Formerly a parking lot on the southeast corner of Fulton and Gough streets, the Drs. Julian + Raye Richardson Apartments has risen on one of the sites freed for development by the demolition of the collapsed Central Freeway. This five-story building provides permanent supportive housing for a very-low-income, formerly homeless population.
The project is part of the Market + Octavia Neighborhood Plan, which aims to create a dense transit-oriented neighborhood with housing over retail and streets that are friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.
"Thank you for bringing elegance and creativity to Hayes Valley. I live at Hayes and Franklin, and the Richardson Apartments have single-handedly changed the tenor of that portion of the neighborhood. The building is a pleasure to see—it never fails to put a smile on my face and leave me with a good feeling about where I live."
—Raymond Buscemi, Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association
"The incredible public spaces are great; [the architects] didn’t give up on or compromise on anything even though it’s affordable.”
—Residential Architect Awards Jury
Dr. Julian Richardson was born on April 4, 1916 in Birmingham, Alabama, as the son of a coal miner. Dr. Raye Richardson was born in Arkansas in 1920 and was raised in Waukegan, Illinois. An avid reader and honors student, she was accepted to The Tuskegee Institute at the young age of 16. There she met Julian Richardson, who would later become her husband and life partner in political activism. At Tuskegee Institute, a historically black university in Alabama, the Richardsons studied with George Washington Carver and Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison.
Settling into San Francisco in 1942, Dr. Julian Richardson worked as the first black typesetter at the SF Chronicle, but soon after started his own printing and publishing business Success Printing in 1946 with his wife Dr. Raye Richardson in the Fillmore District. A serious reader and book collector, Julian went into the book-selling business with his wife Raye when friends kept borrowing books and neglected to return them. Together they opened Marcus Books in 1960, the oldest black bookstore in the country. Far more than a bookstore, Marcus Books has served as a community institution and a center of critical discussion on black diasporic history, culture, and politics. Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Bill Cosby, Malcolm X, Cornel West, Patti LaBelle, Julianne Malveaux, B.B. King, Randall Robinson, Huey P. Newton, and Fannie Lou Hamer, are among the hundreds of esteemed authors, activists, and celebrities to visit Marcus Books.
Dr. Raye Richardson served as the first interim chair of Black Studies at San Francisco State University, and retired as the first Professor Emerita of the School of Ethnic Studies. Raye’s political activism, sharp intellect, and commitment to teaching has made her a sought-after public speaker. Dr. Julian Richardson, died in San Francisco on August 21, 2000 at the age of 84, leaving behind a rich legacy as an avid learner and mentor to many.
The residents’ entrance on Fulton Street features a spacious lobby with a reception station. Beyond the lobby, the south-facing courtyard frames an expansive existing mural—a paint-and-glass mosaic of dancers on the side of the Performing Arts garage. Four levels of fully equipped studio apartments sit atop common spaces surround the private landscaped courtyard.
An open grand staircase connecting the first through fifth floor levels reduces reliance on the elevator and encourages interaction between residents. Beyond the lobby, the south-facing courtyard frames an expansive existing mural—a paint-and-glass mosaic of dancers on the side of the Performing Arts garage. Four levels of fully equipped studio apartments sit atop neighborhood-serving retail and surround the private landscaped courtyard.
The project is being designed and built with the guidance of the Build It Green GreenPoint Rated and Green Communities checklists, with sustainable features such as a purifying bioswale in the court, sunshades, and possibly solar electric and domestic-hot-water panels. In keeping with the intention of a dense, transit-oriented neighborhood, there is no on-site car parking, and bike parking facilities are provided.
The building responds to the existing fabric of the neighborhood by varying the colors, materials and heights on its façade to suggest a collection of more modest related structures. A prominent corner bay rising over the retail entryway at Fulton and Gough contributes to the dramatic view down the length of the building that culminates with City Hall in the near distance.
A tall retail level with an awning trellis that extends over the sidewalk helps maintain a human scale at the street edge. One retail space is dedicated to a work-training program for residents. Other supportive services and features include a counseling center and a residents' lounge, as well as a prominent community room. Additionally there is dedicated on-site medical suite reserved for resident care.
The imigrant owner of this restaurant did his own DIY interior. He also colonized the sidewalk with outdoor seating, something unimaginable brfore this building provided a wider sidewalk pedestrian zone.
Richardson Apartments was featured in Public Interest Design: Products, Places, & Processes, an exhibit at the Autodesk Gallery at 1 Market Street in San Francisco in 2012. Co-curated by Courtney E. Martin and John Cary, the show celebrated public interest design with examples that range from baby-saving warming blankets to parklets to housing for the homeless.