UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Out of the ark: the San Francisco Community Center Project Robertson, Sean Bryan


In January 1997, with the support of the Office of the Mayor, an invited design competition was held to select the architect of a Community Center for San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay.Bisexual, and Transgendered communities. This thesis adopted this problem as its point of departure from a Directed Study on the history of sexuality, lesbian and gay visual cultures, and queer spaces. The intriguing aspect of this approach was developing an understandingof the identity of the Client as a way into the design; understanding that the Community is diverse and continuously both resists and accepts multiple identities. The work investigated the Client's relation to space and visual culture for vestiges of identity. The socio-spatial history of the Client is marked by a particular relation to public space of the metropolis: it was the ground for the contestation of contemporary social strictures. Public space is taken as precedent for the design; the project attempts to "institutionalize" public space or to be an exacerbation of "publicness." This is explored in two ways. Firstly, the plan is organized along a central spine that potentially extends into the adjacent property to the west (a future acquisition for the Center) and into the library and, theoretically, into the city to the east. The section of the project is legible on the elevation at the cafe, the rooftop patio staircase, the smaller bar "building" first level (at Market Street's street wall), and the ceremonial room. This strategy implies a continuation of the project beyond itself — the sections of building and city (street wall, overpass) seem to overlap and imply new interiors. Secondly, the project allows for public occupation at numerous positions from the basement to third floor, proffering opportunities for public activity beyond the street level. The visual history of mannerism in architecture has resonance with the world-view commentators associate with queers. Instead of limiting the intentions of a design to structural, economic and programmatic requirements, such architecture pursues complexity and contradiction: an exercise in excess and, arguably, an ineffectual endeavor. Queer culture embraces similar edicts. The attempt at gesture in building, as described above, is one such example in the project. Other moments articulate different formal problems. The canopy is too big for the door, but almost right for the scale of the city...the public elements of the small bar building have their own identity, yet form one whole under the same canopy...the Waller Street fenestration schedule is juxtaposed by the ceremonial room's double-height requirement.

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