By Martha Senger
The reconstructive social architecture I envision today has a revolutionary future–a nonhierarchical, nonlinear process structure that conceives and manifests a complex range of activities in spaces designed and programmed to provide access to the random. I call it “chaos architecture,” and it has provided a multidimensional blueprint to guide the three-dimensional design of the new Goodman2 building in San Francisco.
Successor to the historic Goodman Building on Geary Street, Goodman2 was designed by David Baker Associates and developed in a co-venture partnership between the nonprofit Artspace Development Corporation (ArtsDeco) and its market-rate partner McKenzie, Rose & Holiday with financial support from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.
The ArtsDeco/G2 project grew out of the Goodman Group artists collective that waged a historic but ill-fated ten-year struggle to save the old Victorian’s thick and supportive ecology from destruction. A battle that ended in eviction of the residents and conversion of the Goodman’s congregate live/work environment to a conventional apartment house with commercial stores replacing the community art center that had grown up in the landmark hotel’s five storefronts. G2 was designed to similarly support and empower its residents by centering them in the thick of things they need for their lives and work. Like Goodman1, G2 achieves complexity through a compact part/whole patterning that links a broad spectrum of private to public spaces. At the private end are 29 individual live/work studios, double height spaces with built-in sleeping lofts that range in size from 500 to l000 square feet, each with its own kitchen and bath. At the public end is a 2,500 square foot performance gallery that faces 18th Street, as well as a 2,000 square foot multimedia center for use both by G2’s residents and the outside community. At the building’s center is a two-storied circular space for community meetings, events, and exhibitions. A circular wide hall outside the second floor studios provides a balcony that overlooks this central atrium and extends it. This space is not only the locus of the self-dynamics of the building–its vortex shape also symbolizes the form of its recursive, democratic functioning.
The central aspect of the building’s form is that it be self-organizing; that is, the building’s organic life be generated by the in depth, ongoing production of the whole by those who reside there. In this deeply collaborative process that respects the necessary and unique contribution of each individual to the co-production of a growing whole, mutual respect and aid become the principles that not only permit the full realization and utilization of each person’s talents but also create the harmonious relations that make shared work a joyful social and evolutionary activity. As means coincide and grow out of deeper holistic ends, competitive “thing relations” that characterize top-down modes of production are actively transformed into cooperative, synergistic modes that are not only more efficient but more fully human. This was the philosophy of the Group, the dynamic and vision that permitted it to survive a decade of onslaught by the San Francisco bureaucracy, who met every Monday night for the entire period to jointly decide on all issues that effected them, from the building’s upkeep to its preservation and acquisition, all the while generating artwork and creating a community cultural center in the building’s storefronts. It has also sustained the last ten years of struggle by ArtsDeco to produce a built structure as organically complex as the Goodman Building–one that would not only serve as a habitat for low income artists but also serve the larger vision–to probe that long sought but still largely uncharted region of cooperative creativity. To that end, working with other Goodman artists and ArtsDeco board members, I developed a conceptual framework consistent with our vision and gave it to our architect to guide his design of Goodman2.
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