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Unveiled> 200 Sixth Street
A modern answer to housing finds its way to San Francisco's South of Market
Clean lines replace blight in Kennerly Architecture & Planning's proposal for Sixth Street housing.
Courtesy Kennerly Architecture & Planning

Architect: Kennerly Architecture & Planning
Client: Mercy Housing
Location: San Francisco, California
Scheduled Completion: 2014

San Francisco’s redevelopment agency continues to invest in modern architecture, last month tapping small firm Kennerly Architecture & Planning to replace a longtime eyesore in the South of Market area. Making a rare use of eminent domain, in 2009 the organization acquired a property at Sixth and Howard, a burnt-out brick building that has been abandoned since the 1980s and has since been famously festooned with sofas and chairs (a popular art installation called “Defenestration”). Replacing it will be a nine-story mixed-use project with 56 units of affordable family housing.

Another view of the proposed building in San Francisco showing modern interpretations of bay windows.

In the concept drawing, a double-height retail space on the corner and a grand lobby with an open stair gives the building its street presence. “I grew up in New York City in an apartment building with a beautiful lobby, and it makes people feel like the building has an identity, that the building is proud of itself,” said Owen Kennerly, who worked for architect and affordable housing advocate Daniel Solomon before starting his own firm. Saida + Sullivan Design Partners collaborated with Kennerly on the project. In addition to a roof deck, most units along Sixth Street will have balconies off their living rooms. All corridors will be daylit; half will terminate in internal balconies, enabling double-height spaces on the side facing Howard. Laundry rooms will also be located at these junctions to take advantage of the natural light.

Sofas and chairs attempt an escape from the existing building.
Sofas and chairs attempt an escape from the existing building.


The exterior will feature modern versions of bay windows, which, combined with the balconies, will give it a “juicy richness in terms of shade and materiality,” said Kennerly. “It’s really important to us to have good architecture – all it takes is one ugly affordable housing building and people will say they don’t want those projects in their neighborhood,” said Olson Lee, the redevelopment agency’s deputy executive director. The agency is also pleased that the design — which breaks up the mass into two volumes, starting taller at the corner and steps down further along the block — followed guidelines for new development in a historic district (the area is expected to become the “Sixth Street Lodging House District”) and should pass muster when it is up for formal review.

Lydia Lee