GALLERY HOUSE is an infill project whose solidity dissolves at the façade. There, it meets South Park, one of the few figural public spaces in San Francisco. Formally emulating the organic morphology of the nearby tree canopy, the regular geometry within the building transforms at the facade screen to open and share the private interior.

The primary role of the architecture was to create a space for exchange between public and private zones. Combining a semi-public art gallery and a residence for two prominent collectors, the project developed an emerging domestic typology, the ‘gallery house’. The clients, a virologist and a mathematician, exclusively collect work by female contemporary artists and wanted a space where they could share and promote their collection, not only with friends and neighbors, but also with the larger art world. They requested a home within which both their extensive collection and visitors could circulate from a semi-public gallery through to the domestic space, each zone offering a different environment for experiencing the work. The street-level gallery hosts exhibitions curated from their private collection as well as the collections of friends. A site for artist and curator talks, the gallery increases public engagement in the arts within the art world as well as at the scale of their own neighborhood. The exhibition space is redefined as it continues up the stairs to the next two floors and the penthouse sculpture garden. By virtue of its open plan, the domestic zone includes even the most private spaces in the exhibition circuit.

The figure-ground relationship between the void of South Park and the surrounding fabric informed the search for an architectural language. The interlocking clarity of figure-ground relationships informed the internal organization, while the façade takes on the interdependency and ambiguity of their edge conditions. The design process began by seeing the base condition of the infill lot as solid poché, already full. The solid mass of the buildable envelope was then subdivided into interlocking elements, which were identified as either solid or void, and assigned various programs. In this manner, the original fullness of the space was articulated, resulting in a perceptible heaviness in the built project.

In order to create an irregular, volumetric façade, the lattice was developed from a strategic misreading of the San Francisco Planning Code’s allowable bay window exception. A taxonomy of deviant allowable envelopes was generated by reading the Code mathematically rather than for its implied intent (which is to encourage Victorian bay windows). From these, one base form was selected onto which points with a variable density were projected. Finally, these points were translated into a triangular mesh, using an algorithm typically associated with landscape forms. The geometry of the facade screen reappears in the ‘mathematical-organic’ pavers and at the rooftop sculpture garden.

LOCATION: 70 South Park, San Francisco, California

PROGRAM: 5,600 sf combined art gallery and house

AIA San Francisco, 2011 Architecture Honor Award
AIA California Council, 2010 Architecture Merit Award

Emerging Voices 30: Form, Idea, and Resonance at the Architectural League, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015, pg. 283
Hawthorne, Christopher, "Gallery House," in Häuser, Hamburg, December/January 2011, pp. 5, 92-97
Lee, Lydia, "Random Acts of Architecture," in Metropolis, July/August 2010, pp. 1, 56-63, 83
Viladas, Pilar, "Park Place" in New York Times - Domesticities, March 10, 2010

Contractor, Forsythe General Contractors
Facade Structural, Derrick Roorda (Buro Happold)
Daylighting, Coolshadow