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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

House of Air in San Francisco, CA by Mark Horton / Architecture

July 17th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Mark Horton / Architecture

“National Park”, “Historic Building”, “LEED Certified”, “Architecture”, “Amusement Park” — five terms which are typically not used in the same sentence to describe a single building.

House of Air, started in 2010 by two young entrepreneurs interested in the action sports world, is a trampoline facility that caters to the discriminating taste of the young, energetic and affluent population of active San Francisco.  The breathtaking site is at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and in the Golden Gate National Park, with expansive views out to the San Francisco Bay that become even more apparent when the 45′ wide glazed hanger door is opened.  Inside the historic biplane hanger, a large field trampoline for bouncing sits along side a trampoline dodge ball court and three performance trampolines used for both competitive jumping as well as ski / snowboard / wakeboard training.   Flanking the trampoline area are two pavilions housing a café, meeting facilities, lockers, and a lounge. Translucent blue walls lit from within are graphic interpretations of the vertical motion which takes place throughout the facility.

Exterior View(Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture)

  • Architect: Mark Horton / Architecture
  • Project name: House of Air
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Owner: Dave Schaeffer and Paul McGeehan
  • Date project completed: September 2010
  • Total square footage: 21,440 sf
  • Photographer: Ethan Kaplan Photography, Jeremy Wong, Mark Horton / Architecture

  • Architecture Project Team: Mark Horton – Principal, David Gill – Project Architect, Matt Shanks – Designer
  • Contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company


  • Structural Engineer: Holmes Culley
  • Mechanical Engineer: Allied Heating and Air Conditioning Co. Inc.
  • Electrical Engineer: Cupertino Electric, Inc.
  • Plumbing Engineer: DPW, Inc.
  • Fire Consultant: HolmesFire
  • Lighting Designer: Associate Lighting Representatives
  • Graphic Designer: Mine SF
  • LEED Consultant: Enovity
  • Owners Representative: Studley Project Management

Historical Image (Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography)

The client’s original objectives were purely to construct and operate a facility that could accommodate their business plan.  The architect’s objectives were to create a space that would act as a branding device in a visual manner, thus elevating what could otherwise have been a base commercial experience to a level matching the sophisticated site and clientele.   Through the use of relatively inexpensive construction materials and methods, the final product is a distinctive environment that registers as a lasting visual impression on visiting customers.

Historical Images (Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography)

Architecturally, the hanger remains a large single long-span structure, with free-standing elements installed within it.  A very large glazed overhead bi-fold door at one end of the building fronts onto the historic Crissy Field landing strip, the San Francisco Bay beyond, and downtown San Francisco in the distance.  Internally, this large oculus is flanked by structurally-independent pavilions housing discreet programmatic elements, clad in translucent blue polycarbonate.  Large openings in these walls are modulated with pivoting panels, to provide privacy to the interior rooms.  A structural steel catwalk connecting the upper floors of the pavilions allows for elevated vantage points from which to observe the trampoline activity below.

Historical Images (Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography)

The renovation and remodeling of the existing historic hanger was no small task.  The existing building is a lightweight steel structure sitting on natural landfill prone to liquifaction in a seismic zone.   When the six inch thick solid concrete roof structure (bomb-proof by 1920’s standards!) is added to the equation, and required to be kept in place during seismic shaking, it becomes quickly apparent that the building was in need of significant bracing and upgrade.  Combining the seismic upgrade with the historic requirements of the building was a significant challenge;  grout-injecting concrete to allow the original concrete to remain in place and once again become structurally sound, separating structural loads for the new work from the historic structure, and adding structural members to the original building in a way that would respect the historic structure as originally designed, were all tasks which the design and construction team had to address.

Historical Images (Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography)

In addition to stabilizing the structure in place, a large amount of time and energy was spent addressing toxic concerns.  An airplane hanger, owned by the military for almost 90 years, can only be assumed to be toxic.  Lead paint, aviation fuel, and asbestos seemed to be present on almost every surface of the building at the start of the project.  A comprehensive plan to address all of these conditions, with a tremendous amount of work on the part of the general contractor, resulted in a final, usable, and clean, public building.

Exterior View(Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture)

As a result of the work performed, an historic building was re-purposed and put back into use for The Presidio Trust, the entity formed by Congress to both preserve the Presidio’s natural, scenic, cultural, and recreational resources, and to shape them in a way that would allow them to become financially self-sufficient.

*  LEED Certification in process.


MH/A begins each project with the understanding that the questions which should be asked are more important than knowing the presumed final answers.  The solutions will come at the end of a true design process, but only if the correct questions are developed at the start.

Exterior View(Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture)

MH/A’s integration of design aesthetics into the functional solution of the program at hand is of utmost importance.  In the end, this direction becomes the primary goal of a process the firm is centered around engaging in the construction of architecture.  To aspire to something different would be to resign the process to the idea that construction alone would suffice and that the need to engage an architect on the project would not be required. As is evident in the portfolio of both built and proposed work, design is primary to the office.  MH/A truly believes that lives can be positively affected by design, and that the task of architecture is to have this affect upon people.

Front View(Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture)

Because MH/A remains an “emerging” design firm, the projects which are proposed to the office, and are most often undertaken, tend to be projects of unusual scope and constrained budgets.  Working within these restrictions becomes a normal task for the office as well as a set of tools used to generate design.  MH/A’s ability to navigate the intangible world of design simultaneous with the real-world condition of budget has become a trait many past clients would attest to.  As is often repeated in the process of projects of this type, the assumption on the part of MH/A is that the world is not an “either-or” universe, but rather a “both-and”, and that one of the tasks of the architect is to discover the point in space where disparate arcs of issues actually coincide.

Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture

Founded in 1987, Mark Horton / Architecture is a design firm based in San Francisco, California.  With a  primary focus on architectural design, projects have also been undertaken which deal with planning, interiors, and design aspects related to the architectural process.

Mark Horton / Architecture is a licensed architectural firm in the States of California and New York.

Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture

Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture

Images Courtesy Ethan Kaplan Photography and Mark Horton / Architecture

Images Courtesy Jeremy Wong

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