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SteelHouse 1 and 2

Zack/de Vito Architecture + Construction

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  • Jim Zack & Lise de Vito

Project Status



1,400 sq. feet


Design Awards

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Project Description

SteelHouse 1 and 2 is an exploration in maximizing the density of urban infill housing in an already dense city; in creating small, spatially dynamic and efficient spaces; in the creative use of a palette of materials and hand-crafted details, all to achieve comfortable and unapologetic modern buildings in what is typically an architecturally conservative City. The architects seized on the opportunity for a DesignBuild project by purchasing a typical 25’x100’ San Francisco lot with a small, 800 sq ft, 100 year old dilapidated cottage built in what is typically the required rear yard. On a lot zoned for two units, in a City with an acute housing shortage, and where the zoning code encourages maximizing density, the architects were allowed the minimum 25’ rear yard to be located between the two, detached structures instead. The project result is a unique urban experience. The existing, rear cottage was rebuilt, and the living space doubled by converting the ground floor garage to living space, resulting in a 1,500 sq ft., two level home with three bedrooms, three baths and an open plan living space. The new, ground-up structure built on the street frontage is a three level structure with shared garage, entry and den on the ground floor, with three bedrooms, two bath and an open plan living space above. While the standard model of stacked flats was taken apart to create two, small, detached houses with a common courtyard entry, each individually owned “house” truly has its’ own personality and character; one tucked in the mid-block green space, one in the bustling urban mix. The use of steel, as exterior cladding or on the interior as a defining design gesture became the project namesake. The project was undertaken as a DesignBuild project as an architect-led contractor and developing team. The DesignBuild approach allows for the architect to remain engaged in the whole process, fine tuning as the project progresses. With a team of in-house carpenters/metal craftsmen the project demonstrate care and craft. It is an example of how architects can regain some creativity and control over the design and financial benefits typically ceded to the developer. The project demonstrates how to live in small, densely sited, but independent homes.
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