Project One (San Francisco)

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An Intentional Community and a Community of Place in San Francisco, Project One was initiated by architect Ralph Scott who had been a student of and was inspired by Buckminster Fuller. Project One was conceived of and rapidly became an interdisciplinary learning environment. Central to the concept was Symbas Alternative High School and a number of anchoring organizations which, in addition to their individual missions, served as work-study environments for the students. [1]One of these, Resource One, conceived as a people's computer center with a donated XDS-940 mainframe computer, became the first public computerized bulletin board system [2] as home to Community Memory Project established in 1973 and created by Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski, and Lee Felsenstein. Lee Felsenstein went on to play a central role in the development of the personal computer as described by Stewart Brand in Rolling Stone magazine in 1972.[3]

Located in a previously abandoned warehouse building and candy factory, the community lasted from 1971 to 1980 and was the first such warehouse community in San Francisco. When this abandoned warehouse was first leased in 1971, all previous internal walls and structures had been removed. It was completely empty except for the structural supporting columns that held the four stories up. There was also a penthouse. The building was constructed with steel reinforced concrete and had a total floor space measuring 84,000 square feet. When it was first occupied, the people who lived and worked there designed and built all the walls, hallways, office and living spaces. As not all had previous skills in construction and remodeling there was a lot of on-the-job training, reflecting a strong do-it-yourself ethic which was common in the counterculture. Since there were a wide variety of skills available within the community it was rarely necessary to hire outside contractors.

Project One was an important part of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and housed dozens of artisans, sculptors, filmmakers and technology organizations. The community had no formal overall organization and was governed by a weekly meeting of members. Attendance at meetings was voluntary and decisions were made by a consensus of those present.[4]

Anchor Organizations


Principals: Larry Bensky, Barry Kearson (aka Barry Michaels) Alternative radio production

Apples Daycare

Principal: Rashid (nee Ray) Patch served as front man for a gang of 4-year-olds. Operating from 6:00am till 7:30pm, Monday through Friday, Apples Daycare was situated on the fourth floor, at the south corner of the building. Six to a dozen of the 15-18 enrolled pre-schoolers came each day. Setting off on foot they explored San Francisco: riding buses, walking neighborhoods, watching parades, attending free concerts in the parks and free movies at the library, attending public presentations of spiritual leaders and teachers. The kids met a bunch of Buddhist abbots, rinpoches, lamas, roshis, Sikh gurus, Taoist priests, kung-fu masters, archbishops, swamis, Orthodox monks, friars, rabbis, and sufi shaykhs; all of whom would find time to give the kids their blessings.

The parents were artists, exotic dancers, actors, rock&roll musicians, political activists, techies, nurses, social workers, a park ranger - all childcare early-adapters, most screened and referred by the San Francisco Childcare Switchboard.

Blossom Family Studios

Principals: David, Nancy, and Annie Blossom The Blossom Family had been the band for the touring production of Hair. Blossom Studios was a rehearsal space and recording studio used by the Blossoms and serving other musicians also.

db Associates

Principals: Peter de Blanc, Liz Barto, Dennis Rice, Steve Sultan, Jeff Nieman, Ray Patch, John Halpern

DB Associates, located in the basement of Project One, was the successor to Tomorrow, Inc., which had originally been incorporated in Chicago in 1968; most of the team had worked together since 1967. As Tomorrow, Inc., the crew had designed and built nightclubs and discotheques, high-tech light-shows, custom film and projection systems, special-effects lighting systems, recording studios, radio studios, and produced concerts and music festivals. DB Associates designed and built custom electronics, sound and lighting systems, amplifiers, mixers, specialized custom computer and communications equipment. A typical project was the Electric Symphony Orchestra, where a small 40-piece classical orchestra had pickups attached non-destructively to every instrument. All the sound signals from each instrument source were run through custom designed delay and phase shift circuitry, and then through a multi-channel mixer, so that the stereo signal for each single instrument was multiplied, and also separated in space. So, for example, one violin at a single location would be heard as 4, 6, or 8 violins, all with slightly different timbre, in different physical locations in an orchestral section.


Principals: Ralph Scott, Ray Krauss, Mya Shone, Mary Janowitz, Sherry Reson, Craig Mosher, Andy Bucchiere

Eric Dollard Labs

Principal: Eric Dollard

Located in the basement of Project One, electrical engineer Eric P. Dollard conducted research in ultra-high-voltage electrical and electronics devices. Dollard was systematically reconstructing some of the systems and techniques originally developed by Nikola Tesla and Phylo Farnsworth in the early 20th century. At Project One, Dollard had been able to repeatably produce stable "ball lightening" effects using high-voltage plasmas, and on several occasions had recorded "over/unity" energy production, though with lesser reliability. [5]

Imageworks Film Processing

Principal: Al Nieman

KPOO Community Radio

An alternative music and news radio station

Optic Nerve

Principals: Lynn Adler, Sherrie Rabinowitz, Jules Backus, Jim Mayer, Bill Bradbury, Ben Tarcher
Founded in 1970 as a photography collective focusing on social issues and American culture, in 1972 Optic Nerve began working in video as well as photography. Their first production was an hour documentary about Project One.

