1501 15th Street Rendering

With the architects holding firm on the integrity of their design, on Thursday the Planning Commission continues the public hearing over the five-story Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects designed development proposed to rise at 1501 15th Street.

A bit of background on the development. And as the site currently appears:

1501 15th Street Site

As proposed, the new 58-foot high development by JS Sullivan will yield 40 residential units, 39 parking spaces, and approximately 9,700 square feet of retail on the ground floor. Despite some objections, the Planning Department recommends the Commission’s approval.

1501 15th Street Proposal and Plans [sfplanning.org]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Barf

    Yes a juvenile remark, but when I see Stanley’s work I want to barf. Guess I will have to go to Temple this Friday and atone for that remark, but it won’t be to the Temple Stan designed. Hey do you think he will atone too? Naw…

  2. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Its been said in other ways by other people on socketsite, but it seems obvious to me that Stanley Saitowitz doesn’t care that he designs buildings that are ugly, cold, teutonic and prison-like.
    When you see one, your first thought is that it “must have been designed by Stanley Saitowitz”, and that is entirely the point: he’s forcing his ego onto the built environment. And “holding firm on the integrity of their design” is a polite way of him saying, “this is the way it’s going to be, and screw you if you don’t like it, what’s important is that my vision is realized.”
    Why people keep hiring this guy is a continuing mystery to me; but what do I know.

  3. Posted by Michael

    Not exactly my taste in design, but infinitely better than the parking lot or a car wash!
    Like or hate the architecture, how anyone can oppose a project like, other than for purely selfish reasons like losing a view, just kills me.
    More housing, more feet on the street and more retail are all good things for the neighborhood and the city. Approve it, build it, repeat!

  4. Posted by Invented

    As before, this is a morose and depressing structure that looks basically like somewhere you would go for a root canal. Or worse. Orange umbrellas cannot themselves made a creepy building a happyplace.

  5. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Cruel.
    Goto SS’s website and look at the floor plans.
    The one-bedroom units are GRIM. Living areas with little or NO windows. Bedrooms that are all windows with no closets. Sheesh.

  6. Posted by sfrenegade

    I hate Saitowitz too, but I defend his right to have stuff built.
    It seems like a common complaint on SS is hating the design that is featured. That’s fine — not everything is going to suit everyone. I would much rather have architects create 10 buildings that those architects believe are innovative (and that I think are crappy) and give them free reign, rather than have 10 buildings that go through the design-by-committee process that is standard for SF and end up aggressively mediocre. It is better when people have the opportunity to fail because some of the buildings are going to be good and some will be as average and as non-noteworthy as the design-by-committee buildings.
    Are people concerned that a failed building will never be able to be torn down because of NIMBYs and hysterical preservationists? That could be a valid concern. However, if this is the case, why don’t people fight that process instead? If anything, there is more of a trend towards preservation here than anything else, and many of the things we try to preserve are abusive use of the process (e.g. North Beach library, the old car dealership). If so, the solution seems to be to make buildings harder to protect, not harder to build.
    The planning department has this one right.

  7. Posted by Not For Me

    Awful floor plans. One long narrow unit is divided midway with a large bathroom. Living kitchen at one end with no windows, go thru bath room to get to opposite end bedroom. Two units have bath tubs facing into the bedroom with a separate tiny sink/toilet room. And another has the shower entered from the bedroom with the sink/toilet in a separate cubby hole. Closets are hard to find. Great units for IKEA buyers and the unconventional who like steamy damp bedrooms.

  8. Posted by Modernqueen

    @sfren: it has absolutely NOTHING to do with his so called “right” to get his work built. It really is a client who decides to hire him and then get the project built. Let’s just be clear about that, ok?
    For many clients Saitowitz is the “go to” architect who will deliver a publishable building with lots of publicity. Clients love that. Saitowitz cares little about the human aspect of architecture, or how it “feels” or the impact it may have on surrounding context. He just doesn’t give a damn. His ego is a mile high.
    I wish other clients would see that and make him go away. He is talentless.

  9. Posted by tNOB

    How do we measure success in a project such as this? Financially, urbanistically, physically, stylistically?
    The project has a lot going for it, regardless of the exterior finish, which is what I am assuming most here are reacting to. If the building was stucco, had a cornice and some detailed, plaster relief panels between the vertical windows, it would get praise from many.
    The five-story massing is absolutely appropriate for the width of 15th Street, and holds the property line like any poster-child for modern urban design should. Additionally, the plan recalls many post-war apartment buildings in NYC driving light deeper into the building. The added benefit is creating some space off of the sidewalk for future outdoor seating.
    I think Stanley has done a great job of pushing the status quo for design in this city, and contemporary domiciles in general. As noted above, it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, just enough to sell the units, which I have no doubt will sell. He has created a brand, and developers that are looking to appeal to a certain demographic of buyer will hire him to accomplish that task. That’s the way it works. Better than a gas station, and good for San Francisco. Are we going to be a 21st Century city, where innovation in our physical environment reflects the innovative culture we espouse? I can only hope.
    p.s. I might not be a fan of those long one-bedrooms, but am oddly intrigued.

  10. Posted by Modernqueen

    I clearly gagged when you just said he has created a “brand”. what a bunch of pre-recorded bull.
    Architecture is not a brand. But dog food can be. Don’t try to blend the two.
    His buildings are soul-less; they are essentially a pre-determined geometric shape that is rigid and strictly ordered, imposed on any random site, without regard to existing context, street life, livability, texture, character or humanity.
    I wholly support good, modern architecture that is designed for humans, rather than designed to focus on one architects enormous self-entitle ego.

