Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
BREAKING: MAD Architects reveals alternate proposals for Lucas Museum in San Francisco and Los Angeles
“You could say we were the underdogs,” Blitz principal and CEO Melissa Hanley said about being selected to design Microsoft’s flagship office in one of San Francisco’s most notable buildings, 555 California Street. “Microsoft challenged a lot of things with this project, from hiring a tiny little baby firm like us to selecting a transparent site in San Francisco.”
Aside from facing the obstacles of being a small architecture firm tapped to create an office for one of the largest technology companies in the world, Blitz had to work within the restraints of 555 California Street (formerly the Bank of America Center). Art Gensler was brought on to design the tower’s indoor space when the building opened in 1969, and he’s credited by some as the inventor of commercial interior architecture. “There was a great deal of responsibility to not mess it up,” Hanley said.
Hanley and her team treated working within the iconic building’s structure and Microsoft’s “global design guidelines” (hundreds of parameters for everything from the conference rooms to staff algorithms) as a huge, complex puzzle. To take the stakes one notch higher, the office was downsizing from a 90,000-square-foot space to a 43,500-square-foot space, and employees were understandably concerned.
In an attempt to solve all of these challenges with one elegant solution, “We really focused on the idea of neighborhood design,” Hanley said. “We broke up a sea of desks into groups of 18 to 30 users, and every ‘neighborhood’ has familiar touch points such as lockers for flex employees, water, trash, etc.” Each neighborhood is a different bright color, which offers easy wayfinding and furthers employees’ sense of home. The layout offers equal access to front-row views of the cityscape from the 265 windows on the site.
The office also showcases Microsoft’s latest technology to customers. Upon entering the lobby, visitors walk up a 30-foot-tall staircase to a landing featuring an interactive, virtual moss wall. “It is technical, fun, and childlike,” Hanley said. “It’s a place where people can pause and think about their journey into the space.” Blitz echoed the moss wall with real living walls throughout the space, a slightly surreal move that blurs the borders between reality and technology. The firm extended the outdoor, organic aesthetic with textural flooring and canopies wrapped in a bleached-cork covering that resembles birch.
Although the project was a game changer for Blitz, which now has three ongoing projects with Microsoft in addition to work for Comcast and Yahoo, it was also pivotal for Microsoft. “Before this office, Microsoft was located in the outskirts of the city; it was almost like a castle in the sky,” Hanley said. “Now it is downtown, it is transparent, it engages with the city, and all the stuff that goes on outside its windows influences it day-to-day.”
The recent proliferation of oh-so-chic ramen joints in cities across the country can sometimes mask what it is really all about: The ramen. In Japan, this fast, fragrant, noodle-and-broth dish is often found in nondescript establishments, tucked away from the bustling street. At Orenchi Beyond, the restaurant chain’s first San Francisco location, the ramen is front and center, starting with a floating, open kitchen anchoring the 1,800-square-foot space where patrons can see chefs at work behind a row of large, boiling soup pots. Taking its cue from Japan’s street culture and indigenous craftsmanship, the restaurant, designed by local firm Craig Steely Architecture, fuses the unfussy, Japanese-style ramen shop with a West Coast design sensibility.
To maximize the outdoor connection and exploit the temperate San Francisco climate, principal and founder Craig Steely decided to knock down the existing facade, which originally stood flat across the front of the building, and push it back 12 feet to create what he describes as an “interstitial room” or an “engawa space” between the street and restaurant interior. “In Japan, there isn’t that luxury to have this whole space, and it seemed like such a perfect opportunity,” Steely explained. “It feels different from other restaurants in the city where there is a hard, demarcating line. Here it is really indoor-outdoor and welcoming—eating and drinking outside is nice and communal. It’s a real mix of private and public space.”
The prismlike facade, punctuated by a red glass door, is made of Sakura wood and quietly references Japanese woodworking. “It was an attempt to build upon a language of Japanese carpentry,” said Steely. “I took the idea of those details and built it in a way that appreciates or riffs on Japanese joinery without it being authentically Japanese.” The permeable storefront allows for customers to be served outside through the windows.
In typical Japanese style, the restaurant bears no sign—in many ways, the crowd congregating outside around a 4,000-pound Yuba River basalt rock is the unofficial signage. Of course, the line of sake bottles in the window is also a not-so-subtle clue as to what lies inside.
Painstaking attention was paid to the details to reflect and pay homage to Japanese traditions, from the visual iconography to the craftsmanship. The stool seating is based on sake barrels, the brackets and handles are made of elm branches by artist Kenji Hasegawa, and the interior wood is from Paul Discoe’s Joinery Structures, who has worked on projects in Japan for several decades.
