Architect Anne Fougeron Brings Refinement to San Francisco's Urban Landscape

Architect Anne FougeronSan Francisco architect Anne Fougeron is having a moment. Lauded for her sophisticated residential projects—most recently, her Fall House in Big Sur has been honored with accolades (and also served as the backdrop for a Vogue spread starring Cara Delevingne and a bear)—Fougeron’s practice has scaled up dramatically. In addition to the chic new 400 Grove residences in Hayes Valley—already sold out—she is collaborating with Pritzker Prize–winning architect Rem Koolhaas and venerable firm SOM on two high-rise projects in the Transbay District, and completing the Oakland offices for the foundation of tech entrepreneur Mitch Kapor. “Anne is one of the most accomplished California architects of her generation,” says SOM’s Craig Hartman. “She has built her design practice based on contemporary culture and its aesthetic, form, material and craft, and is absolutely tenacious in her pursuit of these architectural ideals.” SFC&G talked shop with Fougeron, who celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of her practice this year.

Where do you like to push the envelope in architecture?
We try to do projects that question the original premises—the assumptions that they start out with. We always try to be creative within the context we’re working in, even if the project isn’t the most progressive to begin with.

A rendering of Transbay Block 8, designed by Anne Fougeron.What do you think needs to change in the architecture profession?
Overall, there needs to be better representation in architecture: more women and more people of color and other minorities. While I see a lot of our culture moving forward in addressing these kinds of inequalities, architecture lags behind.

Also, there tends to be tension between construction and architecture, rather than a fluid relationship. It takes a lot of different technical skills to get a building made and poor communication slows it down.

What would you like to tackle going forward?
We’d love to do an institutional building like a student center—a big space that has importance for social interaction, but can still be quite crafted. Take the student center at Wellesley (Fougeron’s alma mater) by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam, a project for a client who wanted to do something transformative for the campus.

Of your past projects, which has been the highlight to date?
Right now, it’s my project in Big Sur, “Fall House,” which I think best reflects my methodologies and ideologies about architecture and its relationship with its environment.

400 Grove's exterior.You’ve also just completed 400 Grove in Hayes Valley, the first market-rate development by your firm. What will we see there?
It has a really dynamic site plan: The building splits in two and opens into a courtyard, which you can see from the street and invites people to walk in and out. It also has an interesting façade that mimics bay windows, but the windows are continuous, like a wave. The façade is covered in wooden dowels, which creates a moiré-like effect.

What do you think of the evolution of San Francisco?
San Francisco, despite its 7×7 proportions, is finally becoming a big city. Our urban landscape is shifting radically and densifying—it often feels like we are making up for decades of lost time.

A version of this article appeared in the February/March 2016 issue of SFC&G (San Francisco Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: The City Shaper.