Location: San Francisco,California, US
Area: 3500 ft2
Architects: Schwartz and Architecture
Project Team: Caterina Belardetti, Neil O’Shea, Joshua Yoches
Photography: Bruce Damonte
It is often difficult to create a sense of openness and continuity in multi-level urban homes. By allowing the staircases of this three-story structure the freedom to shift location on each level – defining a continuous flow of space and movement – we turn this challenge on its head, elevating the stairwell into the key architectural and unifying feature of the home.
In this four-level project, a series of stairwells take you from the lower garden level to the uppermost roof deck, each treated as a sculptural object and with the interior stairs uniformly clad in rift-cut white oak. On each level we permitted the stair to find its own best location, as a vertical path that meanders through the home in a way that is more landscape than urban. Although the living spaces are often compressed by the tight urban site, this meandering stairwell unites the home functionally, visually, and spatially, making it feel much larger than it really is.
Schwartz and Architecture
All images courtesy of Schwartz and Architecture
Schwartz and Architecture (SaA)
Neal J.Z. Schwartz, AIA, Founding Principal
Neal established the collaborative design studio, Schwartz and Architecture (SaA) in 1997 after several years working on large-scale international projects with other firms. In 1992, he completed dual Master’s degrees in Architecture and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government respectively.
This unique combination of design and policy has become the foundation of his practice; a commitment to design creativity as a tool to surpass clients’ expectations, combined with a devotion to rigorous management of the exigencies of complex design, permitting, and construction processes. From the beginning, Neal has also committed the firm to significant pro-bono work with non-profits, including the Children’s Creativity Museum, Larkin Street Youth Services, La Cocina, Public Architecture, and the Abayudaya Stern Synagogue in Eastern Uganda.
In 2016, Neal became the Chair of the newly revived AIASF Public Policy & Advocacy Committee (PPAC) and in 2015, he independently established a joint working group between AIASF and SF Planning advocating for improvements to residential design procedures, which continues to result in much-needed change. From 2006 – 2009, Neal was on the Board of Directors for the National AIDS Memorial Grove, chairing the Memorial Design Committee working towards the capital campaign and design development of this national memorial. Neal has been actively involved in teaching since 1988, most recently as an associate professor in architecture at the California College of the Arts (CCA), where he currently coordinates the Master’s degree housing studios.
At Harvard, Neal graduated with Distinction in Architecture, received the Thayer Award for Meritorious Scholarship, the Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, as well as national awards from the Urban Land Institute and American Planning Association. He graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in European history and has studied and researched abroad in Vienna, Munich, and Berlin.
Schwartz and Architecture
860 Rhode Island St
San Francisco, CA 94107