Contrasting this otherwise muted space are a massive, candy-colored mural of a fractal bear by local artists Ricardo Richey and Chad Hasegawa and tables featuring paintings with imagery from Japanese myths and Yakuza films, such as a dragon in the form of ramen with its tail spelling out “Orenchi.” For a restaurant named the “Beyond,” this West-meets-farther-West space is wholly appropriate.
In 1995, as Mario Botta’s brand new San Francisco Museum of Art debuted, critic Pilar Viladas wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, “San Francisco’s MOMA Moment: Mario Botta designed an interior that is sublime. But what happened to the rest of the new museum?” A similar question has been on architecture critics’ minds since Snøhetta’s $305 million expansion to Botta’s original opened to the press on April 28.
The original building was designed as an outpost for culture in a downtrodden area, a muscle man for the artistically curious. Now, billions are pouring into the area with a regional transit center, 5.4-acre elevated park, and new highrise neighborhood planned adjacent to the museum. And so, SFMOMA is evolving to reflect downtown San Francisco’s new inflection point. Interestingly, SFMOMA’s board of directors has done what those of other major national museums like New York City’s Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles’s LACMA have not: Drastically expand and reorganize gallery space without demolishing their existing museum or having to relocate to an entirely new building. Snøhetta was tasked with constructing a real building, whereas OMA and Michael Graves Architecture merely proposed similar ideas in their respective Whitney proposals decades ago. But if Viladas’s assertion that Botta’s original was ugly on the outside was proven ultimately false—San Franciscans seem to love the original SFMOMA through and through—Snøhetta’s expansion begs a new, complicated question: What happened to the rest of the old museum?
Snøhetta’s point of view in that regard is a standard one: Emphasize the existing through opposition. The 235,000-square-foot expansion grows out of the original structure’s backside and then rises ten stories above. By filling the narrow site to capacity and adding a new entrance along Howard Street, the architects greatly expanded the program’s public areas. Like in the original museum, the first three floors will be free to the public, a group that now includes all San Franciscans aged 18 and under.
This new entry features a maze of interlocking double height spaces, including a wood-clad amphitheater overlooking a pair of Richard Serra’s Sequence sculptures. The new amphitheater and Botta’s existing monumental rotunda meet at the second floor, creating “a living room for San Francisco,” as Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, relayed during a guided tour. The proportions of this new “living room” are more intimate in nature than Botta’s proud entry. Snøhetta has retooled that existing entry by replacing the original oversize white switchback stairway with a low-slung wood one. Drawing comparisons to the firm’s prior Oslo Operahuset where the plane of the roof is sloped to allow pedestrian access from surrounding streets, Dykers said, “You feel ownership over a space when you can walk on the roof.” That’s a funny way to describe being on the second floor of a ten-story building, but what Snøhetta really did is bring the street indoors by luring up pedestrians from a variety of approaches.
The third floor contains dedicated photography galleries as well as a buzzing coffee shop. A large grow wall and outdoor Calder plaza flank this floor’s entry landing, creating a cool and shaded space teeming with growing things and art objects that grants museumgoers their first real glance at the museum’s icy east facade. From there up, gallery spaces stack neatly and predictably, joined for two floors by existing galleries in the Botta building.
The remaining floors above are accessed by a maze of single-run and increasingly narrow blonde wood staircases Dykers likens to those in a private home. The simultaneously jagged and swoopy perimeters of the staircases are offset by minimalist detailing. Treads, framed by Alvar Aalto-inspired hand rails, are embedded in the wall at the curved side only to pull away from it again in a reveal along the angular boundary. At your feet, singular lengths of stained planks mark the beginning and end of each stair run. “Everything your body touches is made of wood,” Lara Kaufman, project architect for the expansion, explained of the “floating,” ergonomic design of the galleries’ wood floors.
The galleries themselves are obsessive in their minimalist articulation. Dykers said outlets, return air grilles, and lighting subconsciously distract the art viewer and that the firm’s goal was to disappear these components in the gallery spaces. The team was also careful to position overhead lighting in specially calibrated vaulting that complements the galleries’ eastward-facing glazing.
The “contemporary” gallery on the seventh floor showcases recent work in a space with exposed ductwork and framing above the exhibition walls. The three floors above it are dedicated to staff offices.
Ultimately, Snøhetta’s team has made an unambiguous and honest effort to address the complicated calculus involved in adding onto a beloved art institution in a dense urban environment. As with the original structure, only time will tell how San Francisco takes to its new modern art museum.