  11. Posted by inmycountry

    As many potential buyers would agree with the points ‘rubber chicken’ and ‘Not For Me’ and other commenters have made, why is it the marketplace alone, not put an end to Saitowitz? Who wants to buy this disfunctional design?

  12. Posted by tNOB

    @Modernqueen, why gag? Why can’t architecture be branded? Anything designed contains at some level the signature of its designer, be it architecture or something as banal as a toothbrush. If Philippe Starch designs a toothbrush people buy it, and there is not doubt that he may have found some better way for you to brush your teeth, in addition to working his brand into the design for the manufacturer.
    This is no different now than it was during the Renaissance. The two cannot be separated.

  13. Posted by Stucco-sux

    Kidding, right? Mr. S is the best architect working in SF now, in the past ten years and likely for the next ten.
    What would you prefer? Marriott mini-bar buildings?
    San Francisco has stopped being stupid. Catch up.

  14. Posted by 47yo hipster

    I’m glad to see a signature bldg going up in that corner. Plus I like most of his designs, exterior-wise. (like, I’m not gonna live in it, so I could give two craps about the interiors. But I bet they will sell, and that’s all that matters.)
    Best of all, a statement bldg. like this should give more gravitas to that corner of the mish. End result? For owners of near by apartment buildings like me, cha-ching! Thanks Stan!

  15. Posted by Modernqueen

    So called “branding” of architecture and creating starchitects is a marketing concept dumber than the Kardashians mindless branding of a lifestyle.
    Branding is simply another way for architects/designers/housewives/whoevers to get paid to put their name on anything the public will buy. It does not make the architecture better, nor serve to create better urban neighborhoods. It’s as sleazy as when Martha Stewart now has toilet paper with her name on it. That’s why I gagged.
    As for the rather simplistic comment of either Mr. S or Marriott mini-bar buildings; hmm. I believe there is a wide range of talent between those two extremes. That’s what being stupid is all about.
    A Saitowitz branded plastic messenger bag for bike hipsters, made in China can’t be far behind.
    Gag me.

  16. Posted by sfrenegade

    it has absolutely NOTHING to do with his so called “right” to get his work built. It really is a client who decides to hire him and then get the project built. Let’s just be clear about that, ok?
    Usually it’s only libertarians who put the word “right” in quotes. I’m quite obviously using it in a more casual sense. Funny that you’re expressing so much concern for the client now compared to your prior posts here.
    Don’t get me wrong — this building sucks (although less Borg-like than his other stuff), and its interior design sucks even worse, and the clients are stupider for having considered Saitowitz’s design. I just think our planning process has gone way too far in wrong direction.
    Don’t have that much of an issue with the “branding” aspect — everyone with an ego does that. Even Gehry has an obvious branded look when you look at Disney Concert Hall vs. Bilbao Guggenheim. Lots of architects have a signature look. This one just happens to be liked by the unhappy hipsters types.

  17. Posted by jaybee

    There seems to be an “emperor has no clothes” think going on with Saitowitz buildings as all the participants preach the party line until the reality of how disfunctional the building is sets in after construction.
    Just ask the congregation at Beth Sholom on 14th Avenue — many of whom are scratching their heads about the building he created for them that is so intrusive to the neighborhood and miserably uncomfortable as a religious sanctuary.

  18. Posted by Modernqueen

    I agree jaybee: The buildings designed by Saitowitz follow a rigid protocol of hyper brutal exterior form, with a rigid plan development without regard for users or function.
    They are failures as modern architecture.

  19. Posted by Mole Man

    Much of this criticism is not reasonable. Minimalist modernism, or whatever this style might be dubbed, is all about regard for users and function. By providing open and functional spaces without unnecessary flourishes or detais the needs of the users are best handled, or at least that seems to be one way of seeing this. Whether it actually works or not is another matter, but the general rule of the market is that a beautiful building is a fully rented one which makes buildings by this architect or in a similar style runaway aesthetic successes. Of course there is no accounting for taste, as the same can be said of rap music.
    Dismissing matters of style as branding doesn’t make any sense in an architectural or artistic context. It is common for practitioners to either pursue a style or to have characteristics of their works called out. This has been going on far longer than modern marketing has existed.
    As far as dysfunctional design and odd layouts go, isn’t it possible that not everyone wants a one bedroom condo laid out in a variation of the usual plan? Many of the recently built units appear almost identical in plan. Markets usually diversify over time.
    What we have here really are critics who are not content to judge and learn from bad examples, but who want to force the entire built environment to conform to their crufty and stale vision of what urbanism can be. People with the money to build have been saying no to this call for traditional forms and plans for almost a hundred years now.

  20. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Stucco-sux:
    While I dig your name, I don’t agree with your blanket defense of SS. As brilliant as much of his work is (e.g. 1234 howard, his office on Natoma, the Boston Holocaust memorial) he also has an acute ability to create some real dogs (his buildings in dogpatch on 3rd & on Tennessee, the UCSF parking garage, Beth Shalom, Conduit).
    This one could be great if he would loosen up a bit. Make it more modern, more glass, better floor plans. It’s still early.

  21. Posted by jeannine520

    The sales brochure is gonna need a slogan, how about, “Resistance is Futile”?

  22. Posted by two beers

    these will make nice crack houses.

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