Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A great read about SearchResearch methods

Every so often you come across something that resets your expectations.  This past week, my friend Marcin (an ex-Googler, brilliant typographer, and superb prototyping guy) and his friend Sarah did a lovely piece of research about the building where they work at an SF startup called Medium

It's no ordinary building--it's the "Phelan Flatiron" building in downtown San Francisco, 760 Market Street.  And yes, it is that odd, triangular shape that you see in 19th century cityscapes ...  

In any case, I suspect that regular readers of SearchResearch will really enjoy Marcin's posts.  His analysis and methods are really great.  

The first, Mr. Phelan's Building: Everything you wanted to know about San Francisco's finest flatiron, is the history of the building.  It includes everything before the 1906 earthquake, images of the devastated building, and its rebirth after 1906 in the same shape, but better construction. Marcin also describes a bit of the research process they went through to uncover all this background story.  

The second post, Researching the Phelan Building, is mostly about the resources Marcin and Sarah used in their research.  Both articles are great reading, especially wrt the resources they found and used effectively (especially the off-line resources in libraries and archives).  

They're both great reading.  

And if you're a fan of urban architecture, you'll want to follow Marcin on Facebook, Twitter, or Medium: he's also a great photographer, with lots of beautiful images and analysis of the spaces and buildings we construct. 

Searching on... in the cityscape.  


  1. What a fascinating read. Thank you for sharing that; I'd like to somehow share it with students to get them inspired about researching their surroundings.

  2. Well compiled by Marcin Wichary & Sarah Agudo - interesting read, nice weave of the personal and historical/research & first hand exploration… thanks for the point.
    Readers might also be interested in his flickr

    … saw they listed Online Archive of California but thought the photos with Will Rogers, on the roof of the Phelan Building were interesting…
    also found here: University of California
    especially this one with Helen Wills - roof garden, looking toward the Call/Central Tower building, when it was still domed (pre-1938)
    with Phelan
    Rogers, Phelan, Wills
    Call, NPS
    then & now
    Market Street
    The Call/Spreckels Building
    … had to see who Wills was - not a bad way to be 'immortalized' - even if it is incognito…
    ‘The Allegory of California’ Diego Rivera
    or a bad place to hang out with Phelan Villa Montalvo - William & Alex Curlett, William - architect on the Phelan Building
    wasn't the only flat iron styled in the neighborhood in the '20s (up to '69 building)
    Crocker Building/Cabot Line headquarters
    & the Flood Building '06 survivor
    kinda like this modern version -
    1 Pine Street, check street view
    one other bit I crossed while searching - a different Golden Gate…
    tunnel, the future that wasn't

  3. This was a great read - all 28 minutes of it.

    Thanks for pointing it out. They sure did a nice job of pulling it all together


  4. Impressive work! It was nicely presented with a good mix of photos & commentary when appropriate. And letting the readers choose if they want to see the sources and links instead of making links the highlight of their article was a really smart move. This took a lot of time and organization (I wonder how long the project took?).

    What I learned personally is that presentation matters. When well done like this article it's seamless. I first thought I'd have a quick look but I soon found myself fully engaged. It would be nice to seem participate in challenges.