Towards a Compassionate City


Towards a Compassionate City

This three-part series takes a closer look at homeless encampments and interim measures for addressing the homeless crisis. Through the research and experience of academics, policymakers, and advocates—including those who have experienced houselessness and those providing critical services—this series examines current initiatives, how policing and social services play out in the streets, and models from other cities.

The purpose: to prompt a more informed, compassionate citizen response as we work towards the longer-term goal of building more affordable and supportive housing. 

Listen to the podcast, peruse the Compassionate City reading list, and send thoughts and ideas to 

Interim Solutions to Homelessness in San Francisco

Sam Dodge - Deputy Director, San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing
Amy Farah Weiss - Founder, Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge along with Box City residents
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology (moderator)

Our first panel explores the current state of San Francisco's shelter system and recent pilot programs such as the Navigation Center and the pop-up Pier 80 shelter. We also consider alternatives to shelters such as tiny home villages, legal encampments, and mega-shelters/campuses to help us answer how we might best address the most immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness in the city.

BETWEEN CRIMINALIZATION AND CARE: Policing and Social Service Outreach in
San Francisco's Homeless Encampments

Elizabeth Brown - Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, San Francisco State University
Dilara Yarbrough and TJ Johnston - UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and Coalition on Homelessness
Melanie B. Bien - Clinical Supervisor, San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology (Moderator)

This second panel examines how policing and social service outreach plays out on the streets of San Francisco on a day-to-day basis and what impact this has both on those experiencing homelessness and on the rest of the city. It also provides a historical and national context for the roles and impacts of "quality of life" laws aimed at homelessness, similar to those initiatives on the November ballot and currently operating in San Francisco. Collectively this talk provides the necessary context to understand the opportunities and limits of the interim solutions discussed on the other two panels.

EXPERIMENTS IN REFUGE: Shelter Alternatives in Portland, Seattle and Beyond

Ibrahim Mubarak - Right 2 Survive and Right 2 Dream Too, Portland
Sharon Lee, Executive Director, and Monica Joe, Project Manager - Low Income Housing Institute, Seattle
Chris Herring - PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Sociology
Tony Sparks - Professor of Urban Studies, San Francisco State University (Moderator)

Drawing together visiting panelists from Portland and Seattle, our final panel takes a look at how organized tent cities and legalized tiny home villages have developed as interim solutions to homelessness. Looking beyond the traditional shelter, how can different built environments, municipal regulations, community models, social service delivery, and mutual aid provide material and moral resources for those without access to affordable housing? We will discuss how this has been done in other cities and what the opportunities and limits of such an approach might be in San Francisco.

A Conversation on Life and Living


Jacob Palmer and Arianne Gelardin

September 27 - October 22, 2016
Multi-Channel Video

A Conversation on Life and Living is a public survey on foundational human beliefs: What is your idea of earthly happiness? What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The first iteration of interviews—which engages marginally-housed and homeless residents around the Bay Area, as well as those working in social services—are presented through a multi-channel video display. These monologues weave in and out of conversation with others, creating a community of ideas and personal convictions. StoreFrontLab curators Jacob Palmer and Arianne Gelardin regard the interviewees—the Public—as cultural contributors and living proof that Art is Life and Life is Art, with no distinction between the two.

337 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, CA

Hubbell Street Galleries
California College of Art
161 Hubbell Street
San Francisco, CA


A project by Space Open, led by Robert Glass & Darryl Jones

We have arrived at a tenuous moment of global shift; a precipice of opposing sociopolitical values all vying for mainstream inclusion. As we approach this apex of change, we find ourselves grasping for connection and camaraderie; our physical intimacy has literally been torn apart by remote communication, culture wars, and economic disparity. CLIMAX, a collaborative project led by Space Open, embraces this moment of social and political upheaval. Through provocative, intimate, and performative events, CLIMAX carries us through to the other side.

In CLIMAX, the boundaries between self and other are tested as the audience becomes artists and actors over four Saturday nights of immersive experiences and euphoric reflection, explore below:


In 2011, Robert Glass and Darryl Jones organized a group of designers and artists in the Bay Area around an open salon. This initial gathering was meant to motivate the making and critiquing of our work, while providing a space for a conversation.  An ongoing monthly series of nomadic meetups followed with the intention of sharing our voices to expand techniques and insights.

We search for objectivity as a state of truth beyond an observer’s individual biases, interpretations, and feelings.  Figure drawing sessions, outdoor excursions, art shows, and live performances continue in various private and public venues as we scout for a more permanent collaborative place. CLIMAX presents their initial immersive art experience that turns the gallery into a canvas and audience in to artists.

Robert Glass
Robert is an artist, designer, and educator with interests in the intersection between people and places.  His artwork is sparked both by these gatherings where abstract figure drawings express a reinterpretation of form, and further excursions into the California landscape evoke plein air watercolor painting and poetry from the Haiku masters of Japan.  

Darryl Jones
Darryl Jones is an artist and filmmaker based in Oakland, CA. His lifelong quest is to unite his love of film with his love of landscape. This journey has taken him down many roads rich with watercolor sketches, haiku poetry, theatre performances, binge-watching, filmmaking and unguided walking tours.

Exercises in Style

Enar de Dios Rodriguez
Ana Maria Montenegro

Exercises in Style is a film in four versions that took place at StoreFrontLab (San Francisco, USA) on November 12, 19, 26 and December 3 of 2016 right before sunset. All the scenes of the film were live video feeds of public and private security cameras located in the Bay Area and accessible online, which were edited by the artists in real time. Each screening therefore resulted in an unique and unrepeatable 25-minutes-long fictional film: what the spectator saw in the film was happening in front of those external cameras at that exact moment in that specific location.

