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How a good idea went all wrong.

San Francisco architecture has a lot of small, darling details – those victorians with painted ladies that line roofs, beautiful trim detailing, fine proportions and, of course, bay windows.

In a victorian, trying to overcome the darkness a floor plan has created can be a daunting task. Since a San Francisco lot is typically 25×100, adding light at both ends creates length but also keeps the center of a home appropriately darker. Bay windows are a simple solution to the problem of light in a typical San Francisco home. You can use them to extend over, into a sidewalk, or outwards over your yard. This makes them into friendly, free-real estate which developers tend to find appealing. Plus, sometimes it will grant you a new view of the water!

So, how could I then harp on such a useful architectural concept? The issue is that we begin to forget the original purpose of bay windows and think that if we can afford to put one in, why not a dozen? To preserve, even enhance, a façade, one set of bay windows is plenty but I drive through the city I see multiple bay windows in two, three or four story homes.

There no concern here for scale, appropriateness. Is something getting lost in the translation. A building looks chunkier, façades melt into each other, there are too many angles created by rigged awnings and the bay windows.

It makes me feel like now all you need to do to design a building in San Francisco is copy paste a whole bunch of bay windows on the façade and you are done! Bay area window disease is a design plague ravaging the city, the beautiful victorians, the modern buildings cropping up. You should warn your friends about the risk of abusing bay windows. It’s a gate-way remodel.

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