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November 28, 2016

How I See San Francisco: Max Gunawan

Max Gunawan is full of bright ideas. As a light artist and entrepreneur, Gunawan founded his company, Lumio, around a simple lamp design that begins as a small book and opens up into an intimate, glowing orb that is both practical and beautiful. Born in Jakarta, Gunawan studied architecture in Connecticut before relocating to San Francisco in 2003. Following a memorable appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Gunawan’s San Francisco-based company has become a recognizable extension of the city’s aesthetic, which he describes as “marrying the old-school craftsmanship with the latest technology.” Here he shares some of his favorite secret spots in the City by the Bay, including some of his favorite Illuminate SF light art installations.

How did you end up in San Francisco?
I remember getting lost in the city on the first day I visited on vacation, and these two ladies offered for me to jump into their car and take me where I needed to be, and I was like “OK, this is where I want to live.” That was 13 years ago.

Judging by the design of the Lumio lamp, you’re a fan of books. Do you have any favorite bookstores in the city?
I am partial towards architecture and design books. There’s this one excellent bookstore called William Stout Architectural Books in Jackson Square. I know it’s more of a niche bookstore, but that’s my favorite. It’s a San Francisco institution.

Seeing as your background is in architecture, what are your favorite structures in San Francisco?
I love the very underrated Sutro Tower. Not only the tower itself, but the landscape of the hills with the fog rolling in. I know people typically think of the Golden Gate Bridge or Coit Tower, but to me the Sutro Tower is very iconic San Francisco. And it’s not where all the tourists go. Also, the Bay Bridge. Again, I know people typically think of the Golden Gate Bridge, but the recent addition of the light sculpture (The Bay Lights) has made the Bay Bridge one of my favorite places in the city.

When you have a visitor in town who has never been to San Francisco, what are the little corners of the city you’d be most excited to show them?
I love to go running, so if they were a runner I’d take them along the Embarcadero all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we’d go to my favorite little restaurant near the Castro called Frances. It’s very refined food but not fussy. Another restaurant I love to visit is Lazy Bear. It’s an open kitchen with communal tables, but with five-star dining. You don’t choose the menu, you just go with it. I think it’s one of the best in the city. It’s very expensive, but you get eight or nine courses and it takes like three hours. Then we’d end up in the Castro Theatre for some campy show or a film festival. Sometimes they play old movies and this organ player rises up out of the stage.

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