Set atop San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, this seven-unit apartment building was originally designed in 1951 by the Bay Area firm of Hertzka and Knowles. With spectacular panoramic views of the Bay Estuary, Bay Bridge and Downtown, the project scope included a full renovation and seismic retrofit of this mid-century gem with the goal to reallocate the units’ square footages in order to create a new three-bedroom “owners” townhouse. A reconfiguration of the building’s public circulation and floorplates were required as well as the interior design of the new Townhouse living spaces, bedrooms, baths, kitchen and the introduction of a new internal stair between the two levels.
This interior renovation was inspired by the architects’ early mentor, Charles Moore. Of his five design principals, these two resonated ‘spaces we feel, the shapes we see, and the ways we move in buildings should assist the human memory in reconstructing connections through space and time… and to inhabit, to enhance, and protect a piece of the world, to fashion an inside and to distinguish it from the outside, is one of the basic human drives…’
The concept for the new stair was that of a viewfinder, designed with strategically placed apertures and gestures to frame internal and distant views and to maximize natural light. The new stair embraced the building’s mid-century simplicity, but as history has taught us, a stair can be more than a stair. From Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library to Chareau’s Maison de V’erre or a Shaker staircase, the simple function of ascending or descending can be polemical, representative of a movement or mission; however, in this case the goal was to create a site-specific, sensual experience to connect this modest interior to the City and the Bay beyond.
Photography by Bruce Damonte
Builder: BBC Construction
Structural Engineer: SMW & Associates