the people who use it.

This bottom image graphs the trading fluctuations for five hours in one day. Every minute is important and it clearly represents the great power and speed that digital communication has.

Site plan

How can the project measure these three systems that operate at such contrasting scales?

Or, what other conclusions can we draw from these systems?

One interesting way to think about all this information is at the scale of a single moment. Capturing a single moment in time is one way to equalize processes happening at different speeds. Furthermore, moments can be thought of as ‘section cuts’ or snap shots of time. Section cuts can show us in an instant a diagram of a long history. Such can be seen in tree rings or road cuts through mountains. A snap shot freezes a moment in time which is like a single point along a graphed line…making it a piece of the overall timeline. These cuts/shots open and expose a story.

An important aspect of this project will be the path that carries through the site and the buildings. Along that path, moments can be captured as vignettes that tell a story about the site, program and people that use it.




Upper floor plan

Lower floor plan

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