The Austin in San Francisco offers Californian modernism with a twist

The Austin in San Francisco offers Californian modernism with a twist

Talk of Californian modernism often conjures up images of low-slung flat roofs, a healthy balance of concrete and timber and large windows looking out to the ocean – or the iconic cityscapes of Los Angeles or San Francisco. Local architecture practice Edmonds & Lee has now offered its own take on the genre in an unusual twist with The Austin project; translating their vision of Californian organic modernism into a multi-family residential scheme in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights neighbourhood.

The architects were commissioned by Pacific Eagle Holdings to design a 100-unit-strong development in one of the city’s most fashionable areas, and one with a distinct industrial heritage. The site on offer used to host an auto-body shop and nearby offerings are a mix of old and new establishments, managing to draw in both younger and older crowds alike.

The project sits in the fashionable Lower Pacific Heights neighbourhood. Photography: Matthew Millman

The white cladding and glass facade of The Austin certainly draws on the area’s character, but inside, the scheme takes a different route altogether. Working with lots of timber and clean, yet warm interiors, the architects reference the region’s well known midcentury modern aesthetics. The apartments are open-plan, yet of a cosy, domestic scale – and created with entertaining in mind – and benefit from wide city vistas. A neutral colour palette makes for a calming and flexible space, while concrete columns not only support the structure but become a design feature in themselves.

The Austin development also includes a range of welcoming communal areas for residents and their guests. There’s a open-plan lobby and lounge, for working and relaxing, serviced by a front desk concerge who ensures lunch deliveries arrive safely and drinks are on tap. Rich, golden tones are complemented by clean white timber floors and cladding.

Details were very important to the overall feel and nothing was left to chance; even the mail room was especially designed with cove lighting that frames matt black mailboxes and keyholes that are transformed into a graphic element all their own. §

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