California’s Topography Transformed Into An Art Form


In the early months of 1989, architecture student Mark Rogero was living in a leaky Emeryville warehouse with no gas, no water and no electricity. Having come to the Bay Area for a three-month unpaid stint building models for his former architecture professor, the New Jersey native couldn’t imagine staying. “It was not what the brochures said about California,” says Rogero. But he got by, working construction and burning leftover wood scraps in his stove, and when the sun finally emerged that spring, he elected to abandon his architecture coursework to remain on the West Coast. In 1991, an experiment in building a cheap cement counter for his studio kitchen led Rogero to found Concreteworks; 22 years later, his bicoastal operation has elevated concrete interiors to an art form. “I became a one-man laboratory for perfecting concrete as a finish material,” says Rogero, whose work includes aspects of the James Beard Award–winning interior of San Francisco’s Bar Agricole and a new line of fire tables, Tinder, which launched in August.

To create his California basin, Rogero worked with special projects manager Kawther Alsaffar to incorporate the state’s 3-D topography into the vessel itself. A copper fixture rises from the floor to pour water into a depression at the approximate coordinates of Sacramento. Manipulating the California landscape called up a memory of Rogero’s first year in the Bay Area, which culminated in the 1989 earthquake. The traumatic event cemented his connection to the community. “It was a moment of experiencing an affinity for where I lived that I’d never felt before,” says Rogero. “For the first time, I felt that sense of place very personally.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Fall 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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