The design focus at Johnson Fain has always been broad and intellectually based, placing an emphasis on research and interdisciplinary practice. Horizontally organized by discipline, all project teams ensure design continuity from conception to completion through continuity in both design and management. Innovation, consistently high quality, permeability and institutional memory are the goals of design realization. Primary team members are encouraged to remain involved throughout the life of each project.
At Johnson Fain, design is a unique outgrowth of culture. In addition to a sense of current critical issues, design looks to locale, program and the needs of inhabitants and technology for the cues from which form is created. As a result, a priori architectural formulations are eschewed. Like fine art, it is believed that design must be grounded in the realities of our own time and stretch to anticipate the future. As we frequently design urban projects of scale, we believe that these projects, whether publicly or privately sponsored, must acknowledge their de facto public status and serve the long-term inclusive needs of an evolving and increasingly interdependent population. All projects are predisposed to a concern for issues of sustainability, accessibility and social equity
It is our belief that design in all disciplines tends toward form, that the creation of an architectural iconography is both a condensation of ideas as well as an expanding framework for the interaction of participants both known and as yet unidentified. The principal dialectic of our time and the problem of the operation of design are to recognize legitimate forces acting upon a condition, map them with precision and inclusivity and direct patterns of physical intervention toward the becoming of architectural form. Umberto Eco has metaphorically described such an architecture when he refers to the "the open work" as "those creations that allow completion by the viewer, those that elicit multiple interpretations along coherent but unchartered lines".
Johnson Fain is a fully integrated design studio in architecture, urban design & planning and interior design. Founded by two former University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Design School classmates, the office provides design services in a diverse range of project types. Scott Johnson, Design Partner and William Fain, Managing Partner and Director of Urban Design & Planning, personally oversee the work of Principals, other management personnel and studio staff.
Johnson Fain is the recipient of numerous awards for design excellence. In Northern California, Johnson Fain has been the design architect for The Capitol Area East End, Sacramento's easterly expansion of State Capitol offices, Rincon Center, the adaptive re-use and addition of new residential towers to the historic Rincon Postal Annex in San Francisco and the Opus One Winery in the Napa Valley. Johnson Fain was also the master plan architect for Mission Bay, San Francisco's new 300 acre mixed-use community and home to University California San Francisco's medical campus. In Southern California, Century City's MGM Tower, SunAmerica Center and Fox Plaza, downtown's Central High School and Amgen's Thousand Oaks campus have all been designed by Johnson Fain. Currently, the office is designing and planning projects in California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Japan and China.
The Partners and senior staff have been active in the academic communities they serve. Scott Johnson, in addition to being a professor of architecture at the University of Southern California's School of Architecture, has acted in the capacity of Director of Graduate Programs for a number of years. William Fain has lectured throughout the region and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Senior staff members at Johnson Fain participate regularly in various university design studios and students are frequently brought into the office to support class activities. Figure/Ground: A Design Conversation with Scott Johnson and Bill Fain was recently published as was The Big Idea: Criticality and Practice in Contemporary Architecture and Tall Building: Imagining the Skyscraper by Scott Johnson was published in 2009. In 2010, Scott Johnson released Techtonics of Place: The Architecture of Johnson Fain. And William Fain's If Cars Could Talk: Essays on Urbanism will be published by Spring 2012.