During this year’s AIA SF Home Tours we visited a number of noteworthy projects whose site history illustrates the ever evolving neighborhoods of San Francisco, as they shift between eras. Along these lines, this single family home on Shotwell Street was formerly a dry cleaners, then a WWII munitions depot, then rumored to be the practice studios of local band Faith No More, before Todd Davis Architecture transformed its bunker-like concrete shell into a peaceful haven in the middle of San Francisco’s vibrant Mission District.
At the time of its foreclosure in 2011, the property had three separate structures on the lot: a garage, a middle studio, and a rear residence, with not-to-code former renovations. Inspired by homes in Southeast Asia, the client desired a secluded residence and interior court within the building’s barrack-esque street front façade. To achieve this, architect Todd Davis cut the middle structure in half, leaving a concrete half shell overlooking a sun-filled lawn.
The contractor, Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders, noted several advantages to retaining the grandfathered non-conforming rear structure, so the design concept focused on an interior remodel with extensive landscaping. When the concrete paving throughout was removed and utilities were relocated underground, the stump of a maple tree was uncovered and it became an inspired tree root ‘chandelier’ inside the concrete patio shell.
The material palette combines cleaned up and sandblasted original concrete, corrugated metal and new cedar siding that wraps the façade, walkway, and canopy over the main residence. The reductive approach extended to the interior structure, as extra elements were removed to simplify and open up the space. One such opening was inserted into the ceiling, where a combo skylight/hatch brings in light and provides roof access. Another large opening was cut into the bedroom wall for new French doors that open onto the garden, and the unleveled floors were replaced and sealed to be more kid and elderly friendly, as well as functional for a robotic vacuum.
A fan of local business, and Heath Ceramics in particular, the client procured test-run tiles from the new Heath Ceramics tile factory in the Mission. These can be seen on the walls of the large central kitchen, providing warmth and color to the otherwise austere structure.
Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat