Personal Background

Syncopated Architecture was founded by architect Serina Calhoun in 2009. She studied Architecture in her hometown of Fargo, obtaining her Bachelor of Architecture from North Dakota State University. Upon graduation in 2001, she relocated to the Bay Area, working for a small firm in Burlingame; CSS Architecture (now DTA Architects). Over the course of three and a half years with them, she learned an invaluable amount about how to make buildings thoughtfully and consciously, working primarily on schools and the occasional single-family home. She then moved on to work for Levy Design Partners in San Francisco; transitioning from making schools to multi-family residential projects. In 2006 she earned her Architectural license in the State of California after completing all 10 of the required exams.

She has worked on a wide variety of project types including schools, multi-family housing, commercial renovations, single family residences, and even high rise construction. Although she has done projects of all different shapes, sizes, and use types, she has always gravitated toward the more personal relationships developed in the course of residential work.

Design Philosophy

Since 2009, we have worked on over 350 buildings in the Bay Area. Our projects have included single family homes, commercial improvements, ADA upgrades, new multi-family buildings, we’ve reconfigured hundreds of apartment units to maximize layouts, we’ve corrected illegal work including a few large live-work loft buildings like the ghost ship. And, we’ve added over 275 new rent-controlled apartments to San Francisco through the accessory dwelling unit program.

All of the work we have done has been true to our founding principles:

  • To only work with people we like.
  • To make great buildings.
  • To foster a healthy working environment for our team.
  • To produce extremely high quality, detailed drawings.
  • To make sure nothing leaves our office without a thorough quality control review.
  • To know the codes better than anyone, even in many cases, than the building officials.
  • To FIGHT for our clients against bureaucratic red tape.


We are fiercely passionate about the ADU program sweeping our nation and we’ve made these projects the primary focus of our practice. We see how this program will forever transform the city we love, converting underused spaces into much needed housing. In California, we face a major housing crisis with a need for 3.5Million units. If our small team of only 5 people can create almost 300 units in just 4 years, imagine how many more we could add if every firm was working toward this goal. Think about this – if every single-family home in San Francisco, added just 1 unit to their building, we would have over 125,000 new apartments. And on multi-family projects, the opportunities are even greater. Our team is always happy to spread the word and share our expertise about this important program. Please contact us if you’d like us to host a workshop for your company. We’re happy to educate attorneys, real estate professionals, and even other architects about this transformative program.


As design professionals we can’t do our best work if the system is broken and the rules and interpretations are constantly changing. It shouldn’t take 5 years to get your vertical addition approved on your house. It shouldn’t take 10 years to build a new apartment building in SF.

When we started doing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s), it took 2 years for city approvals to simply convert existing spaces into apartments. We encountered wildly inconsistent reviews from the Fire Department, creating confusion and further delays. So we fought. And we screamed. And we emailed. And we rattled every cage we could. Thankfully, we have a Mayor who is just as frustrated as we are. Her team heard us, and they did something about it. Now those projects are through in 6 months. There’s consistency to the reviews. It’s one of our proudest accomplishments because it isn’t just about OUR projects, it’s about all the ADU projects in the City and it’s creating a model for all other project types in the city as well.

Read more about our advocacy here:

Our advocacy has sparked the creation of a second company, Property ATLAS, dedicated to cutting bureaucratic red tape and creating tools for architects, engineers, and contractors to simplify the process of building making. We hope you’ll join us!