The Edge: Glenn Rescalvo, Handel Architects

October 18, 2013 7 min read

Handel Architects - Glenn Rescalvo

Novedge: Tell us about yourself and
what you do

Glenn Rescalvo: My name is Glenn Rescalvo
and I am the partner in charge of Handel Architects’ San Francisco
office. I started this office about 18 years ago, and I feel very
fortunate for its success, and for where my career in architecture
has taken me. I have had the opportunity to design and build projects
throughout the world, including my hometown of San Francisco, and
that has been very rewarding.

Handel Architects - Four Season 1

It gives me great pride to
be able to contribute to the physical growth and urban landscape of
this amazing city. I love my role as an architect, designer and
partner of our firm, and I hope to remain devoted to the field for
many years. Each day, I have the opportunity to work with talented
designers, meet with interesting clients and develop new
opportunities for our firm. I am very committed and involved with the
organizations surrounding the field of architecture, and I enjoy
participating in discussion panels, presenting projects and lecturing
when possible.

My other life passion, aside
from skiing and biking, is spending time with my amazing family. My
wife, Maria, has been my greatest supporter and fan. She is my
day-to-day soundboard, and, without her, I definitely would not be
where I am today. My daughters, Bianca and Chiara, have also been a
great driving force in what I’ve achieved. They admire the work I do
and they’re always intrigued by my projects, and that gives me
great pleasure.

Handel Architects - Four Season 2

Novedge: What matters most to you in

Glenn Rescalvo: Like most architects, I hope
to create practical and innovative designs. Our firm is driven by the
opportunity to think outside the box, and create new and unique
spaces for people to experience and explore. The most important
consideration in our work is how the designs affect people, how they
experience them and react to them. We want our work to provoke
people’s senses, hopefully always in a positive and enlightening way.

Novedge: How does your commitment to
sustainability inform your practice?

Glenn Rescalvo: I would like to believe that
all aspects of our work encompass a basic, practical level of
sustainability. From the planning and building orientation, to the
design of the exterior walls, we try to be cognizant of basic
sustainable concepts in our design. The influence and incorporation
of LEED has definitely made architects increasingly dedicated to
designing buildings that respond to the environment and to our global
energy crisis. I also believe that the implementation of programs
such as LEED and Green Point indicates that, over the years,
architects have lost the art of designing projects that utilize the
influences of a site’s natural characteristics. Given the world’s
present energy crisis and high fuel demands, we need to be
accountable for how we design projects. I believe it starts with a
strong, basic concept of project orientation, materials of choice and
the influences of the natural environment.

Handel Architects - Millennium Tower 2

Novedge: What is a recent project
that you worked on?

Glenn Rescalvo: We recently completed an
amazing project in Abu Dhabi–the Rosewood Hotel and Residences. The
project began as an invitational competition by Mubadala Real Estate
group, which we successfully won in 2008. After 5 years of planning,
design and construction supervision, the project recently opened for

Handel Architects - Rosewood 1

The project is located in
Abu Dhabi’s prestigious new Al Maryah Island financial district,
between the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Cleveland Clinic.
Rosewood Abu Dhabi is a 1.1 million sq. ft. (102,000 m²) luxury,
mixed-use development. The complex includes a 189-room five-star
Rosewood hotel, 139 serviced apartments, banquet facilities, meeting
facilities, a spa, a fitness center, retail space, restaurants and

Handel Architects - Rosewood 3

The inspiration for the
design was derived from the falcon and the art of falconry, which has
a long history in the Middle East, and remains an important part of
Arab heritage and culture. The forms, lines and textures of the
falcon’s body and feathers were the inspiration that initiated the
early ideas for the form and expression of the tower. One of the key
visions was the way in which the falcon’s wings overlap its body,
which inspired the exterior massing and the overlapping textures of
the exterior wall. This idea is most apparent in the “tail” of
the tower as it swoops toward the sky, and the textures of the
juxtaposed walls collide together. The intent was to create a design
that wasn’t a literal translation of an idea, but one that simply
reflected the falcon’s beauty, elegance and precision. It provided
a strong form that is inherent in the nature of the region, and is
culturally praised as an art form.

