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The 826 Valencia Tenderloin Center is situated at the corner of Leavenworth and Golden Gate in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Neighborhood. 826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting under-resourced young students in developing their creative and expository writing skills and helping teachers inspire creativity through writing. The new 5,200 square foot space serves as a stimulating workshop, retail outlet, and the administrative offices of the national organization.

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Historically this corner of Golden Gate and Leavenworth has been a particular focus area for police. Before 826 took over the lease, this space was a liquor store, notoriously complicit for drug trafficking and uncivil behavior. Many parties including the Mayor’s Office, Supervisor Jane Kim’s Office, as well as police and neighboring partners have all invested in this project, leading to a below market-rate rent on a 20-year lease.  This confluence of energies, including private support of numerous donors, has enabled 826’s organization to realize a transformative project in an area of the city where it is most desperately needed – not only has the project re-invigorated and strengthened the existing structure,  its influence shall be felt on the streets and in the homes of the larger community that has just begun to realize its creative light.

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INTERSTICE has had a unique relationship with 826 Valencia, beginning as neighbors, the firm’s first office only three blocks away in the Mission where 826 Valencia had their start in 2002. Over the years, a continued friendship cultured around education and design between IA Principals Andrew Dunbar and Zoee Astrachan, and 826 Valencia Co-founder Ninive Calegari. This friendship resulted in 826 approaching IA to work with the non-profit and fellow San Francisco-based Architecture firm, MKThink to help conceptualize the project and its programming at the early stages. From there the energetic and committed team grew to include a highly capable group of consultants including Gensler, Office and BCCI Construction, MKThink, Architect Jonas Kellner, who came together to support this unique project, which will ultimately bring a creative, safe, “weird”, and welcoming space for children – as well as the extraordinary adult volunteers that make it all possible – to a highly underserved community in the geographic center of San Francisco.

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15.04-24 Exterior Elevations v3

Wall Mural Words





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Completed: 2016

LOCATION: Tenderloin District, San Francisco

CLIENT:  826 Valencia

SCOPE: Exterior/Facade Improvements, Historical Coordination, Schematic Design through Construction Documents


AIA San Francisco Special Commendation Award, 2017

IIDA Northern California Chapter, Merit Award, 2017

Contract Magazine Awards: Education, 2017

As an office that is located within the Tenderloin/Lower Polk neighborhood, INTERSTICE Architects has a record of working within the immediate community to enable creative placemaking and positive activation. With the enormous support from the community and heroic cooperation from professionals, contractors and suppliers – 826 and its new Tenderloin Center will serve as an important catalyst for future creativity in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

Besides admiring 826’s mission and badly needing pirate supplies, INTERSTICE started a formal collaboration with 826 five years ago in 2011 to create an interactive ephemeral architecture that extended 826’s presence into the Valencia corridor. INTERSTICE created a Parklet from repurposed shipping pallets in front of the (in-) famous pirate supply shop at 826 Valencia. Working with the kids in the 826 workshop, IA hosted a design workshop with the young student creatives who imagined a story-telling vessel called P’aaaaarrrrr’klet, with a tree as its main mast and grass on all its decks. IA re-purposed 150 shipping pallets, lashed together with cargo straps and railroad ties to construct the Parklet hull around a tall tree that flew the Jolly Roger and served oranges to ward off scurvy.