The gallery-house negotiates three normative tensions: the tension within social relationships, the tension between inside and outside, and the tension between the urban code and freedom of expression. The architecture addresses these tensions by considering the interdependence of figure and void. The owners desired a gallery-house that would extend and redefine the exhibition space as it continues from the street level to the rooftop sculpture garden. The design subdivides the buildable envelope into interlocking solid and void figures, and public space permeates the entire project by virtue of the contiguous voids. The domestic zone includes even the most private spaces in the exhibition circuit by virtue of its open plan. The porous facade connects the gallery-house to the park, but also delimits a buffer zone. The facade completes the oval figure of the park as a thickened space, negotiating the duality of public and private, inside and outside, house and park, on either side. The facade lattice began with a strategic misreading of the San Francisco Planning Code’s allowable bay window exception. Reading the Code mathematically rather than for its implied intent (to encourage Victorian Bay windows) resulted in a taxonomy of deviant allowable envelopes. One form was selected, onto which points were projected with variable density. Finally, these points were translated into a triangular mesh, using an algorithm typically associated with landscape forms. The façade mediates between the orthogonal framework of the interior and the organic morphology of the park, ultimately offering a shared third realm of reciprocity.
On a narrow urban lot bordering the leafy tech-hub of San Francisco’s South Park, two collectors of contemporary art by female artists wanted to combine a living space with a gallery for sharing their collection with the public. They sought a gallery-house that would be open to the life of the city, and chose this semi-industrial neighborhood in the South of Market area because it offered more design freedom than other relatively calcified areas of the city. At the same time that they desired the project respond to its context in a contemporary idiom, they wanted the house to actively participate in a part of the city that is still evolving. South Park is one of the few figural public spaces in San Francisco. Since the project helps to define the edge of the park, it was important to examine, even problematize, the nature of the ‘edge’ between the park and a residential lot. Typically, the house as a program is understood as a private retreat from the city, while the gallery and park are understood as public realms. Since the hybrid program of a gallery-house blurs these boundaries, a corresponding formal analog was sought that makes the distinction between figure-ground and solid-void more ambiguous and dynamic. Formally and programmatically, the gallery-house strives to intensify its inhabitants’ engagement with the city while also inviting the urban realm into the home—ultimately promoting a vision of the city in which there is a reciprocal relationship between the city and its inhabitants.
The clients, a virologist and a mathematician, feel compelled to share and advance awareness of art created by women, not only with friends but also with the public and the larger art world. In their home, visitors circulate from the gallery through the domestic space, each zone offering a different environment for experiencing the artwork. The street-level gallery, an internally reflective space in contrast to the outwardly-focused residential space, hosts exhibitions curated from their private collection and that of fellow-collectors. A site for artist and curator talks, the gallery increases public engagement in the arts both within the art world as well as within the scale of their own neighborhood. The gallery-house is a home, but also an inclusive provocation to the community. An active and nuanced relationship between inside and outside similarly guides the energy and thermal comfort strategy. Large operable window walls connect the upper floors to the park on the southeast and the city to the northwest. In contrast to this horizontal extension, a green roof with drought-resistant plants is pierced with skylights to bring intense daylight to the deeper interior rooms. Over the stairs, a sawtooth roof washes the space and its art with even north light. In the gallery, the south storefront’s diffusing glass is coupled with a northern skylight over the back display wall, providing daylight for the art throughout daily and seasonal cycles. The house and gallery track the cycles of climate and sky, from east to west and blue sky to fog.