Eye on Architecture: Conrad Sanchez
Many people think of cutting edge architecture as something only available in major cities, that the New York skyline, the sweeping bridges of San Francisco, the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in LA could never happen anywhere else. But right here in the central valley, we have an incredible architect who is working at the forefront of the industry, envisioning and producing breathtaking and avant-garde structures for customers throughout the state: Conrad Sanchez.
Sanchez was born to the architectural world. He trained at the knee of his father Harvey, a renowned local architect in his own right. “I started out just tracing my dad’s drawings. I learned everything from my father.” Since Conrad has come of age—first as lead designer at Blu Design Studio, his former agency, and now at the Manteca-based ConradDesign Group, L.L.C., the two have been occasional collaborators. In fact, a home the pair designed in Sonoma appeared in Architectural Digest in 2008. Conrad himself has been profiled in LUXE Magazine and Art & Antiques Magazine, among many other prestigious awards and honors. He is the genius behind a growing collection of residential and commercial structures in Stanislaus County including some of the most iconic and memorable buildings in the region.
Sanchez admits that while he has always valued his work, in the past his attitude has also gained him a reputation. “I let it get to my head. I was a cocky, overconfident jerk and I wasn’t proud of that. I’ve changed because I’ve realized what’s more important in life. It’s about perspective. We’re not saving people’s lives, but we are changing the way they feel. We want their home to be a respite, we want them to feel like in this wild and crazy world they actually have a place to feel safe and comfortable.”
As lead designer for the four-person ConradDesign Group in Manteca, Sanchez says that he is motivated by collaborating with clients, and always strives to balance the homeowner’s personality with the distinctive characteristics of the building site in his designs. “I explain to clients that a custom house is just like a dress. Anybody can come in and design something that looks beautiful, but if it doesn’t fit then it’s worthless. My designs can have my stamp, my personality, but I really want them to show off your personality.”
Sanchez’s finished buildings are jaw dropping; pure expressions of the capabilities of modern architecture that marry the gentleness of nature, incredibly bold angles and seemingly cacophonous strokes of asymmetry into cohesive wholes. Each of Sanchez’s finished homes is a unique work of art, often crossing the delicacy of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces with the austere forms of Luis Barragan’s designs. Sanchez says that he strikes an aesthetic balance between modern and old-world sensibilities and lists Wright and Barragan alongside Mies Van der Rohe and Bernard Maybeck as artistic inspirations. Sanchez’s work goes beyond these inspirations, though. It is the work of a remarkable and mature designer with an innate sense for space, color and light and a wonderful facility for making a space not just beautiful but—according to clients—amazingly liveable, as well.
Recent work by Sanchez includes a home designed to complement the art collection of the home owners; a river-side residence in Oakhurst that seamlessly integrates indoor and outdoor space; and a magnificent structure situated between three 100-year old oak trees in Sonoma appropriately called The Tree House. Sanchez is a local treasure and here at CH, we are eager to see what comes next in his career.