Glen Park Residence by Light Space Architecture Office
LSAO was challenged to re-imagine a property almost entirely unchanged since it was built in 1949. The house was one of the thousands built by developers in post-war San Francisco using nearly identical plans. Characterized by compact size, modest materials, and radically efficient floor plan layouts, this type of house is difficult to improve on a limited budget because they were designed around maximizing affordability and frequently excluded things like insulation, more than one bathroom, and deep foundations. LSAO’s work would have to be focused to meet the client’s challenging budget.
Unlike the larger developments on the flat western edge of the city, this house was one of just four on an infill site below the peak of a hill on the eastern edge of San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood. LSAO realized that the unique location offered the prospect of unobstructed views to the south and east and a thickly wooded park to the North. Because boiler-plate plans were used in the original construction, the existing house’s view was visible only through a few small, poorly placed windows. The potential of the property became clear by ascending to the roof where one could take in a panoramic view of nearly the entire bay – including downtown. The unfinished first floor/garage was another opportunity as it had light and access on three sides and a wood floor over an existing crawlspace which could be easily lowered to provide ample head height. The proposed design leveraged the changing laws incentivizing affordable housing to create a new studio apartment/ADU in the unfinished first floor, pushed up a new third-floor primary bedroom suite, and included a new two-story bay window at the corner.
LSAO’s intervention transformed the house by opening all the main living spaces as well as the new apartment to the south light and extraordinary view. The exterior massing of the addition builds on the original design as a composition of simple, white, stucco cubes. The back of the house is now intersected by a delicate steel and wood structure containing a new exterior stair and two south-facing decks capped by a wood louver sunshade. The tall, downhill, southeast corner of the largest stucco cube is punctured by a projecting, glass-filled, bay window wrapped in contrasting grey metal. The design details – inside and out – continue the original house’s celebration of modest materials. Inside, there are exposed 2x rafters, and clear finished oak for the cabinets, stairs, and doors. Outside, LSAO designed and fabricated a new front gate out of unfinished reclaimed wood and built Corten planters along the front and side of the house.
LSAO sought to make the remodel/addition an example of best practices for building performance and efficiency. The house is passively comfortable year-round with louvered shading and high-performance glazing. The windows and doors are organized to catch the prevailing breezes and a large operable skylight was included at the top of the interior stair to create a stack effect for passive ventilation. LSAO also carefully detailed the envelope to ensure excellent air-sealing and specified the latest, fluid-applied membranes for the walls and roof. LSAO specified an all-electric heat pump heating/cooling system as well as a thermally balanced, whole-house ventilation fan. New photo-voltaic panels more than off-set the home’s entire electrical use.
Photography courtesy of Light Space Architecture Office