Veterans Commons, San Francisco, United States
Gelfand Partners Architects

Veterans Commons creates supportive housing for 75 chronically homeless veterans. The veterans housed in the building access wrap-around public and private services including on site case management, mental health counseling, geriatric, drug dependency and employment programs.

Prominent architect Louis Christian Mullgardt designed the building in 1916 as a juvenile detention facility. Its narrow floor plates and third floor sun porch exemplify Progressive Era dedication to reform goals. However the tight configuration was inefficient for other modern uses when the detention facility was relocated and, after struggling as an office building and temporary shelter, the City declared it surplus and made it available for adaptive reuse in a developer competition.

The winning Veterans Commons project makes use of the original design intentions. The reuse creates light filled studios, hallways, and generous shared spaces. The sun porch accommodates housing but also a lounge and laundry. For residents it is their casual encounters – mail and laundry, for example – that erode the isolation many erected living on the street. Veterans Commons case managers are not simply stationed in their offices waiting for appointments. They also hang out in the lounges with the residents.

The new accessible elevator bank buttresses the building against seismic forces. Structural strengthening of the fire stairs at the ends of the building completes the lateral system. The design creates spaces with varying personality. Colour schemes change on each floor. Art and furniture differentiate spaces. A porch outside the community room and inside the historic rear wall creates a sheltered zone between inside and outside.

The project fulfills requirements of durability, hygiene, security, and dense unit count. But its real success derives from its support for a new and robust community within a setting activated by beauty where veteran residents may make themselves at home for many years to come.

No Comments

Terms & Conditions   |   Privacy policy   |   Cookie Policy