The Telegraph Hill Residence is a remodel of an existing historic home, originally built in 1936 for Dr. Hans Klussmann and his wife Friedel. Mrs. Klussmann is well known as “the Cable Car Lady” and is famously credited with leading the campaign to save the San Francisco cable car system in the late 1940s. Since then, the house had been extensively remodeled several times throughout its lifetime. By the time our clients purchased it, the structure was clad in non-historic wood shingle siding and the façade was a collection of varying window styles and sizes. The interior consisted of small rooms, constricted circulation paths, and an assortment of material finishes.
The house has one undeniable advantage: its spectacular cliff-edge corner site overlooking the Embarcadero piers below with a sweeping unobstructed view of the San Francisco Bay. Our challenge was to modernize the existing structure into a piece of sculpture that played off of two opposing forces: a deeply solid grounding in the bedrock of the cliff and the lightness of floating above the bay.
Our first design strategy was to drop the basement level of the house by 6 feet, allowing us to create a full basement and to extend the floor above over the garage. In doing so, we reoriented the interior stair from a U-shape into in a straight run along the back of the house. This transition created a new axis of circulation that connected the interior of the house to the view of the bay. The stair itself is composed of a steel truss turned at an angle and connected by wood and steel treads. This skeletal structure, floating above the floor plate, allows views through it in both directions. We complemented this visual connection by creating a four-story glass and steel window wall along the new stair that flanks a lightwell. The back of the lightwell was clad in massive rough-sawn Virginia Mist stone slabs, a nod to the historic use of the cliff as a stone quarry in the 1890s. This glazed wall brings in diffused northern light and acts as a light monitor, signaling time of day for the interior. It also acts as an organizing element around which the rest of the rooms are distributed.
Material finishes inside the house include reclaimed American Oak end-grain floor tiles, blackened steel, cerused (limed) oak casework, and basalt tile.
Andrea Cochran's landscape design was the recipient of the 2016 Honor Award in Residential Design from the Northern California chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.