The American Institute of Architects San Francisco Home Tour 2013

As always, this year's residences were all sparkling examples of clean, green and lean approaches to the unique challenges of this city's architecture.

Photo By AIASF/Bruce Damonte Business in the front, party in the rear: Stretching across an entire block, this home transitions from Victorian to modern from one end to the other. Architect: Kennerly Architecture & Planning

The classic, old-timey details of the Victorian Society's House Tour will be on tap this weekend, but we just wrapped a house tour of a different sort: the ultra-sleek, contemporary and creatively adaptive styles of the American Institute of Architect's San Francisco Living: Home Tours. The first of its kind in the Bay Area, the AIA Home Tours focus on the architect's vision, giving an insider's look at what goes into various design decisions while showcasing some of the most innovative home designs in the city. 

Far from just being an opportunity to gawk at homes you could only dream of owning, the San Francisco Living: Home Tours "features residential architecture that highlights the different perspectives of its dwellers," says Helen Wong, AIA-SF's director of communications. There's "variety in size, scope and design of projects ranging from single-family to multi-family to affordable-housing buildings."

Homes were selected from submissions based not just on their beauty, but on their sustainability and "integration with surroundings," says Wong, who notes that "building in San Francisco proves to be a challenge." With so much history, the demands of modern life and an international population — not to mention severe space restrictions in our little 7x7 miles — any architect takes on that challenge. Doing so in a way that adds beauty and sustainability does deserve applause.

Wong refused to pick a favorite, but pointed out that the Lower Height Residence blends old and new elegantly: The Mission Residence salvages materials from the 1906 earthquake to create reorganized and efficient space. And the Hill House is a modest single-family home that connects to the outdoors and mirrors the topography of its building site — a value that has been central to Bay Area architecture since the Arts and Crafts days.

"Each year, we see 10 residences with 10 unique approaches to living in San Francisco," Wong says. "There are always similarities, but each achieves the goal of building and living in a sustainable manner in its own way — be it use of materials, innovative lighting and heating design, space planning or green roof practices."

Take a look at the amazing range in the San Francisco tour, and stay tuned for a peek at the Marin version.

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