Award of Excellence
Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco
Client: Community Housing Partnership and Mercy Housing
Living units, public areas, and counseling offices overlook the courtyard. Custom furniture designed by the landscape architects promote communal gathering. Spacers are installed between unit pavers, allowing stormwater to permeate into the gravel retention basin below.
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The Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments provide a dignified home for formerly homeless residents with 120 fully-equipped studios and supportive services, including counseling, medical care, job-training, and employment opportunities. The landscape design encompasses a streetscape, a central courtyard, and a roof deck – all fully-accessible with custom furnishings. The project uses local materials and offers a multi-faceted stormwater management with permeable paving over a gravel infiltration system, rain gardens, and a green roof.
—2012 Professional Awards Jury
On a half-acre site in an up-and-coming San Francisco neighborhood, the Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments provide a dignified new home for formerly homeless adults. The 120-unit, GreenPoint-Rated building offers supportive services such as a counseling center, an on-site medical suite, a job training program, and employment opportunities through the building’s bakery and cafés. In addition to their individual studios, each with a full bathroom and kitchenette, residents enjoy common amenities such as a large courtyard garden, a roof deck, laundry facilities, a lounge, and a large community room — all fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Financed by multiple public agencies, two non-profit housing organizations, Community Housing Partnership and Mercy Housing, partnered to develop and maintain this five-story building on a former parking lot, a site that had initially been cleared by the collapse of the Central Freeway in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The urban site is well-situated near bus lines, train lines, and services within walking distance.
The apartments are named for Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson, who founded the first, African American-owned bookstore in the United States. Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Cornel West, B.B. King, and Huey P. Newton are among the hundreds of esteemed figures to visit the Richardsons’ bookstore, Marcus Books, where Drs. Julian and Raye strove to empower African Americans through critical discussion, education, and politics.
A lush, central courtyard forms the heart of the building, providing a respite from the tough streets on which residents once lived. The courtyard accommodates multiple types of uses within a single space. A large patio with custom tables, benches and barbeque, allows for flexible, communal gatherings, while more private areas provide seating for smaller groups or individual contemplation. The fan palms interspersed throughout the courtyard complement the narrow, vertical nature of the space and playfully engage with the residences on the floors above and the existing mural that forms the south face of the courtyard. Giant chain ferns, Japanese painted ferns, western sword fern, and wood sorrel help to create the atmosphere of a verdant oasis; they are durable, low-maintenance, and adaptable to the extreme solar conditions of full sun and deep shade.
Five stories above the courtyard, a roof deck offers another healing space for residents with seating areas, succulent gardens, raised beds for vegetable gardening, and a green roof with sedums.
The experience of these outdoor gardens permeates the daily life of the residents and staff through various layers of transparency. The entrance lobby connects to the courtyard through a large window that one encounters upon entering the building. Four floors of studios look down onto the courtyard below. A large community room, where meals are sometimes served and classes and gatherings may occur, opens directly onto the large patio space with two large sliding NanaWalls, doubling the program area. Large windows at the counseling rooms are treated with a translucent scrim which creates a visual link with the courtyard while maintaining privacy for the residents. An exterior stairwell, semi-enclosed by native grapevine trellises, exits into the courtyard and fosters chance encounters between residents. These design features help to connect the residents to one another in a healing environment.
Custom Furniture with Local Materials
The custom courtyard furnishings, which include the tables, a built-in barbeque with counter, benches and woodblock seats, are designed to be elegant, comfortable, and extremely durable. With roughly one-third of the building's residents in wheelchairs, the landscape architects also took care to provide full accessibility in their design. Wheelchair access is thoughtfully incorporated in the courtyard through cantilevered tables and spaces adjacent to and across from benches.
The Monterey cypress logs used to fabricate the benches and block seats are reclaimed from urban forests throughout San Francisco. The wood was dried and fabricated locally and finished with a low VOC sealant.
Locally sourced, black basalt gravel lines drainage areas under the benches, at perimeter of the building, and between the joints of the courtyard unit pavers, which are also fabricated in California.
An overall site strategy was developed to contain and maximize the infiltration of rainwater into the sandy site soils, which is critical for a city with a combined sewer and stormwater system. The innovative streetscape includes permeable pavers and rain gardens, which improve the aesthetics of the public realm while reducing site runoff and allowing for groundwater recharge. Existing and newly planted trees along Gough Street benefit from additional water draining into the site soils. New trees here are also protected by custom tree guards, designed to withstand vandalism and damage from cars.
Within the courtyard, spacers are installed between standard unit pavers to allow stormwater to permeate into the gravel retention basin below. Overflow and other paving areas are sloped into rain gardens, planted with palm trees and ferns. A perimeter drain also routes water away from the building and into the gravel retention system.
On the roof, green roofs and planters, both ornamental and edible, also help to capture water that would otherwise enter the city storm system.
High Design for All
Despite the project’s limited budget, the design team remained committed to high quality detailing and craftsmanship throughout the process, donating time and creating innovative low-cost details, to ensure that the new residents would finally feel at home.
Community Housing Partnership
Landscape Architect: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, Inc.
Andrea Cochran, FASLA; Elaine Shaw, ASLA; Susan Hughes; Amir Kunin; Sarah Keizer; and Julian Simeoni
Design & Construction Team
David Baker + Partners Architects
Baker Vilar Architects
Treadwell & Rollo
Russell D. Mitchell and Associates, Inc.
Eggli Landscape Contractors Inc.
Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Design Studios Gonzalo Castro
Structural Design Engineers
Duraedge Steel Edging
The J.D. Russell Company
Gravel: Crushed Black Basalt and
Import Planting Soils Amended with Wondergrow Organic Compost
American Soil & Stone
Heavy Duty Galvanized Stock Tanks
Behlen Manufacturing Co.
Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Lighting Below Benches; Micro LED
NSL Architectural and Decorative Lighting
Narrow Modular Pavers
Tabletops and Barbecue counter
Green Waste Recycle Yard