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1919 Market

Live-Work projects are especially unique and can be quite challenging. If you remember the "Ghost-Ship" fire in Oakland, this project fits squarely into the same category. When we started work here, there were 35 illegal units, a long list of fire-code violations, and no plan for how to bring the project into compliance.


Our team measured every inch of this 100,000 sf warehouse. Although most of the units had bright natural light from the high clerestory windows, almost none of them had egress compliance, heat, or private bathrooms. 


These buildings attract very creative people. There were tenants with sound studios, art studios, weed grow rooms, aerial dancing rigs, a koi pond, and even a 4-story Tarzan swing. It was a fun site measure.

Our focus was safety. We carefully crafted a phased improvement plan that would allow the tenants to remain for as long as possible, and temporarily relocate them when it came time to renovate their areas.  We worked very closely with the City of Oakland officials to prepare this plan and a timeline for implementation.

The key to projects in warehouses like this is to use the architecture and structural systems to identify places in which to cut out the roof and install large interior courtyards.  This building had an incredible bow truss system with ideal spacing for us to carve between the "ribs" of the structure to create 3 new courtyards at strategic locations to maximize the unit count.

One great thing about these building typologies is the ceiling height.  Because of the incredible heights, we were able to design 2-story loft style units, and convert 35 enormous units into 58 live-work lofts meeting all safety requirements. Each unit was very large, with a focus on flexible living space for the creative tenants. We also focused on improving wayfinding. Large buildings like this become a labyrinth of hallways where everything looks the same. The courtyards help draw natural light into the hallways and provide milestones for people to navigate through the large building. These units would have been incredible if they had been built as we designed them.

Unfortunately, after we submitted our plans for Planning Approval, our client opted to evict all the tenants with almost no notice. We only found out about it on the news ourselves. Our hearts broke for the tenants we had come to know and who we had worked so hard to protect. 


We see now that the owner ultimately succeeded in renovating the building, but by significantly increasing the unit count and squeezing more units into 4 stories of occupancy, he lost the beautiful and unique character of the open trusses and high windows.


Live-Work Renovation

58 Units






Image by Evgeniy Alyoshin


Image by Andrew Hutchings


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