San Francisco Art Institute Bunker Apartment

Minimal living in a brutalist masterpiece

  • Type Institutional,
  • Location San Francisco, CA
  • Area 350 s.f.
  • Status Concept
  • Date 2015
  • Collaborators

    Min | Day

In a leftover space at the lowest level of Paffard Keatinge-Clay’s iconic 1970 addition to the San Francisco Art Institute’s Russian Hill campus, the Bunker Apartment is a residence for artists on long and short-term stays. The minimally appointed space affords artists the opportunity to use the studio apartment as a hotel room or a live-work residence. Bathroom, kitchenette, bed, storage, and utilities are tucked away as tightly as possible allowing the room and its original plate-glass window to be unobstructed. The room opens to a new deck between the base of the heavy concrete brise-soleil. The only access to the apartment is via a walk through the green and wooded hillside below the massive building. This is a found space, an asset not discovered until construction commenced on the original building.

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"In 1963 SFAI selected architect Paffard Keatinge-Clay to design an addition to the original building that would double the amount of painting and sculpture studio space and provide room for large seminar classes, new galleries, and a café. Clay had previously worked with Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. 'The building section Clay invented responds directly to the site to produce a sequence of architectural experiences unmatched elsewhere in this city of stunning sites and spaces,' wrote Roger Montgomery, former Dean of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley, in a review from 1969, the year the building was completed. The north façade of the building is a concrete slab brise-soleil used as a structural element, and provides privacy while modulating the light of the painting studios." - from

The Bunker occupies two bays of brise-soleil in the lowest sub-basement level of the 1963 addition.

Montages with photos by Robert Brandeis

Live-Work space with Murphy bed

The steel-faced cabinetry integrates a permanent variation of our furniture line MOD’s AVA, a form that references the angled brise-soleil of Keatinge-Clay’s hippie-brutalist building. The slick, powder coated steel contrasts new plywood walls, painted Tectum panels, and original board-formed concrete.

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