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In recent years, San Francisco has become emblematic of the difficulties of managing rapid urban growth in a culture entrenched in NIMBYism. The influx of jobs, primarily in the tech sector, and associated wealth from these industries, has caused rents and housing prices to soar to the highest in the country, widespread gentrification, and socio-economic homogenization as the lower and middle class continue to flee the city. One of the challenges in providing new density to the city is that the image of the city, which is associated with its civic identity and tourism industry, is closely linked to a romantic vision of Victorian housing. One of the inadvertent outcomes of the housing crisis is the widespread creation of secondary (in-law) units smaller units embedded within or located upon ones property. Currently, the city estimates that over 50,000 illegal secondary units exist within the interior; hidden in garages, attics, or the rear of homes. Because of their illegal status, these units are not regulated to comply with building, health, or fire codes. Recently, in March 2014, The Planning Commission of San Francisco gave unanimous support to legislation that would allow property owners in the Castro District to legally build secondary units. Viewed as a pilot program, the legalization of secondary units is a large part of the puzzle to address the current housing shortage in the city in a diffused manner. Operating in an anonymous and subversive manner, the secondary unit has the potential to create a new paradigm for density and affordability in cities.

The legitimization of secondary units within the interior of the domestic fabric will require micro-transformations to the architecture of the city small artifacts that mediate from the interior to the urban environment. As the domestic fabric continues to re-organize and parse its interior, its aim is to increase the number of housing units, thereby decreasing the cost of housing and ultimately allow for larger amounts of socio-economic diversity. This design-research exhibition explores the typology of the secondary unit and its interaction with the larger systems of a city to test how a diffused form of individual interiors creates new connections, power structures, cross-pollinization of public and private realms, and formal architectural mutations, in an attempt to understand the feedback systems between the individual unit of the interior and the collective framework of the city in essence, how the interior can reformat urbanism from within.

Co-presented by California College of the Arts, The Urban Works Agency, the San Francisco Planning Department and OpenScope Studio

Opening Party: February 20th, 2015
Diffuse Density: Making Housing Affordable Symposium: March 12th, 2015
Exhibition: February 20th May 1st, 2015

654 Mission Street,
San Francisco, CA

More Information:
The Urban Works Agency


Organizer and Research Lead:
California College of the Arts The Urban Works Agency
Neeraj Bhatia & Christopher Roach

Practice and Code Lead:
OpenScope Studio
Principals Ian Dunn and Mark Hogan

Policy and Planning Lead:
San Francisco Planning Department
Kearstin Dischinger
Kimia Haddadan

Exhibition Coordination and Lead:
Noah Christman

Exhibition Curator:
Neeraj Bhatia

Exhibition Catalogue:
Neeraj Bhatia, Editor
Shawn Komlos, Assistant Editor and Graphic Design
Jeffrey Maeshiro, Graphic Design
Graphic Assistance: Jared Clifton, Bella Mang, Kelvin Thengono, Osma Dossani

Exhibition Design and Fabrication:
Project Leads: Neeraj Bhatia, Christopher Roach, Shawn Komlos, Blake Stevenson, Tyler Jones-Powell
Research Drawings: Jeffrey Maeshiro, Cesar Lopez, Bella Mang
Fabrication: Blake Stevenson, Tyler Jones-Powell, Marci Ann

Institutional Framework:
California College of the Arts
Course: Interior Urbanism, Fall 2014
Instructor: Neeraj Bhatia
Critic: Christopher Roach

Student Research / Design Team:
Christopher Baile, Evan Bowman, Jared Clifton, Lisette Devore, Jaiyu Fu, Tyler Jones-Powell, Enrique Justicia, Bianca Koch, Bella Mang, Ryan Montgomery, Adithi Satish,
Blake Stevenson, Kelvin Thengono

Exhibition Install Team:
Noah Christman, Tori Winters, Erin McAuliff

Jeremy Bamberger, Seth Boor, Amy Campos, Karen Chapple, Melanie Corn, Nataly Gattegno, Jonathan Massey, Randolph Ruiz, Jen Sikora, Ronald Tom, Scott Wiener, Cindy Wu

Supported by:
San Francisco Planning Department
The Urban Works Agency
California College of the Arts, Curriculum Development Grant

Earlier Event: February 6
Later Event: March 12