The Bayview Hill Gardens is a peculiar affordable housing development by David Baker Architects which, though located in San Francisco, draws its inspiration from far away Botswana in Africa.
The development is the first of its kind in the San Francisco area, combining principles of sustainability and affordability with an important social component. Previously, the property was a derelict motel that served criminal hideouts and supported all sorts of unhealthy and illegal activity. David Baker Architects were able to adopt Afro-inspired design based on the use of fractals, (an element that is unique to indigenous African architecture) to create healthy, supportive and affordable housing for homeless families and at-risk youth, that also honours the history of the neighbourhood.
The new affordable development brings refreshed vibrancy and ‘eyes on the street’ to a derelict corner in San Francisco’s Bayview. A neighborhood with one of the highest rates of homelessness in the city. The 73 apartments are rented at a cost of 30 percent of each tenant’s income and provide an opportunity for people to have permanent housing where they did not before.
With a community garden at its heart, the sustainable building provides gathering spaces and supportive services for residents and neighbors. The ground level features service offices, a resident lounge linked to the laundry room and computer lab, and a community room that opens onto the landscaped courtyard, creating a flexible indoor-outdoor space that holds community events and after-school programs.
The common spaces have custom and artisan details that lend a unique look, such as a cast-concrete reception counter, a curving wood lobby, reclaimed-elm mailboxes and recycling bins, and furnishings made in the architect’s shop. In the courtyard, a picnic and play area are surrounded by an ‘edible landscape’, an 8,500-sf urban garden with fruit trees, vines, and planting beds that allow residents to grow their own food.
A unique partnership with a studio that supports developmentally disabled artists allowed the licensing and reproduction of work by local artists, many who live in the immediate vicinity of the building. An art program at this scale is usually not achievable in affordable housing.
To reflect and honor the history of the neighborhood and the residential population, an Afrocentric theme runs through the project, with African-inspired design elements, color schemes, and weaving patterns appearing in the entry, windows, balconies, garden, and more.