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MVRDV reproduces rock forms for the facade of The Canyon

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Architect: MVRDV
San Francisco, California
Completion Date:
January 2022

Architect: MVRDV
Location: San Francisco, California
Completion Date: 2023

MVRDV’s The Canyon, a 23 story mixed-use building is one part of a larger master plan to redevelop a former parking lot near San Francisco’s waterfront into a new neighborhood, Mission Rock. The building, completed earlier this year, takes inspiration from local geology, as it features a jagged, gorge-like form on its western face.

The units along the western face appear to be carved in relief from the otherwise rectangular massing. Alternatively, the appearance of the square units might be likened to three-dimensional pixels or an arrangement of blocks in Minecraft. The design team conceived of this space as a metaphorical “ravine” that provides room for pedestrian circulating through the development.

Phase one of the Mission Rock development consists of four buildings designed by Studio Gang, Henning Larsen, Work AC, and MVRDV. (© Jason ORear)

The new Mission Rock development is adjacent to Oracle Park stadium, home of the San Francisco Giants, and is formed by four buildings; Studio Gang, Henning LarsenWork AC, and MVRDV designed one building with the understanding that their component projects would be part of the larger development. The Canyon occupies the northwest corner of the site and is home to 283 apartment units and two floors of office space. 102 of the units are rented below market rate to existing San Francisco residents through a lottery system. The base of the structure is a five-story plinth that supports the 240 foot tower above. On the ground floor, space has been allocated for retail and dining.

The design team chose glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) for the facade of the Canyon to emulate the rough texture of a rock formation. Precast concrete was also considered, however GFRC was selected for its lighter weight, which expedited the installation of deep soffits and returns. While precast concrete must be poured into a pre-ordained cast prior to installation, GFRC can be applied using a spray, making it easier to use in designs with significant variance in depth.