Published in the Work issue of Room One Thousand, this essay starts by exploring one project through the performance of its façades, to describe the basic parametric operations of swept-blend geometry, and points towards a new potential that revolves around matters of perception and objectness.
House for Three Generations
After 'After Party'
This project aims to explore the relationship of banal, or familiar architectural elements, and to reframe their relationship to a cultural role in our contemporary moment.
It begins with the position to critically rethink the excess and formal exuberance of contemporary architectural production. One could do this through projects on primitive forms, however this proposes a project that introduces subtlety. An alternative is offered, one from a site’s immediate context, here sited in the South of Market Area in San Francisco, it explores the mis-registration of as-found fenestrations, and the misreading of façades to create organizational strategies.
It aims to create a project that is quiet yet loud, one that could be read in terms of the sequence of surface qualities that change as the viewing distance changes. It focuses on a flat, frontal approach, supporting a pictorial presence. The façade is not a blank extruded line, but rather a wall to be experienced, having its own material relationship to the public. Here the banal has the potential to be interesting and relevant through subtle perceptual shifts within its immediately familiar context.
Iceland Trekking Cabins
The project references its past by continuing the tradition of the Nordic longhouse, whose timber frame and suppressed gable were surrounded by turf blocks for insulation. The typology was organized around a main hall space for working and social gatherings. On either side of this central corridor were raised platforms used for seating and sleeping. A fireplace was central to this plan, as smoke and heat escaped though roof vent. Entries were compressed vestibules to protect from the elements.
This new longhouse observes the logic of this typology, trusting its conventions, yet affirms itself as an autonomous object. The program is arranged in served (main hall) and servant spaces (bunks, restrooms, mechanical, and storage), thereby creating interior legibility as clear as its exterior form. It brings with it the essence of the longhouse while embracing its new potential. The result is a clearly identifiable form that reinforces its climatic and cultural context. It contributes to a sense of place, unique to the highlands upon which it occupies, thereby marking a destination for trekkers and a moment for refuge and prospect.
Moss Beach Residence
This project draws on the vernacular typologies of rural settlements along the West Coast of California. Early examples were Spanish colonial houses, whose simple forms were the result of Pueblo-Spanish traditions of building. Because of their remote locations and limited access to resources, simple pitched-roof and adobe-walled forms resulted by necessity. Typical domestic plans were arranged as a series of single-width rooms, extended as required, and folded to form courtyards. Manufactured housing is now the most common type of domestic production in the United States. Commonly distributed among rural and suburban communities near cities, single-wides (typically a sixteen-foot wide unit) and double-wides, are transported to a site complete. These linear plans are then customized by adding decks, carports, and room extensions.
This project attempts to merge these two typologies with a telluric connection to the site. Restrained pitched-roof extruded forms are stratified in both plan and section to form a folded triptych. These single-wide units slip to create view, outdoor spaces, and define the boundaries of its base. A central public hall engages and unifies the units through its cross axis. Volumes are constructed of sedimentary layers of concrete, with varying colors of sand and gravel extracted from the site, recalling the stratified cliffs below.
Pacifica Pier Residence
The houses along Beach Boulevard in Pacifica, California are from the post-war modern movement of the West Coast, which are part of the lineal descent from Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino project for the war damaged region of Flanders.
This private residence pays homage to this history by expressing two horizontal slabs of concrete, that are supported by a series of concrete walls connected by a central stair. The structure of the garage allows for a facade free from load-bearing columns, thus allowing walls engaged with the slab to float above the ground plane. This creates both a monolithic appearance, and defines zones of programmatic use. Here glass is seen as a facade material that reflects its surroundings, yet is also immaterial allowing for transparency.
Bottom of the Hill Apartments
The Bottom of the Hill Apartments is a mixed-use proposal at the corner of 17th and Texas Streets in Potrero Hill, San Francisco. It has north facing views of the downtown skyline, while the east looks to the San Francisco Bay. The project borders both residential and industrial uses that began in the 1800’s. Potrero Hill is a neighborhood that developed over time, and has a range of building types from small cottages to large industrial developments. Found materials include wood, masonry and steel; together they resist a lack of defining character for this part of the city.
This project is interested in amplifying the common forms of its site. Simple volumes reflect the program of upper level units, while mimicking common masses from its context. Ground floor retail program is infilled between open-air apartment lobbies that connect vertical circulation to the public street and internal courtyard.
The idea of common interpretation is carried out throughout light and fenestrations. Basic patterns of street level portals and windows recognize existing complementary relationships. They are then positioned and scaled to achieve specific views and light qualities. The resulting organization attempts to interpret, and form a relationship with the urban fabric.
The project is determined by the triangular shape of the block. A grid of columns and slabs are expressed as skeletal facade, contemplating the infill of the city grid from its 1851 form. This shape is then duplicated and offset to the north and west, introducing an arcade along Bay Street and The Embarcadero. It brings public shelter and direction to an island building, a street otherwise open to the elements and the nature of the Bay. The core of the building offsets from the exterior wall completing a third and volumetric duplication of this form. This compositional logic shapes the columns, whose modules that subtly undulate creating various patterns of light. These formal conditions and choices align with the program of offices, and also creates a simple and rigorous architecture. The plan and facade are composed of elemental and static elements - the volumetric core and skeletal facade. The resulting layers of reduction translates and enhances the historic, spatial, and formal.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Geary Boulevard was flanked by the (now non-extant) Sutro Baths (circa 1896) along the Pacific Coast and Union Square (circa 1850) at the heart of downtown San Francisco. The scheme proposes the first civic intervention in over a century at midpoint along this corridor, thereby replacing a private banking parking lot.
The project is proceeded by the assumption of a block, cut away to create an urban space. The form is driven by a market typology, as two voids are extracted (both on and in the ground) to create clear open and covered zones of shared public use. Elemental slabs, walls and columns create layers of enclosure for market vendors; reinforcing the relationship between form and public space, and the interplay between inside and outside.
The house is sited on the edge of a protected coastal state park and a suburban development. It attempts to create a strong relationship between the Pacific and the coastal mountain range.
The project explorers both a familiar residential typology, yet is also in dialogue with its landscape. Its form is both compact protecting from harsh weather, and linear to face coastal views. The roof pitches abstract the profiles of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The program is arranged linear from north to south. The ground floor contains spaces for cooking, dining and gathering; while the upper floor is private and reserved for sleeping. Each room is given a specific view and light conditions. Square windows reference both fenestrations from its surrounding context, however are uninterruppted by mullions, reduced to quiet framed views.
Seeking to be part of the landscape, this is a project between sea and mountain.