The site is where the elevated 101 Freeway connects to the surface streets at Market and becomes Octavia Boulevard – the entrance to north/west sector of San Francisco. The First Baptist Church with its classical façade and strong cornice is one pylon of this entrance. Mirroring this mass, on the other side of Octavia Boulevard, 8 Octavia completes the gateway. This entry is seen as an opportunity to present our new city, one that folds tradition and innovation.
The long thin mass of building floats above the street to make public commercial space at both ends.
Traditional San Francisco facades are pretty, with delicate vertical articulation, but now buildings also have other work to do. They need to protect and temper with as little energy and resources as possible. Skins of building have to be alive, breathing and changing with the time of day and seasons, responding to the variation in climatic conditions to adjust the interiors. On this predominantly western façade, each occupant can modulate the sunlight and sound in their unit, controlling the temperature and re-drawing the exterior elevation as they do, displaying their occupancy to the city outside as a constantly changing billboard. Ornament is replaced by instrument.
BUILDING COMMUNITY To create serenity on this busy boulevard, vertical rear yards are carved into the long mass, slices that weave through the building articulating the façade in proportion to surrounding buildings. The required ‘rear yard’ open space is divided into four parts to optimize the benefits of openness. These slices expand the girth of exterior wall, increasing the opportunities for interior light. Residences are entered via bridges through these common courts. Instead of a corridor, one arrives at home through a shared courtyard which creates opportunities for interaction and connection.
THE URBAN HOUSE Lofts provide occupants freedom to construct their own home by the arrangement of furniture in an open plan with minimum walls and constraints. We have based these dwellings on this type. Services are compressed along common thick walls, or in floating pods, highly rationalized, systematic, and rigorously stacked for economies. This achieves parallel goals of compression facilitating openness; and rationality achieving economy.
The units are composed of a kit of parts. The one is a two-bedroom L-shaped courtyard house, arranged around the vertical voids. The other type is an I-shaped single bedroom unit with generous open space and an efficient pod containing all the services and mechanisms of domestic life floating in the space. At the top of the building L’s and I’s are combined into U’s to form 3 bedroom penthouse units which have private roof terraces accessed with spiral stairs.
Our goal is to put design within reach with spaces which engender freedom for the occupants, agglomerate around communal courts, and make a memorable urban object that marks this important locus in the city.