Architect Crush: HYA


Multi-disciplinary architect Heather Young of HYA (Heather Young Architects) is known for her pioneering efforts in sustainable design. In 2011 she and her team designed one of Northern California’s first LEED Platinum homes, inspiring a movement of green design and she served as the former Steering Committee member of the Northern California Chapter of the US Green Building Council. The firm’s modern and traditional designs have graced many residential Bay Area streets as well as several commercial spaces including including EQUINOX Fitness Club, Samsung company mSpot, and numerous prominent office buildings throughout Silicon Valley. Here we get to know the Yale alum and find out what keeps her inspired.

Heather Young

How did you get your start in architecture?  My love of design started at a very young age—starting with my own dollhouse days! I loved to make furniture for all the rooms and fit them with wallpaper, carpet and even electricity (seriously!).  I also loved to build tree houses and on weekends I’d liberate discarded 2x4s and bent nails from the local construction sites to design and build my own tree house.  

-Tell us about the work you did at Fergus Garber Young Architects and how you decided to branch out on your own to launch Heather Young Architects?  I began partnering with Dan and Catharine Garber ten years ago, and it has been such a joy to work with them. That period produced some award winning commercial and residential projects and we quadrupled in size in a few short years. As the firm grew, the team around me became interested in exploring a diverse range of projects from commercial, mixed-use, multi-family to single family homes. Dan and Cath’s hearts were really focused on single family homes and over time it made sense to split the firm and allow each group to pursue their passions. We’ve stayed together in the same building (I’m downstairs and they’re upstairs) and we still meet frequently for a weekly lunch and office outings. 

Photo by Bernard Andre

-You worked on one of Northern California’s first LEED Platinum homes. Tell us about the challenges of doing that in 2011 and how the industry has changed in the last decade to make eco-friendly building more accessible and achievable.   In 2011, LEED certification was just starting to take off and California was beginning to embrace sustainability in commercial and residential construction. With water being the single most precious resource on the plane, we wanted to explore an innovative water reclamation system in one of our Palo Alto projects. This was unheard of in a single- family home at the time, but by working closely with the Palo Alto Planning and Engineering staff we were able to address their concerns and meet our client’s water conservation goals. Several members toured the project during construction and after it was completed to see the system in place, ultimately giving them a high level of comfort for using similar systems on future projects.

-What does “California style” mean to you?  Light-filled open planned spaces that connect the interior and exterior, floor plans that promote the flow of people gracefully throughout, and a sense of warmth in the mix of materials and textures used. When the design reflects these values, it brings a true sense of California design to a space. 

Photo by Jason O’Rear

What’s your process for getting to know a client?  We work with many of our clients on multiple projects so getting to know them and them getting to know us is important.  We want to confirm early on that we share common goals and values, and let them know that developing the right project is a process within the larger relationship.  They need to know that they can trust us to listen to their spoken and unspoken goals and work to find design solutions that support their values. 

Describe your ideal Sunday from a.m. to p.m.  Sunday starts with Veronica Agosta’s CoreFlow Vinyasa class at Peacebank Yoga.  This used to include a drive to Redwood City, but with online classes my living room is now my yoga spot.  For a post workout treat, nothing is better than the European style hot chocolate at Mademoiselle Colette, and luckily for me they’re within walking distance from my home.  They’ve temporarily suspended the hot chocolate but there’s still a wide variety of pastries to choose from unless I’m feeling ambitious and bake homemade chocolate strawberry cream scones. The afternoon is perfect for gardening in the flower beds and a neighborhood walk.  Everything is blooming right now and the air smells wonderful.  

Photo by Bernardo Grijalva


Favorite classic film? Busby Berkeley’s 1933 depression era fantasy “Footlight Parade” with Jimmy Cagney and Ruby Keeler, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 noir thriller “Rebecca” with Sir Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, and Orson Welles’s 1941 drama “Citizen Kane” starring Orson Welles and his players from the Mercury Theatre.  Ok, four: George Cukor’s “A Star is Born” from 1954.  Judy Garland should have won the Oscar!

Favorite kind of donut?  Another tough choice but a Cronut Finger (the Cronut equivalent of a donut hole) is just the right amount of sugar glaze to donut surface.  And the flaky layers let you linger over every bite!

First concert?  R.E.M. during one of their earliest tours to promote “Radio Free Europe” in 1988.  It was in a small dance club in Houston with maybe 150 people there.  You were so close to the band it was like a private mosh pit.

Go-to potluck item?   I love bringing homemade crescent rolls made from my mother’s recipe.  We roll them with a slice of Smithfield Ham at the holidays but these rolls are winners hot or cold any time of the year.

Photo by Jason O’Rear 

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