Optic Nerve’s early video documentaries explored rodeos, beauty pageants and the world of owner operator truck drivers.. These were among the first independently produced video documentaries to be broadcast on Public Television. The Nerve, as it was often called, also collaborated with local artists groups such as Ant Farm

In 1973, the collective moved around the corner from Project One into an undeveloped loft space. The Optic Nerve studio became an important venue in San Francisco's alternative media community, hosting public video screenings, performances, video shoots, and some very good parties. In 1980, three past members formed Ideas In Motion as a for-profit partnership continuing the ideals of Optic Nerve within a sustainable financial structure.

Resource One

Principals: Pam Hardt, Lee Felsenstein, Efrem Lipkin, Jed Riffe, Steve Robinson, Sharon Altus, Paul Ward, Chris Macie, Fred Wright, Henry the Fiddler, Mike Chadwick, John Cooney, Ford Turping, Chris Neustrup, Bart Berger, Gary McCue, Bob Hemmer.
Envisioned as a people's computer center, Resource One featured an XDS-940 mainframe computer. It became the anchor of Community Memory the first public computerized bulletin board system.[6] One of Community Memory's founders Lee Felsenstein was an active member and went on to play a central role in the development of the personal computer[7]

Social Services Referral Directory

Prior to the publication and distribution of the Social Service Referral Directory, social workers and other staff in San Francisco's many agencies relied on personal rolodexes, pamphets and lists in order to refer their clients for additional and appropriate services. Critical information within agencies changed frequently and successful referrals required up to date and complete information. The idea that a solution utilizing the Resource One computer was possible came from Charles Bolton.

A design, development and implementation team at Resource One (Mary Janowitz, Chris Macie, Sherry Reson, Mya Shone) utilized their donated SDS 940 mainframe computer, programmed by Chris Macie to handle information storage and retrieval. A standardized format and data collection process resulted in agency listings printed on three-hole punch paper. Loose-leaf binders were distributed to the participating agencies, who paid a nominal fee to be mailed a monthly packet including ten new listings and ten to twenty revised listings.

While some agency people sent in information as programs or capacities or locations changed, maintaining current information -- and adding listings -- depended on project staff making direct telephone contact with agency personnel. Listings were sorted alphabetically behind tabs and index pages provided an overview regarding neighborhoods, languages spoken, types of service and other critical criteria.

Joan Lefkowitz joined the team early in 1974, then Katerina Lanner-Cusin came on board. In <ear> following a conversation with The United Way of the Bay Area, and the heads of San Francisco Social Services and the Zellerbach Family Fund, the United Way assumed responsibility from <year> - <year>. When the United Way determined they were unable to maintain it, San Francisco Public Library took it on. SFPL renamed it the Community Services Data Base (?) and maintained it as an online database for several more years. Sometime in the ‘90s the library decided it was too duplicative of other resources and discontinued it. People in the social services world wish it still existed and Lefkowitz, now the Library's Web Service Manager, commented that the SSRD represented a “ground breaking use of technology.”

The San Francisco School of Holography

Lloyd Cross, Jerry Pethick

San Francisco Switchboard

1971 Oil Spill Communications Collaboration

Ecology Center Press, Resource One, Symbas School combined forces with the San Francisco Switchboard to coordinate communications among volunteers and organizational responses to the clean-up effort.

San Francisco VVAW

Principals: Lee Thorn, Mike Oliver, Jack McCloskey, Jim O'Donnell, Bob Hansen, Paul Cox

In 1967, Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded in New York City after six Vietnam vets marched together in a peace demonstration. The VVAW San Francisco Chapter was one of the early groups in Project One, organizing against the Vietnam war, and counseling and assisting their fellow veterans.

Symbas Alternative High School

Artists, Architects, Writers, Musicians

  • Seth Curlin - architect
  • Gerald Dante - graphic and theater arts
  • Alan Grinberg - ZOO-INK screen printing
  • John Lawler - sculptor, furniture designer
  • Michael Lipsey - painter, sculptor, plumber
  • Narcissus Quagliata - fine art stained glass
  • Charles Raisch - journalist, publisher, "Rana Pipien Magazine"
  • Bill Siegfried - painter
  • B.E. "Bobby" Sims - journalist, printer, publisher "The Freelance Thinker"
  • Fred Smith - painter, sculptor, welder
  • Jane Rose Speiser - filmmaker, writer, graphic and theater arts
  • Paul Widess - architect



  1. "ONE: An Urban Community". The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science - NTL Institute.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Community Memory: 1972 - 1974, Berkeley and San Francisco, California". The WELL: Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Stewart Brand (December 7, 1972). "Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums". Rolling Stone.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Pueblo in the City-Plumbers, computer freaks, architects and visionaries turn a vacant San Francisco candy factory into a technological commune". Mother Jones May 1976.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Eric Dollard". Borderland Sciences Research Catalog.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Stewart Brand (December 7, 1972). "Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 16, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links