The Floor Plan and Layout

For the last few years the building on Broadway we’ve called home since 2006 has been facing an impending earthquake retrofit. Though it’s been delayed, that retrofit could still happen at any time, and with relatively little notice. Because of this, our most important ongoing project has been working to establish a more permanent home for the Beat Museum, and taking steps to secure our existence, beyond our own lifetimes, for future generations.

It’s also become increasingly apparent that the Beat Museum’s archive—our collection of one-of-a-kind treasures: Beat-era books, ephemera, art, and more—has grown beyond our present capacity to make these materials available for the public to enjoy, and for scholars to research.

In the course of our research we’ve identified a few potential locations in North Beach. One of the more promising is a property at 535 Green Street, home of the Buon Gusto Sausage Factory (now listed on the National Register of Historic Places) which has sat unused and empty for decades, with the bulk of the parcel being used as a parking lot. In the heart of North Beach, between Grant Ave and Columbus Ave, close to historic institutions like the Caffe Trieste, Gino & Carlo, and abutting the National Shrine of St. Francis, it’s the perfect site for a different kind of shrine—to the Beat Generation, celebrating the neighborhood’s defining artistic and literary legacy.

Architect Eugene Tssui has produced the following series of drawings based on his exquisitely creative vision for a new building on the site. As per historic preservation requirements, Eugene’s designs tastefully incorporate the existing Buon Gusto structure, which itself imparts a period-appropriate architectural aesthetic, juxtaposed with new construction that emphasizes sustainability, structural resilience, and an overall design inspired by elements of the natural environment, with a look and style that fits the neighborhood.

Of course, while Tssui has envisioned some truly exciting, imaginative ideas, these are by no means final plans. At this early stage, it’s most importantly a first look at some of the tremendous possibilities for what a new Beat Museum could look like. 

535 Green Street Reimagined

Repurposes the iconic Buon Gusto building (National Register of Historic Places) for community benefit, including housing for teachers and a community theater for poetry and other events.

A new Beat Museum is a win for:

  • Beat Generation enthusiasts the world over
  • Our North Beach community
  • The City of San Francisco

The building will include:

  • 39,424 square feet on 4 floors
  • 5,376 square-foot parking garage to replace existing lot
  • 7,856 square feet below-market-rate housing for teachers

Designed to reflect:

  • Sustainability
  • Natural Elements
  • Structural Integrity

What we’re seeking:

  • Community support
  • Political support
  • Philanthropic support

Architect’s Statement:

The Beat poets sought to transform poetry into an expression of genuine lived experience. Likewise, what this museum attempts to do is transform architecture into a truly lived experience where stone, steel, glass, wood, and water become a sentient extension of feeling, emotion, and empathy. Driven by the creative impulse, the profound observations and reflections of living are expressed in a three-dimensional body of space, light, and time that reaches for the benison of timeless beauty.

The building represents a clarion call for environmental compassion, for seeking the deepest and highest in humanity, to reach for excellence and do no harm.

We have purposely crowned each of our north-facing, frontal, Green Street elevations, with the words, “Tolerance… Compassion… Authenticity…” which is the summary of the Beat Generation’s distilled feelings left to posterity—a nod to the future. And then, we have arrived at the poetic epigram that states the Beat purpose: “Practice Kindness All Day To Everybody And You Will Realize You Are Already In Heaven Now” (Jack Kerouac, 1957), and many of the most prominent Beat poets framed by falling water symbolizing birth, rebirth, and ongoing creative regeneration.

The message and meaning of the Beat poets continues to be relevant with each subsequent generation—passed on to the hippies, to the environmentalists, to global peace marchers. And now with social conflict that circles the globe, we believe that the message of kindness, empathy, and moral conscience, is needed more than ever!

We see the Beat Museum as a global architectural symbol, a symbol with an important timeless meaning; that what is needed in this world is transformation from within, a transformation motivated by kindness, personal uniqueness, and relevance to a timeless cause—doing no harm, leaving no trace, expressing your true self; and we need a place, a destination, which all of humanity can recognize as a haven for the authentic search for self, for empathic relationship, and for peace.

Eugene Tssui

Ground Level Café Entrance and Museum Entrance

The entrance to the museum and to the café are distinctly different, but in the same area. The arched entrance to the café is at the northeast corner of the building. The arched entrance to the museum is 50 feet south of the café entrance, on a translucent glass-screened terrace bordering the parking area, and includes a museum gift shop and bookstore.

1st Floor/Ground Level Floor Plan
1st Floor/Ground Level Floor Plan

Second Level Theater and Social Gathering Hall

The second level of the building is used for its 1000 square foot semi-circular stage, 152 person seating theater, which can also be adapted into a large social gathering hall to accommodate a variety of uses; dances, music, theater performances, seminars, social gatherings, and other possibilities. Storage areas are used for storing chairs and performance backdrops when the floor space is being used for other purposes.

2nd Floor Plan
2nd Floor Plan

Third Level Apartments and Museum Exhibits

Two, 770 square foot apartments and two, 500 square foot apartments, occupy the south and east sides of the building at this second level. A 3400 square museum exhibit area with 322 linear feet of 2 foot wide shelf display space occupies this second space. Men’s and women’s bathrooms and two stairways with two elevators accommodate this museum exhibit floor space.

Third Floor Plan

Fourth Level Apartments and Museum Offices

Two 576 square foot apartments on the south side, and two, 1,500 square foot apartments on the east and west sides, and two 270 square foot executive museum offices and a 900 square foot administrative office occupy the north side of the building at this third level. Separately zoned south and north side elevators, public restrooms, and stairwells service the building for separated residential and office needs.

Fourth Floor Plan

Roof with Open Garden Area

A 1000 square foot, semi-circular glass mural, slides east and west on a wheeled track, to open the roof to the sun and breeze, or to see the starry skies at night, and moving clouds and sun throughout the day. This large roof opening acts as a natural climate control device to adjust temperature, breeze, and natural light into the building on the fourth level.

Roof Level

We need your help to bring these visions to life. Right now, we’re counting on the support of our friends and neighbors in the North Beach community, and seeking support from City Hall. We’re also reaching out to philanthropists interested in backing this potentially history-making project.

2nd Floor Main Auditorium
2nd Floor theater venue

Read the press release here.