In the 1960’s through the 1980’s Victorian houses were out of fashion, especially in San Francisco. As such, they were cheap to rent and often occupied by counter-culture young adults. Perhaps ironically, these houses today are the cornerstones of San Francisco’s preservation polices. What were once domestic symbols of social transformation are now static representations of conservative planning policies. Today it begs the question, what exactly is being preserved? Is it not more appropriate to preserve a culture of social transformation and architectural expression then it is to constrain an aesthetic? To understand the code in this way leaves a few possible responses as an architect: Comply (uphold the stasis of preservation and nostalgia), Ignore (to begrudge Victorian architecture as “Kitsch”, or to focus instead on “tech architecture”), Abstain & Stylize (California Modernism...see Dwell Magazine), or Double-Down. A Critical Queen doubles down on this code by exaggerating it, manipulating it, and perverting it into something that calls for otherness and oddness at the margins of the codes intended limitations. Its purpose does not arise from a client’s interests, but rather is offered as a critique of the rigid ‘preservation’ codes of San Francisco.
San Francisco Planning and Preservation Code stipulates many rules on facade geometry, overhangs, projections, bulk, dimensions, setbacks and so on that have been adopted by neighboring municipalities. However, they are not always adopted exactly, but undergo subtle changes depending on the neighborhood or municipality. We wondered, could we create an ‘average plan’ that accommodates the nuance of all these discrepancies, or at least one that averages the plan diagrams stipulating forms and dimensions for things like bay windows, turrets, dormers, and so forth that are found in the planning code? A Critical Queen begins by cutting and pasting planning and preservation code diagrams into composition which forms a new plan; I call this an ‘average plan’ of the planning and preservation code of San Francisco. While the base plan may be an “average” of the code, the facades are decidedly exaggerated expressions of local architectural endearments, such as bay windows, corner turrets, shingles, and gabled roofs.