Lights are on, but nobody’s ever home at San Francisco art cabin

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Who needs a cabin in the woods when you can find one in the city? I recently came across a little wooden homestead clinging to the side of a multistory building at 447 Bush St. in downtown San Francisco. The lights were on behind curtained windows, and I half expected to see the little chimney puffing smoke.

My first impulse was to book the room for at least a night (some have tried), but I was fooled by the structure that sprouts from the side of the Hotel des Arts and floats above Le Central restaurant. It’s strictly for art’s sake, a project called “Manifest Destiny!” created by Jenny Chapman and Mark Reigelman II. (Check out photos of the cabin by day and by night.)

The nonprofit organization Southern Exposure funded the project it describes as a nod to the roots of the West -- and a commentary on the contemporary cityscape that erupted from Westward expansion.

“The cabin is a subtle reminder of a time when a roof over one’s head was a basic standard in this country, a stark contrast to today, when an estimated 670,000 people living in the U.S. are homeless,” writes Jeanne Gerrity, associate director of the organization.


Though the homestead about 3 1/2 stories up the side of the building seems humble, its construction and installation in November were anything but. For starters, it required a building permit and plans drawn by an architect (Chapman is one) and a structural engineer. The city’s Planning and Building Department worked on it too. “There’s really no precedent for building a small building on the side of another building,” Southern Exposure’s executive director Courtney Fink says.

It’s 10 feet tall, 6 feet long and 7 feet deep. For authenticity, the cabin is made from century-old wood from a barn. The interior lights are fueled by a solar panel in the part of the roof that faces away from the street. Though it looks mighty inviting from the street, the structure can’t hold guests -- real or artistic.

The organization spent about $25,000 on the temporary artwork, but Fink says that figure doesn’t reflect overhead and donated cranes, riggers and other equipment and team work that was needed to make it all come together.

If you’re in San Francisco, swing by until Oct. 27 and pick up a brochure about the cabin at the Hotel des Arts. After that, it will be dissembled -- and just a quirky memory of an urban cabin in the sky.


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