Handel Architects - Rosewood 4

The building acts as a
central “mixer” for the area. The hotel, residences, retail,
meeting & banquet spaces and fitness center create a building
that is truly active 24/7. It’s a hybrid offering many uses, with
building functions that support and nourish each other, as well as
themselves. Visitors–whether short-term or long-term–may use more
than one function in the complex. The building was actively designed
to take advantage of spontaneous desires, such as shopping after
attending a meeting, as well as planned arrangements, such as
fine-dining after the fitness club, or a drink after work at one of
the nearby office buildings. The economic value of the project is
further enhanced by the mutual relationship of complimentary

Additionally, the building’s
position as the “gateway” to Al Maryah Island gives it a
particular importance that the architecture embraces. The surrounding
buildings, all new construction as well, are much more rectilinear in
form. The curvilinear, “fluid” form of the Rosewood ties the
architecture of the surrounding buildings together and balances out
the adjacent straight-lined forms. Reflective glass was chosen for
its daytime shimmer and its nighttime luminescence.

Handel Architects - Rosewood 2

Novedge: What software do you use?

Glenn Rescalvo: Our firm utilizes several types of software, depending on the task at hand. For production,
our teams either work in AutoCAD or Revit. Over the past few years,
we have been moving more towards Revit for various reasons. For
renderings, illustrations and graphics we use a combination of V-Ray,
Rhino, SketchUp, Illustrator and Photoshop.

Novedge: Your practice is based in
San Francisco, but you have also worked internationally, in Moscow
and Taipei, for example. What were the main differences and
similarities between working at home and abroad?

Glenn Rescalvo: Our firm is and has been
involved in many projects throughout the world and it is true–most
projects abroad bring a unique and sometimes challenging set of
conditions. The majority of international projects that I’ve worked
on have been in Santiago, Chile and in Abu Dhabi. Santiago is unique
in that its geological makeup is similar to San Francisco. It lies
within a very active seismic zone, which requires buildings to be
structurally designed, similar to the standards of buildings in
California. On the business and construction side, we’ve seen many
similarities with how projects are developed, constructed and
executed here in the US.

Handel Architects - W hotel Santiago 1

On the flip side, in areas of the world such
as Abu Dhabi, where high-rise development is relatively new, planning
and development and construction are executed very differently than
in the United States. The rules of development are negotiated, and
the building codes are constantly changing, but clearly for the
better. One very unique difference in areas such as Asia and the UAE
is that labor costs are extremely low, and it is not unusual for
there to be 3 or 4 times as many laborers and construction workers on
a site. This creates a variety of challenging conditions which are
completely out of the architect’s control, and, at times, can be
detrimental to the final outcome of the project. Having the ability
to fill a job site with workers allows projects to be erected faster,
but not always necessarily better. Workmanship, detailing and
product quality can sometimes be at risk. Fortunately, we are seeing
more and more Western and European construction firms expanding into
these markets of the world, and developing higher standards of

Handel Architects - W hotel Santiago 2

Novedge: Handel Architects prides
itself on its ability to work with developers. What are some of the
things you’ve learned that make for a beneficial working

Glenn Rescalvo: We have been very fortunate
to work with many distinguished and unique developers over the past
20 years, and I’ve learned that no two are alike. They all enjoy
building projects, and, more importantly, they like their
developments to be successful.

I admire developers for the
simple reason that it is a very creative field with a tremendous
amount of risk. And, hopefully, great rewards. No different, really,
than the field of architecture. As architects, we create and design
with great passion, in hopes that someone will say, “It looks
great. I love it. Let’s build it!” We have been very fortunate to
work with a lot of developers who share a similar mindset to ours, in
that we are all striving to improve the growth of cities and the
public realm through the development of great projects. The world of
“development” has exposed our practice to many aspects of the
growth of cities throughout the world. Working closely with
developers, city planners, political officials and neighborhood
groups, we have come to appreciate what it takes to have the vision,
compassion and drive to develop a great portfolio of work that can
have a positive influence on cities.

Handel Architects - Millennium Tower 1

Novedge: What is the best advice you
have ever received?

Glenn Rescalvo: “Be a better listener”.
Time and time again, I tell myself to listen harder and longer, even
if it’s painful. I always learn something new.


Check out the website and Facebook page of Handel Architects to see more of Glenn’s work.

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