During the past weekend’s AIA Home Tours, one of our favorite residences was a rehabilitated Edwardian home on Shotwell Street designed by Jane Martin of Shift Design Studio and architect, David Baker. If you know the Mission District in San Francisco, you know that Shotwell is a vibrant, ‘gritty’, and sometimes harsh street that has seen everything from street gangs to the up and coming ODC Dance Studios recently built next door. This residence takes in all of this ambiance, exhibiting both the evolution of a place and the passion of its inhabitant.

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The residence’s modest street façade, which predates the 1906 earthquake, has been largely maintained with a few adaptations. The original storefront now has textured glass vitrines and 15 inch deep sills, providing a secure, yet translucent, street face. Along the same lines, an ‘aluminum extravaganza’ is sliced into the front for a secure, modern entryway. Where there once was an entrance for shop deliveries and before that a path to the stables beyond, now stands a slotted gate of Ipe wood, providing a balance of security and transparency at street level.

It is apparent that these designer occupants think a lot about transportation, resources, and socially responsible design. So it’s no surprise that the home of SF Bike Coalition enthusiasts would contain an impressive collection of bicycles, many of which are hoisted overhead. In fact, the home contains an aggregate of several collections – an assortment of dolls (including one of the Czech folkloric Hestermen); heirloom modern furniture (made by Knoll, Robsjohn-Gibbings, Saarinen, and the Eames); and a couple of cats named Charco and Koko. One could even argue that the house collects water and solar power.

Shotwell street is located at the base of several of San Francisco’s glorious hills. This, in effect, puts the area in the City’s ‘trench drain’ for runoff from adjacent higher-level properties, as experienced in the historic 2004 flash floods. Martin and Baker’s response was to disconnect the home from the City sewage system, which is clearly overloaded, and design a bioswale rear courtyard of varying textures and aggregate rock. Water is thus collected from the roof and directed to bamboo and horsetail side planters along the rear court.

A 2 kW photovoltaic array provides 60-70% of the home’s power, and an Australian thermosiphon passive loop system heats a 120gal tank of water on the roof to approximately 180 degrees before directing it inward for domestic hot water use.

Many of the home’s other green features are embedded in its structure, and reflect the designer’s inherent way of doing things. The walls contain recycled blue jean insulation and a 2” concrete topping slab floor offers radiant heat from below and cushy rugs on top. The absence of door knobs throughout the home is as much a nod to universal accessibility as it is to stark minimalism, and a woodshop takes the place of the aforementioned horse stables as a further testament to ‘locally made’, ‘hand crafted’ artistry.

Indeed, this is the delightful home of an artist and an excellent example of whimsical, eclectic San Francisco architecture. More details on Jane Martin and David Baker’s live/work space be found in Dwell Magazine’s June 2008 issue.

+ David Baker + Partners Architects

+ Shift Design Studio

photo courtesy of David Baker + Partners Architects