Alan, the building somehow manages to stand out and fit in at the same time. Can you tell us about the design inspiration and where the exterior concept originated?
We drew inspiration from buildings in the Nob Hill neighborhood. I wanted a building that integrates well into its context without any clear indication of when it became part of the historic neighborhood. From walking the neighborhood and observing the wide variety of homes and buildings, I quickly learned that the historic character of the neighborhood does welcome modern architecture. Especially in respect to modern proportions and lines, which we expressed through use of reveals and geometric explorations in the facade’s depth, etc.
The building’s design concept of contrast and balance evolved around these values and the influence of the historic residences and commercial buildings along Van Ness Avenue. Commercial buildings in this neighborhood have large openings and an abundance of windows. So achieving a volumetric facade was the first goal, architecturally defined by a simple material palette of concrete, glass and metal. The sizing of the windows follows the same notion, but their placement and articulation reflect the residential scale of nearby mid-rise homes.
02What about when we move into the building? What are some of the unique features behind the exterior design?
To me, good architecture creates a dialogue between the exterior and interior – they should speak to each other. To me, that meant spacious living areas to accompany the expansive window walls created by the facade. And the vertical concrete columns define the rhythm of the floor plan organization inside.
The floor plans are actually one of the most unique aspects of the building. We continued the elongated floor plans from our well-received La Maison project, which create an architectural space that connects the entire home, without any interruption along a 40-foot span from the entry to the window. All unit types have a clear organizational flow that you don’t see in many new or dense developments.
Our idea was to use this linear layout to compress every inch of function related to the bedrooms and sleeping activity into one side in order to maximize the living quarters and make them obstruction free. The result is a light, open and airy space that feels and lives larger than it is or what we are accustomed to in urban residences.
03Tell us about the residences themselves. Walk us through a unit visually. What is the overall aesthetic, and some of the nuances and details?
Since Nob Hill has an appetite for contemporary design in its own historic character, the interior continues this thread. It is not another typical ‘modern’ white living space with natural oak accents. Rather, the interiors feature crisp planes accompanied by warm, dark wood cabinets and wide-plank wood floor that bring a richness to the space. Again, mixing notions of modern and classic in a very timeless way.
All of this is set against the backdrop of the large picture windows, which are inherent to the overall building design. These act as a lens to the outside that stimulates a dialogue with the neighborhood context and fills the living spaces, creating an ever-changing artwork and focal point for each home.
04What about the interior palettes and material composition? What inspired them and what is the look?
This building is undoubtedly modern but there is a wide degree of ‘modernity’ in the spectrum of contemporary design. Echoing the exterior, this is not a project that relies on a color trend or of-the-moment finish material that will be dated at some point. Instead, the layout, finishes, and space were created to be timeless without referencing a look or period. A modern classic would be a nice reference to this project.
05There’s a distinct thread of modern yet timeless aesthetics that shows through in the lineage of JS Sullivan buildings you’ve been designing. What does this property represent in terms of that evolution? How does it fit into this larger collection of buildings?
1433 Bush marks a new change in our direction. The launch of La Maison in SoMa was a creative testing ground for us and proof that buyers were ready for something more forward and design-centric. This led to a series of refinements and creativity in our work and organization that allowed us to really move things to a new level.
We now have confirmation and confidence that there is a market for our style and focus. It’s something unique in the broader development landscape and we feel like we are really building bespoke residences for that small portion of buyer who really appreciates design and refinement and detail. We don’t have to water anything down and can be much more distinct in our approach. For me, it feels more personal, which makes every detail more important.
Our situation is also unique in that we control all aspects of the process, from development to design to construction. And that allows me to be creative and unique in everything from floor plans to corridors to lighting to custom kitchens. We literally take a building from the napkin sketch stage to the final coat of paint, and there’s a level of innovation and detail that comes from that which is difficult to replicate en masse.
06Once you have the freedom to design in this way, where do you draw inspiration from for new buildings and directions?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the unique context and multiplicity of San Francisco. Regardless of architectural style, new or old, tall or expansive, polished or textured, colored or monochrome, one’s acceptance to variations is a critical step of learning about design. The diversity that fuels the setting of San Francisco has offered me a great platform for this and driven my curiosity and adaptability to various contextual settings that I can incorporate in my work.