By Osma Dossani, Jose Brunner, Catherine Meng, Amelie-Phaine Crowe, Dean Lewis, Sumandeep Singh, Vanessa Acon & Joey Benassini (Kwan Henmi Architecture / Planning, inc.)
San Francisco is currently experiencing a housing crisis that threatens its residents; by 2030, the city’s population is estimated to increase by 150,000 people while adding only 9,000 new dwelling units. The housing deficit has increased for decades due to limited developable land, and hesitance to densify. Ballooning housing costs have damaged two of the city’s most valuable resources: community and architecture. Historic neighborhoods like the Mission District have become battlegrounds of cultural identity and gentrification. Low-income residents are vulnerable targets for displacement, while historic buildings are under constant threat of demolition due to deterioration or new construction. This critical situation has inspired us to challenge the current gridlock and propose an alternative path forward.
‘Mission: Housing’ showcases Metsa Wood products as a tool for alternative development, providing affordable housing in the heart of the city. El Capitan Theater & Hotel, built in Mexican Baroque “Churrigueresque” style, is one of many exquisite historic resources at risk of falling into neglect. The original theater was demolished for a parking lot, while the hotel was converted to Single Resident Occupancy.
The proposed building’s form is sculpted in reaction to its context through tapering and shearing. The resultant massing is sensitive to the life of the street while increasing density. The skin system references Churrigueresque patterning, yet expands and shifts across its height to reveal lush gardens and an expanding array of delicate canopies. The original light well is extruded, allowing passive ventilation and natural lighting throughout the core. Communal spaces are provided for urban agriculture, irrigated via in-house greywater purification. This embedded horticulture purifies the air inside the building, provides nourishment for inhabitants and strengthens San Francisco’s tradition of civic parks.
The capability of urban development is revolutionized through the inherent strength of Kerto LVL products. Conventional concrete and steel construction is often impractical and expensive for multi-story units. The project’s innovative composite floor system uses a concrete topping with shear plates embedded into Kerto-Q panels, allowing for longer spans. Kerto-S columns employ a steel plate connection system, minimizing shrinkage between floors. Its final 26-level height is determined by the 260-foot allowable height prescribed by the building system. The construction process uses a kit-of-parts approach, which is highly efficient and flexible for design growth.
Units of any size can be easily adapted, allowing families and homes to grow in tandem. Utilizing narrower multi-level units densifies the building and provides much-needed typologies for housing in San Francisco.
The building’s flexibility is enhanced by the lateral force resistance of post-tensioned Kerto-Q LVL rocking shear walls, which can be recalibrated as necessary. The high compressive capacity of the Kerto-Q wall panels are incredibly resilient, handling large seismic forces while exhibiting minimal damage.
Historically, urban growth has been obstructed by the false dichotomy between preservation and progress, but this can be changed. The innovative variety of Metsa Wood technologies facilitates our strong and diversified strategy for sustainable evolution which can strengthen and mature the fabric of the city.