Throughout the film, timed subtitles accompanied the live footage, functioning as an omniscient narrator telling the story of three women on a Saturday evening. The different scenes gave the viewer cues as to where these characters came from and the situations that brought them together as well as the spaces that illustrated their thoughts. The unpredictability of the actions occurring in these scenes added extraneous elements and details to the written story. Besides the moving images —that were always different because of their source—, some sections of the subtitles were changed each week and soundtracks were exponentially added in each screening. Motivated by Raymond Queneau’s book with the same title, Exercises in Style was screened four times, presenting each time a different version of the same story.

In 2017 a 28-pages book was produced and published as documentation/catalogue of the project.

Ejercicios de Estilo es un proyecto de Ana María Montenegro Jaramillo y Enar de Dios Rodríguez, una película presentada en cuatro versiones en StoreFrontLab (San Francisco, EE. UU.) los días 12, 19, 26 y 3 de diciembre de 2016 justo antes del atardecer. Todas las escenas de la película eran señales en vivo de cámaras de seguridad públicas y privadas ubicadas en la Bahía de San Franciso y accesibles en línea, las cuales fueron editadas por las artistas en tiempo real. Por lo tanto, cada proyección resultó en una película ficticia única e irrepetible de 25 minutos de duración: lo que el espectador veía en la película estaba sucediendo frente a esas cámaras, en ese momento exacto y en esa ubicación específica en tiempo real.

A lo largo de la película, subtítulos cronometrados acompañaban la imagen en vivo, funcionando como un narrador omnisciente que cuenta la historia de tres mujeres un sábado por la noche. Las diferentes escenas daban al espectador pistas sobre el origen de estos personajes, las situaciones que los unieron y los espacios que ilustraban sus pensamientos. La imprevisibilidad de las acciones que ocurrían en estas escenas agregaban elementos y detalles extraños a la historia escrita. Además de las imágenes en movimiento -que siempre fueron diferentes debido a su naturaleza-, algunas secciones de los subtítulos se cambiaban cada semana, y las bandas sonoras se sumaban exponencialmente en cada proyección. Motivado por el libro de Raymond Queneau con el mismo título, Ejercicios de Estilo se proyectó cuatro veces, presentando cada vez una versión diferente de la misma historia.

Malleable Monuments


March 16 – April 6, 2017

StoreFrontLab is pleased to host Malleable Monuments, an exhibition and event series highlighting the work and ideas of emerging architectural design practice, The Open Workshop. The exhibition presents a grouping of transcalar design experiments that test how to empower the role of architecture within the transforming, evolving, fluctuating, and indeterminate conditions of the city, it’s public sphere, and it’s ecological context. Two large installations oscillate between lightness/ heaviness, figure/ field, territorial network/ local object, and the natural/ artificial. A series of taxonomy drawings classify the design experiments into four categories—Frameworks, Living Archives, Articulated Surfaces, and Rewiring States. These projects share a goal of reconciling and choreographing how the human and environmental subject, as well as their individual, transforming, ephemera and often contradictory characteristics, continuously recompose a permanent work.

THE OPEN WORKSHOP is a licensed architectural practice (OAA) founded by Neeraj Bhatia that examines the intersection of the politics of landscape, infrastructure, and urban design. Based in Toronto and San Francisco, the practice was founded in the conviction that new forms of landscape and urbanism are required to support the symbiotic rewiring of ecology, civic participation, and industrialization. The work of the office has been exhibited internationally and recognized in several com-petitions. In 2016, the office was awarded the prestigious Architectural League of New York Young Architects Prize and the Emerging Leaders Award from Design Intelligence. 

Project Team: 
Neeraj Bhatia, Hayfa Al-Gwaiz, Jared Clifton, Jeremy Jacinth, Shawn Komlos, Cesar Lopez, Bella Mang, Nicholas Scribner, and Laura Williams

Thursday, March 16: 6:30-8:30pm


Tuesday, March 21, 6:30–8:00pm—Panel

Associated with an approach to experimental history, the concept of the Living Archive questions, critiques, and formats permanent forms of historical readings by inserting the contemporary subject into the making of the archive. 
          Introduction: Neeraj Bhatia (The Open Workshop)
          Presentations by: Jenny Odell (Digital Artist / Stanford University) and Rick Prelinger (UC Santa Cruz/ Prelinger Archives) 

Thursday, March 23, 6:30–8:00PM—Screening

Rewiring States inserts architectural form in precise relationship to various states—time, temperature, materiality, form—of processes—logistical, industrial, and infrastructural. The aim is to ‘rewire’ these processes through leveraging how design can adapt, transform, and impact territorial organizations and add new socio-political actors to these systems.
          Introduction: Neeraj Bhatia (The Open Workshop)
          Film Screening of “Petropolis” by Peter Mettler (43 min)

Tuesday, April 4th, 6:30–8:00PM—Panel
Frameworks are structures that accommodate and engage indeterminate human and environmental factors. These fluctuating subjects are able to transform, adapt, or occupy these structures in novel ways. Frameworks unpacks the relationship between control and choice afforded by design.
          Introduction: Neeraj Bhatia (The Open Workshop)
          Presentations by: Neyran Turan (UC Berkeley/ NEME Studio) and Brian Price (CCA / Price Studio)