This compact, but visually expansive, home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco was designed by Bruce Wright, AIA, LEED AP, vice president and principal of the San-Francisco-based architecture firm SB Architects. Utilizing his years of experience in the design of residential and resort environments around the world, Bruce crafted a home for himself and his family that is an expression of his sustainable ideals and approach to the design process.
The urban infill site presented a unique opportunity to create a new, free-standing home, while maintaining the site’s existing structure as a separate residential unit. The site originally housed a single structure - a one-story, one-bedroom home over a two-car garage constructed in 1931, with only 550 square feet of living space. Since the original structure was built at the rear of the 2,000-square-foot corner lot, and zoning allowed for two units on the site, a new home could be built at the front of the lot, capitalizing upon the panoramic views of San Francisco’s downtown.
The goal for this project was to seize the unique zoning opportunity to build a new home on this desirable, but never-developed, corner site in a dense San Francisco neighborhood. The design concept was driven by the micro-features of the site and the desire to create a contemporary design expression that was rooted in Northern California architectural and sustainable ideals. The basic envelope was shaped in large part by the neighborhood planning code, which dictated elements such as bay windows, notched side yards and inset entries to create movement and shadow along the streetscape. While the design is rooted in the local vernacular and code within this traditional San Francisco neighborhood, the interpretation is distinctly clean and modern.
The naturally sloping site inspired the idea of a focal stair core wrapped by private areas and topped by a dramatic skylight, bathing the interiors in natural light and forming a direct link between the private spaces on the entry level and the public spaces on the upper level. The central stair core also creates a strong vertical wall on the exterior, resulting in an intriguing alternative to the typical horizontal layering of living spaces. The corner location and internal organization of space created an exterior expression that broke free of horizontal restraints to create a blend of horizontal and vertical lines, punctuated by a strong cantilevered roof.