david baker + partners, architects, san francisco

The judges observed that Curran House has “great street smarts,” and what more could you ask of high-density housing for economically struggling families in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin District? The building's soft colors and clean façades—a curtain-walled plane that is pushed back, along with two planes pulled forward to the property line—help the building blend with the historic neighborhood while freshening up the streetscape. “The flying wing is our modern cornice that lines up with the one next door,” Baker says. “It's not at all a historicist building, but it doesn't stick out.” The judges agreed. “It's distinct yet fits in well with the neighborhood,” one said.

Equally important, the design incorporates places of respite from the harsh urban environment, like the “decompression” garden through which residents enter and leave the building. From the lobby, you can also see through the building to lush bamboo and fountains in the rear—a quiet, civilized space that is visually shared with the street. The rooftop offers green-thumbed residents a place to tend fruit trees and garden plots of their own—all important blood-pressure-lowering amenities in a building with a density quotient of 223 units per acre.

principal in charge / project architect / land planner: David Baker, FAIA, David Baker + Partners, Architects
developer: Diep Do, TNDC, San Francisco
general contractor: Chuck Palley, Cahill Contractors, San Francisco
landscape architect: Andrea Cochran, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
interior designer: Michelle Peckham, David Baker + Partners, Architects
project size: 352 square feet to 1,092 square feet per unit
site size: 0.3 acre
construction cost: $169 per square foot
rental price: $750 to $1,115 per unit per month
units in project: 67
photography: Brian Rose