Architects of affordable housing are always faced with the challenge of doing a lot with a little budget. The designers of this project were tasked with doing a lot with a little of everything.

Specifically, they needed to squeeze 101 units, along with common areas, social services offices, outdoor living spaces, and parking for 22 cars on a 16,500-square-foot lot. Building higher than 75 feet wasn’t an option, as doing so would have triggered unaffordable high-rise expenses. And given the lot orientation, a typical building configuration would have left residents light-starved and straining to get a view of the park across the street.

Their answer to the challenge was an L-shaped building with distinctive, staggered wave-like undulating windows. The extra glass makes the units feel roomier with the added bonus of bringing more light and better views to north-facing apartments. The massing, which is eight-floors high on one side and then drops down to four floors on the other arm of the L, also ensures that sunlight is available to south-facing and fourth-floor terraces. A sloped lot allowed room to tuck parking and storage underneath. Exposed concrete slabs added interest to the outside walls.

Still, there was room for a few extras, including a two-story lobby, salon, therapy center, and community room. The final cost was $25 million, $250 per square foot for construction and $250,000 in land development costs.

Category: Affordable housing
Entrant/Land planner: Fougeron Architecture, San Francisco
Architect: Kwan Henmi Architecture/Planning, San Francisco
Builder: Cahill Contractors, San Francisco
Developer: AF Evans & Chinatown Development Center, Oakland, Calif.
Landscape architect: Stevens & Associates, San Francisco

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