Pushing The Envelope: Constraints enhance creativity as Anne Fougeron demonstrates in a San Francisco house renovation.
Architects & Firms
It's safe to say that the San Francisco Planning Commission never envisioned a bay window like the ones architect Anne Fougeron created for the Flip House. The city's residential code allows windows to project out to 3 feet, encouraging architects to retain the form of San Francisco's traditional bay windows. When she was called upon to do a major renovation to a 1930s rowhouse in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, Fougeron figured out how to make the code work to her advantage. 'We wanted to maximize that downtown view to the north, which the clients [a couple with two young children] were obsessed with,' she says.
The back facade of the dwelling is now completely transparent: three vertical strips of glazing, bonded to their frames on-site, angle out to seize the view, particularly to the north. To get the full panorama, you go to the end of the living area and look over a glass balustrade that protects you from a 2'-foot gap between the floor and the facade. Here you can not only survey the city but gaze down to the guest suite below. The facade seems to float off the back of the house'a daring form of perpetual scaffolding.
'The house was like a pancake before, with floors stacked on top of each other and no relation between them,' says Fougeron. 'So we came up with a design where the window system isn't visibly interrupted by the different levels.' Also enhancing the view, the flow of space, and the light is a semitranslucent staircase of 3/16 - inch perforated steel, bent to form treads and risers. A canopy of perforated steel also defines the dining area and mimics the rear facade as it dips over the stairwell.
A strong practical reason motivated this $850,000, 2,800-square-foot renovation. The name 'Flip House' refers to how Fougeron flipped the public and private quarters in plan. Two modestly sized children's bedrooms now face the street above the garage and main entrance on the lower level, and the kitchen/dining/living area is integrated into one expansive space in back. The new layout enables the clients to isolate the kids' wing and entertain in peace, simply by closing a pocket door. (A master suite'a previous addition by another architect'sits on the roof.)
To enhance the translucency and meet earthquake codes, Fougeron beefed up the wood-frame structure with steel moment frames and steel-tube columns. With its all-white interior, the house looks like a small museum'an impression augmented by the clients' collection of contemporary art. The unusual three-dimensional facade fits nicely into Fougeron's ambitions to break out of the city's comfort zone. 'We're interested in the evolution of architecture and what new glazing and steel structural technology allow you to do,' she says. Who knows? In the future, visitors may be asking for aerial tours of San Francisco's backyards instead of riding ersatz cable cars to see the 'Painted Ladies.'
Lydia Lee is an architecture writer and editor based in San Francisco.
|Photo © Dean Kaufman|
A conversation with: Anne Fougeron
'For generations of women, it has been easy to be a little recessive,' Anne Fougeron says. 'You aren't trained to speak up. But if you don't, nobody's going to notice you. You have to lean in, as Sheryl Sandberg puts it.' Fougeron studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and spent her early career working for architect Daniel Solomon. In 1986 she went solo, starting with small remodeling jobs. It took time to become recognized'and then a 1999 Palo Alto residence she designed with channel-glass walls garnered awards and media attention. 'You have to believe you can do it, because it's going to take a lot of hard work and a long time,' she says. 'You also have to get used to dealing with men, since most contractors and developers are male.' Her office is now composed of 10 people'four women and six men'and she currently has a mix of private residential and multifamily projects, including a 43-story tower in San Francisco on which she is collaborating with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Size: 2,800 square feet (gross)
Completion date: August 2012
Owner: Lisa Koshkarian & Tom Difrancesco
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