Navigation Center

Underlining rather than hiding homelessness in San Francisco. This was our approach to activating the street presence of the Navigation Center, a social services initiative designed to shelter the city’s most chronically homeless residents. [+]

In collaboration with David Baker Architects, MendeDesign created a streetscape façade project inspired by the dazzle patterns of World War I—a wartime camouflage strategy that employed large-scale graphic patterns to confound maritime enemies. Instead of rendering homeless services invisible, a ‘disruptive camouflage’ pattern announces the Navigation Center as a site of support. Hidden within the larger pattern, a symbolic visual layer pictures the journey of homelessness back into housing.

A key part of the project was to authentically represent the Navigation Center community. To accomplish this MendeDesign led a series of art therapy-inspired workshops to capture the stories of the residents. Their responses led to the dazzle concept, as well as the individual stories nested within the larger image.

Adding a layer of street safety was also a primary concern for the project. To accomplish this, MD developed a programmable LED lighting system that backlit the graphic panels. This programmable system brought light to the street, and created the opportunity for different stories to come forward based on different sequences of illumination. The final result emphasizes a pervasive social and political issue in the city while adding a protective element to the neighborhood.