This house for an entrepreneur and an artist began with a negotiation. Impacted by powerful neighborhood groups that restricted its envelope and appearance, the house wears a mask to hide the architectural freedoms within. The mask achieves a blankness by abstracting the ubiquitous San Francisco bay window and covering the entire front face with a dense cedar screen. However, the cedar boards twist at the bay window to allow a glimpse of the internal complexity beyond.

Behind the mask, the house has a split personality. Vertical circulation is efficiently stacked on one side, opposing varied horizontal living on the other. A skylight emphasizes this split by creating a rift between these two zones. The two zones have different characters, underscored by the exclusive use of raw materials on one side while the other side is drenched in pastel blue paint. Each personality reflects a distinct spatial dynamic: fluid, varied extension in a horizontal plane versus vertical and vertiginous twisting.

The blue zone resulted from extensive color studies and mock-ups in collaboration with the artist client. Finding and committing to a color was exciting and traumatic precisely because of color’s unpredictable, changeable nature and the resulting emotional impact. The facets and fluctuating light conditions at the stair combine to make color perception unstable. Outside, in the private rear garden, the transformative qualities of paint are used in a different way, camouflaging the rear neighbor’s house with dazzle painting.

Some amount of repression is essential to civilization – a compromise between the individual’s instincts and society. In the Hidden House, the mask converts these disparate sensibilities into unified, civil behavior.

LOCATION: 412 Lombard Street (Telegraph Hill), San Francisco, California

PROGRAM: 3,000 SF house

Katya Tylevich, 'OPA Takes Cues From the Disparate Qualities of Daily Existence,' Mark 67, Frame Publishers, Amsterdam, April/May 2017, pp. 83-101

Contractor, Forsythe General Contractors
Structural, Buro Happold
Landscape, OPA
Planting, Delphine Huetz-Cozzolino