Designed by MVRDV, The Canyon – a 23-storey, mixed-use building overlooking San Francisco Bay – evokes California’s dramatic geology 

Designed by MVRDV

From the architects:

The Canyon 23-storey mixed-use building is part of a masterplan that creates the wholly new neighbourhood 'Mission Rock' overlooking San Francisco Bay. 

Incorporating a sizeable volume of housing for middle-income residents, together with offices, shops, and restaurants, the waterfront building evokes California’s dramatic geology and will keep Mission Rock vibrant throughout the day and night.

Positioned in the north-west corner of the neighbourhood, The Canyon is the first building to welcome visitors crossing the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. 

The building comprises a five-storey plinth, topped by a 73m tower in the western corner of the plot, and will soon be fronted by China Basin Park, a waterfront park and cultural centrepiece for the community, enhancing public waterfront access and integrated with the more than 563k San Francisco Bay Trail. 

Like all the buildings of the masterplan, the ground level of The Canyon hosts small-scale shops and restaurants that will help to establish a community feeling in the new neighbourhood.

In the case of The Canyon, the ground floor is topped by two floors of offices, in turn capped by 283 apartments. 

Over a third of these apartments are available at below-market-rates to middle-income residents. 

Life is a lottery

The development will have a positive impact on San Francisco’s housing crisis, with the 102 apartments suitable for a range of households subject to a lottery.

The Canyon is instantly recognisable thanks to its ruggedly textured red-brown façade. 

The design references Californian rock formations, and features a landscaped public 'canyon' that cuts diagonally through the building’s plinth, connecting to the offices and to shared amenities for residents. 

Providing a lush and lively space for both relaxing and working, this 'canyon' also offers a shortcut from China Basin Park to the heart of the neighbourhood. 

The walls of the canyon and of the eastern side of the tower are jagged with step-backs and overhangs giving the impression of steep rocky walls. 

These have the added benefit of creating bay windows and balconies for 40 apartments, taking advantage of the city-skyline views and over San Francisco Bay. 

The roofs of the plinth are also landscaped with abundant native greenery, creating communal spaces for residents to relax, exercise, or meet friends.

Creating connections

The Canyon helps create connections in several ways, with the landscaped ravine as its focal point, says Nathalie de Vries, MVRDV co-founder. 

“The ravine binds the public realm’s shops and restaurants with access to offices and resident services to keep Mission Rock vibrant, and residents can further meet, relax and entertain on The Canyon’s green communal spaces. 

That a significant proportion of rentals are available at below-market- rates will also help engender the diverse and inclusive communities that are vital to sustaining and enhancing cities.”

Located opposite the Giants’ Oracle Park, The Canyon is one of four buildings that form the first phase of the new Mission Rock neighbourhood, which is being developed through a partnership of the San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, and the Port of San Francisco. 

Located on an 11-hectare site, these buildings were designed in a collaborative process in which four internationally renowned design firms – Studio Gang, Henning Larsen, and WORKac in addition to MVRDV – worked simultaneously, creating distinct designs which work seamlessly together.

One benefit of the simultaneous design process for the masterplan is that the four buildings share critical energy and water infrastructure. 

Based in the building designed by WORKac, for example, is a water recycling plant that will process black water from the whole neighbourhood for reuse. 

Sustainable infrastructure

For its part, The Canyon hosts the key mechanical elements of an efficient district heating system, hidden away in parts of the ground floor and basement. 

The proximity to the San Francisco Bay provides the site with the opportunity to utilise bay water for both cooling and heating of Mission Rock via a water exchange system. 

The system leads to a reduction of CO2 and lower water, sewer, and energy usage.

High and dry

Further enhancing The Canyon’s sustainability, the building level has been raised by more than 1.5m to accommodate for projected sea level rise. 

Lightweight glass fibre reinforced concrete (GFRC) was used for The Canyon’s façade panels which compares favourably to precast concrete. 

With Caltrain and Muni Metro stations, ferries, regional buses, and connections to BART within walking or biking distance, these shared systems and interventions allow the neighbourhood to significantly reduce its carbon emissions – it will become one of the exemplary green projects for the area.

Credit list

The Canyon, San Francisco, California, USA
Landscape architect
GLS Landscape/Architecture
PAE Engineers
SF Giants + Tishman Speyer
Executive architect
Perry Architects
Structural engineer
Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Swinerton Builders

Designed by: MVRDV

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Jason O’Rear, © Mission Rock Partnership

15 Oct, 2023

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