American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter

Announcing the 10th Annual Architecture and the City Festival

Posted on June 26, 2013

AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design present the tenth anniversary of the Architecture and the City festival, the nation's largest architectural festival of its kind. Taking place in San Francisco every September, the monthlong celebration features behind the scenes and walking tours, films, exhibitions, lectures and more, providing opportunities for participants to engage with the local architecture community and experience design in a myriad of ways throughout the city.

Over 40 festival programs throughout the month will address varying aspects of the design and planning process. As we experience elements of our built environment at various stages– from theoretical urban interventions and works in progress to civic landmarks and hidden histories– architects and designers will discuss the ways their work alters and redefines the city we call home.

2013 Festival Theme: Unbuilt San Francisco

San Francisco's architectural heritage consists of the buildings and spaces we see and touch, but also the structures that were never built and the plans that never came to be. The 2013 festival theme, Unbuilt San Francisco, will explore a parallel history of this ever-provocative city.

Unbuilt San Francisco, a collaborative exhibition co-curated by AIA San Francisco, Center for Architecture + Design, Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley, California Historical Society, SPUR and the San Francisco Public Library, will be on view August - December 2013 at various locations. Learn more about the exhibition below.

Festival Programs

Opening Night Party

On August 30, our Opening Night Party kicks off the festival with a salute to the many individuals, organizations, cultural institutions and nonprofits that help make the month possible. This year, interactive media agency Obscura Digital will host the festive evening at its Dogpatch headquarters. Designed by IwamotoScott Architecture, Obscura has been paving the way for innovation by exploring the infinite possibilities of light and developing new technologies, since its inception in 2000.

The 2013 San Francisco Living: Home Tours program moves to a new weekend in September, capping off the festival with ten distinctive residences open to participants over two days. Presented by AIA San Francisco and the Center for Architecture + Design, San Francisco Living is the first tour series of its kind to promote a wide variety of architectural styles, neighborhoods, and residences- all from the architect's point of view. On the annual program, design enthusiasts can get an inside look at some of the city's latest residential work, meet project architects, explore housing trends and discover design solutions inspired by Bay Area living.

Behind the Scenes Tours

Highlighting the collaborative nature of design in the city, Behind the Scenes tours explore the ways architecture intersects with the creative forces at work behind some of San Francisco's latest noteworthy projects. 2013 behind the scenes tours include:

  • A visit to the Mill on Divisadero to learn about designing a shared coffee shop and bakery with Boor Bridges Architecture;
  • A walk-through, with Mark Cavagnero, FAIA, of SFJAZZ, the first freestanding venue in the United States designed specifically for the performance and appreciation of jazz;
  • Tours, with EHDD and GLS Landscape Architecture, of both the indoor and outdoor spaces at the new nine-acre Exploratorium, built to be North America's largest zero net energy museum;
  • An exploration of Jefferson Mack Metals, a blacksmithing studio in Silver Terrace that creates beautiful ornamental architectural elements in mild steel, wrought iron and bronze.

Walking Tours

Explore San Francisco's unique neighborhoods and rediscover the mix of layered history and contemporary design in our city on festival walking tours. Tours include:

  • Food and design experiences along Valencia Street with the architects of Abbot's Cellar, Craftsman & Wolves and Farina pizzeria;
  • A visit to unexpected architectural treasures in Chinatown with Phillip Choy;
  • Hidden gems of the Mission, including some of the district's oldest and most intact Victorian streetscapes, with architectural historian Jonathan Lammers;
  • SF Planning Department-led visits to the site of the Market Octavia plan and the Central Market neighborhood, to discover approved and proposed high density housing, retail and arts projects;
  • A walking discussion of how the Inner Sunset transitioned from sand dunes to developed neighborhood with local historian Lorri Ungaretti; *A look at the new designs being implemented on Jefferson Street, in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf.

Festival Exhibition: Unbuilt San Francisco

A collaborative exhibition presented by AIA San Francisco, Center for Architecture + Design, Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley, California Historical Society, SPUR and the San Francisco Public Library, Unbuilt San Francisco is an opportunity to confront visions for the Bay Area that never came to pass as well as those existing plans which will, in time, have a major impact on our city.

Images include early designs for San Francisco City Hall and other landmarks, neighborhood-scaled plans that were blocked by community activists, and provocative works by architects that address challenges such as sea level rise.

Each of the five institutions will display treasures from archival collections, architecture firms and private architectural collections, and host companion programming, panel discussions and lectures that celebrate and explore the different dimensions of Unbuilt San Francisco.


The popular festival film series is held each Wednesday at the San Francisco Public Library. Curator Eric Heiman states that "this year's films and shorts will speak as much to how design and the built environment affect communities and individuals as the motivations behind the architects, designers and developers who create these projects. Films will focus on not only unrealized projects but the unrecognized- designers, craftspeople and communities who are integral to the process and the projects, but not usually noticed or celebrated." Films (subject to change) include:

  • Rebels with a Cause, a retelling of the fight to keep developers from taking over the landscape of Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate Recreation Area;
  • Sign Painters, which details the history of this craft and the artists keeping it alive;
  • If You Build It, a documentary about humanitarian design that spends a year in the life of one of America's most innovative classrooms;
  • The Human Scale, which investigates how urban environments impact and enhance human life and happiness.


Lectures convene leading minds on issues in architecture, design and urban planning. From design trends to addressing spatial challenges in the Bay Area, experts share their ideas, creativity and visions for our local built environment. 2013 lectures include:

  • A lecture by Teddy Cruz, in collaboration with the newly formed AIASF Latinos in Architecture committee and SFNOMA;
  • A look at San Francisco's architecture through the lens of some of the city's best known architectural photographers;
  • Arup's absorbing presentation on acoustic wayfinding for the blind, with Chris Downey, AIA and Joshua Cushner;
  • A discussion on 'architect as developer' with San Diego-based architect Jonathan Segal, FAIA.

Special Events

  • A PechaKucha session with designers participating in the Unbuilt San Francisco exhibition;
  • Designing the Big One: Building Resilient Communities– a multi-tiered event with Public Architecture;
  • StreetUtopia: Goodbye, Columbus, an interactive workshop along Columbus Street allowing participants to envision the thoroughfare as a pedestrian only promenade;
  • A discussion and walking – as well as playing – tour of Urban Putt, a miniature golf course inspired by San Francisco;
  • GOOD Design evening which will include the announcement of the 280 Freeway Competition winners with SEED Fund and the Center for Architecture + Design.

Constructed Realities Awards Announcement

Awards Announcement
September 10, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Steelcase Showroom
475 Brannan St, San Francisco

Constructed Realities recognizes exemplary performance in a broad range of architectural work, informing the public of the diversity, value, and social power of architecture.

Festival Updates

Get updates on Architecture and the City festival programs and events! Follow the festival on Twitter at @archandcity and visit AIA San Francisco on Facebook.

The festival website,, will be live August 1.

Visit for more information about past festivals.