Black Mass apartment building designed by Stephen Phillips Architects plays with viewer perception to create dramatic visual and spatial effects

Black Mass apartment building designed by Stephen Phillips Architects plays with viewer perception to create dramatic visual and spatial effects

Architects: Stephen Phillips Architects
Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Year: 2016
Area: 4.200 ft²/ 390 m²
Photo courtesy: Tim Griffith
Description:

“Challenging the local San Francisco vernacular with powerful contemporary style, this new apartment building designed by Stephen Phillips Architects (SPARCHS) plays with viewer perception to create dramatic visual and spatial effects.

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Linden Street, a back alley to Hayes Valley’s boutique San Francisco mixed-use commercial and residential district, incorporates an eclectic group of traditional one- to four-story Victorian and Edwardian houses. The immediate neighborhood, spanning from Octavia Park to cafes on Laguna Street, has been steadily transforming since nearby freeways were removed. Hired to design a speculative infill duplex for a local landowner, Stephen Phillips Architects (SPARCHS) aimed to challenge normative San Francisco housing typologies.

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Adapting local vernacular with contemporary sensibility, this design maximizes building area on a minimal lot with expansive circulation spaces connecting street life clear through to rear rooftop open spaces. By creatively interpreting local zoning codes (bay window, awning, cornice, and balcony) Stephen Phillips Architects (SPARCHS) generated a unified building facade with unique optic and haptic spatial characteristics.

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Notably, angular exterior metal surfaces wrap around and through large panels of glazing on the interior and exterior confounding spatial and perceptual boundaries—blurring distinctions between inside and outside as well as horizontal and vertical orientation. Designed to weather from black to soft grey, zinc panels mark the passage of time on both the interior and exterior. As a black mass, the building form is at once powerful, indiscernible, and provocatively complex, revealing itself through the perceived movement of light, shade, and shadow on its varying buildings surfaces.

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A curved mansard-type roof was designed by the architect to mitigate building height while creating dynamic interior spaces. Strategically locating living spaces along the front and back of the building, open floor plans and double-height vertical circulation spaces were designed to create an open flow between rooms. Custom teak cabinetry, concrete and marble counters, bleached white oak floors, and artisan metal panels and railings—activate, warm, and enliven the interior clear through and open to the exterior urban spaces.”

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