A San Francisco trampoline facility by Mark Horton, the House of Air has really taken off
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 5/1/2011 11:48:00 AM
Mark Horton had done it all. Or so he thought. High-end residences, low-income housing, offices, restaurants? Check. A school, a museum, a synagogue, an embassy? Check. A wine barn? Cheers! But a trampoline park? That was a project type completely new to Mark Horton Architecture. Horton had little frame of reference when he signed on to transform a 1920's aviation hanger in San Francisco's historic Presidio into the House of Air. "Architecture is a word rarely used with amusement park," he says. "Which is essentially what this project is."
It started out, however, as something entirely different. "We had originally looked at the building for an aviation-museum client, but that fell through," he explains. Then two thirtysomething entrepreneurs, Paul McGeehan and Dave Schaeffer, approached the Presidio Trust about opening a trampoline facility there, and the trust passed Horton's name along. McGeehan and Schaeffer expressed considerably more interest in their business plan than in design. However, Horton had other ideas. The location at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, with expansive views of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz, deserved a lot better. Especially if it were to attract the envisioned demographic: fitness-focused folks with expendable dollars.
First, it was McGeehan and Schaeffer who had to do the spending. "It cost a bundle just to secure everything and clean it up," Horton recounts. What he initially encountered was a building vacant for decades. In addition, despite its location in a volatile earthquake zone, there was little seismic support for the lightweight steel trusses holding up the 6-inch-thick concrete roof, constructed to be bombproof at the time. So he inserted heftier steel beams that, given the building's historic status, are removable should the Presidio Trust someday decide to return the hangar to its original condition. Meanwhile, the aviation graphics on the floor, in lead paint, were just one clue to the building's overall toxicity. "Besides the paint," he adds, "every surface was covered with aviation fuel." The entire interior needed to be scraped down-and the exterior's corrugated cement-board siding turned out to be asbestos-based. Power-washing the siding wasn't hazardous. "But we had to tent part of the building every time we put in a hole, even if it was just for screws," he continues.
After two months of detox, Horton was ready to put design moves into play. His main intervention was to install a huge bifold glass door in the front facade. Although absolutely hangar-appropriate, the door represents a mini triumph. "It took a lot of time to convince the Presidio Trust," he says. (Large 3-D renderings eventually did the trick.) Interior interventions were minimal. "The 45-foot-high volume was already perfect for trampolining," he notes. Good thing-because, cleanup completed, less than 25 percent of the budget remained. That would suffice for lighting, a few amenities, and of course trampolines.
He started with prime placement for a trio of competition-grade trampolines, so powerful that a beginner needs a harness to practice the equivalent of snowboarding or wakeboarding: They're right behind the long white reception counter, clearly visible to passersby through the bifold door. Farther in, two perpendicular trampoline fields, one of them dedicated to dodgeball and other team sports, combine to form an L. The bouncy castle, tucked into a corner, is for children only-what better place for a birthday? All told, the space can accommodate 150 jumpers.
Hugging the sidewalls in front are a pair of 30-foot-tall enclosures that house a shop and café, restrooms and changing rooms, large and small party spaces, a lounge, and an office. Horton built these "pavilions," as he calls them, from drywall below and transparent blue polycarbonate above. They add 5,000 square feet to the 16,500-square-foot ground level, and the connecting catwalk forms a quasi-mezzanine for observing the action. Another good vantage point is through the pavilions' large upper windows, which magically appear in the polycarbonate wall when square panels pivot open.
The choice of deep blue for the two layers of polycarbonate represents the sky. Sandwiched between them, the inexpensive fluorescent linear fixtures could be shooting stars, metaphors for "traveling through the air," Horton says. For a more humorous take on the same idea, check out the billboard displaying the House of Air mascot, a penguin wearing a jet-pack.
Photography by Ethan Kaplan.
david gill (project architect); matt shanks: mark horton architecture. associated lighting representatives: lighting consultant. mine: graphics consultant. holmes fire & safety: fire safety consultant. holmes culley: structural engineer. allied heating and air conditioning co.: mechanical engineer. cupertino electric: electrical engineer. dpw: plumbing contractor. hathaway dinwiddie: general contractor.
SCHWEISS DOORS: CUSTOM BIFOLD DOOR.
KAWNEER: STOREFRONT SYSTEM.
H.E. WILLIAMS: LINEAR FIXTURES.
VISA LIGHTING: PENDANT FIXTURES.
PARK CITY MOUNTAIN RESORT: CHAIRLIFT SEAT.