new housing options in san francisco


MVRDV‘s much-anticipated 23-story building, The Canyon, has been officially opened in San Francisco. Inaugurated on June 21st, this mixed-use project is part of an ambitious masterplan that aims to transform a barren parking lot on San Francisco’s waterfront into a vibrant and sustainable neighborhood called Mission Rock, providing much-needed housing options for middle-income residents.


With its distinctive jagged walls and a publicly accessible ‘canyon’ running through the site, The Canyon draws inspiration from California‘s awe-inspiring geology along with San Francisco’s unique, hilly topography. As MVRDV’s first completed project on the West Coast, The Canyon combines local sensitivity with a cosmopolitan approach, evident in its public spaces, diverse functions, and apartment offerings.

mvrdv canyon san franciscoa jagged ‘canyon’ cuts through the building to create a welcoming public space | image © Jason O’Rear



mission rock: a star-studded neighborhood takes shape


The architects at MVRDV have designed The Canyon as one of four buildings comprising the initial phase of San Francisco’s new Mission Rock Neighborhood development. This ambitious endeavor is a collaborative effort between the San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, and the Port of San Francisco. The four buildings, designed by internationally acclaimed design firms MVRDV, Studio Gang, Henning Larsen, and WorkAC, were conceived simultaneously to ensure an harmonious integration while keeping their distinctive architectural identities.

mvrdv canyon san francisco
the building will soon be fronted by China Basin Park, a waterfront park for the new neighborhood



the stepping tower by MVRDV


Strategically located in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, MVRDV’s The Canyon serves as a prominent landmark visible to visitors crossing the 3rd Street Bridge. Soon, it will be accompanied by China Basin Park, an exquisite waterfront park that will serve as the cultural centerpiece of the community. The building comprises a five-story base topped by a stepping, 240-foot (73-meter) tower nestled in the western corner of the plot. Like all the structures within the masterplan, The Canyon’s ground floor features small-scale shops and restaurants, fostering a sense of community within the new neighborhood.

mvrdv canyon san francisco
The Canyon is one of four buildings that form the first phase of the new Mission Rock neighborhood



canyon and red rock: geology-inspired architecture


The Canyon takes shape with a distinctive red-brown facade, featuring a rugged texture reminiscent of the red rock formations found across the American West. The design showcases a landscaped public ‘canyon’ that cuts diagonally through the building’s base, connecting the offices and providing shared amenities for the residents. This lush and vibrant space offers an idyllic setting for relaxation and work, while also serving as a shortcut from China Basin Park to the heart of the neighborhood.


The canyon’s walls and the eastern side of the tower exhibit jagged step-backs and overhangs, creating the illusion of steep rocky cliffs. This design element not only adds visual interest but also provides bay windows and small balconies for forty apartments, maximizing the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay. What’s more, the roofs of the base are transformed into green havens with abundant vegetation, offering communal areas for residents to relax, exercise, and socialize.

mvrdv canyon san francisco
bay windows and small balconies for forty apartments create views across the San Francisco Bay



a sustainable tower and masterplan


The team at MVRDV notes that one of the notable advantages of the collaborative design process for the masterplan is the shared critical energy and water infrastructure among the four buildings. For instance, the building designed by WorkAC will house a water recycling plant that efficiently processes black water from the entire neighborhood for reuse. In the case of The Canyon, the building accommodates the essential mechanical components of an efficient district heating system, discreetly situated in parts of the ground floor and basement.


Thanks to its proximity to the San Francisco Bay, the site leverages a water exchange system that utilizes bay water for both cooling and heating purposes, leading to a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions and lower water and energy consumption. As a result, the tenants benefit from reduced utility bills while promoting sustainability. The basement also includes ample bicycle parking, encouraging residents to embrace healthy and eco-friendly transportation options. Together, these shared systems and interventions enable the neighborhood to make significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint, setting an exemplary precedent for the area.

MVRDV evokes california's geology with completed san francisco project 'the canyon'
over a third of the apartments in The Canyon are rented at below market rate, with residents selected via a lottery



project info:


project title: The Canyon

architecture: MVRDV | @mvrdv

location: Mission Rock, San Francisco, California

completion: June 2023

photography: © Jason O’Rear@jasonorear


developers: San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, Port of San Francisco

executive architect: Perry Architects

landscape architect: GLS Landscape/Architecture

engineering: PAE Engineers, Magnusson Klemencic Associates

contractor: Swinerton Builders