PROXY: cultural curiosities in art, food, retail and events

In the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s not uncommon to see cargo ships plying their routes in and out of the Bay, their stacks of colorful corrugated metal containers filled with goods for trans-Pacific travel. But what happens to these big metal boxes once they’re no longer needed for shipping freight?

Increasingly, forward-thinking designers are recognizing that the humble shipping container is just as versatile and useful on land as at sea. Just steps from the Hayes Valley condos at Fulton 555, a unique example of “cargotecture” called PROXY showcases the potential of repurposed containers. PROXY has given some of these containers, and the formerly vacant lot on which they sit, a second life as a modular urban marketplace featuring a diverse collection of dining, cultural, and retail options.

At PROXY, which stretches along Octavia Street between Hayes and Fell Streets, the dining and drinking options include Smitten Ice Cream, Ritual Roasters, Juice Shop and other popular businesses that serve straight from their converted container kitchens. Another favorite, Biergarten, takes advantage of available open space to serve its beers Bavarian style – that is, outdoors – from taps housed inside a container.

Boasting a central event space for live music productions and outdoor movie screenings, PROXY has hosted numerous film festivals and film-related programming as a noted contributor to the Hayes Valley cinema scene. Meanwhile, pop-up galleries at PROXY provide local artists with valuable opportunities to display and sell their work and get their names known in the community.

Catering to the active lifestyle of San Franciscans, PROXY also offers Basic Training, a fitness facility with personal training and group fitness classes that are open to the public. Housed in a container nearby, Streets of San Francisco leads unique bicycle tours that allow even locals to get off the beaten track and explore their city. For all these adventures, you’re going to need some stylishly designed technical wear, of course. For this, Aether Apparel, one of PROXY’s key retail tenants, has you covered from head to toe.

By placing empty shipping containers on a vacant, city-owned lot in the middle of Hayes Valley, envelope A+D has united two often overlooked (and sometimes abandoned) leftovers of modern urban existence to create PROXY, a community space that celebrates culture, reinvention, and the unique dynamics that make city life so compelling.