The AIA San Francisco has announced the overall Honor Award champion, Merit, and Citation Award winners for its Housing+ San Francisco 2050 Design Competition. This year's top prize goes to 13-year-old Portland-based studio West of West.
Described by designers as a “vertical neighborhood that fosters a culture of collaborative living,” the firm’s Sunset Steps concept utilizes a combination of materials, including terracotta, heavy timber, and CLT slabs, in a welcoming multi-unit design that is oriented around natural light and a vibrant backyard which serves as its activities-rich catalyst for the fostering “true community.” The Top Prize winner receives a cash prize of $10,000, Merit Award winners receive a cash prize of $2,000, and Citation Award winners receive $1,200.
West of West says: "The building fosters collaborative living through two mechanisms: a generous circulation loop and a terraced massing. The circulation loop links each rooftop “yard” to a set of shared stairs with decks, balconies, and gardens that serve as venues for informal encounters. The terraced massing gathers density towards the street frontage, and visually connects the communal areas of the midblock site. Together these elements weave a close-knit vertical neighborhood."
Its design was supposedly inspired by the desire to increase density over time while lowering costs through a community land trust and allowing for the building to fluctuate from four to ten units via the addition or subtraction of interior wall portions on each floor.
West and West Partner Clayton Taylor explained finally: “Sunset Steps is a flexible and replicable strategy that increases density through right-sized design. On some sites, four units work best, while on other sites, 10 units might be more feasible for the community. As the needs of the residents and community change over time, the building can be adapted."
The competition challenged participants to imagine a new form of multi-family housing in the city following the proposal of S.B. 9 and the updated 2022 San Francisco Housing Element, which would require some 82,000 new housing units by 2031. Generic mid-block or corner lot sites on the city's long down-zoned west side were the targets of the competition, which also sought a geographically diverse range of participants in acknowledgment of the nationwide crisis that afflicts most cities.
"The competition is intended to raise the issue of housing development to the top of the political and popular agenda. AIASF anticipates submitted designs will generate discussion between local citizens, policy-makers and the design community, ultimately inspiring a new shared vision for the City’s future,” Sarah Willmer, Principal and founder of Studio Sarah Willmer and Co-Chair of the AIASF Housing Knowledge Community added finally.
More information about the competition, including a list of Merit and Citation Award winners, can be found here.
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