YOU DON'T FIND MANY affordable housing projects with original art work hanging on the walls. But Riverwood Place SRO—designed for individuals who earn less than 50 percent of the county's median income—is no ordinary housing project.

Working with what they had, the architects Berger Detmer Ennis massed a curving building along the tear-drop–shaped site and created four radiating wings that form three public gathering areas. The design team located the community rooms on the corner of the site where large storefront windows bring in lots of light. Walls display original art the design team commissioned from community artists and friends.

Riverwood Place shows a level of attention to detail, finishes, and construction that is usually reserved for housing priced at regular market rates because the team made a decision early on to go beyond the affordable model. “The goal was to use highend materials without using high-end money,” says architect Jonathan Ennis. The choices also had to be environmentally responsible, so the team chose vinyl floors with a high mineral content, high-efficiency boilers and appliances, as well as bamboo floors. As a result, the project exceeds state energy compliance standards by 25 percent. “We made compromises, but we did not let go of the vision.”

CATEGORY: Apartments (rentals); ENTRANT/ARCHITECT: Berger Detmer Ennis, San Francisco; BUILDER: JR Roberts, Citrus Heights, Calif.; DEVELOPER: Mid-Peninsular Housing Coalition, Redwood City, Calif.; LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Smith & Smith Landscape, San Francisco; INTERIOR DESIGNER: CRKW Studios, Sacramento, Calif.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.