Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
Whether or not we’ve realized it, most of us have bought products through Square, a company that supplies small businesses with the now-ubiquitous square-shaped hardware and software that remotely processes credit card payments. Square’s new offices in San Francisco are meant to be as minimal, clear, and usable as its products.
Located in what was once a miserable, almost completely windowless Bank of America data center, the new 300,000-square-foot, fourth-floor office is just the opposite: an open, light-filled workspace organized by a central “boulevard,” lined with gathering spaces (including a library, gallery, and cafe), and a wide variety of working spaces, including bench-style work desks, tables, and semi-private, acoustically lined “work cabanas.”
To manage the space’s ridiculously big floor plates (100,000 square feet, four times the typical size), according to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) principal Gregory Mottola, the firm studied urban precedents as varied as Dubrovnik and Milan, looking at everything from urban plazas to enclosed arcades. Unifying the office floors is a massive amphitheater stair that cuts through floors six, seven, and eight, and provides zones for individual work, group meetings, and large presentations. The stair is fitted with movable, lightweight powder-coated tables that snake their way down its length to create unique working and relaxing environments. Another office anchor is the eighth and ninth floor “Square Stair,” a floating switchback connecting the office floor to the main dining level.
“You’re giving up rentable floor area, but the payoff is you have these incredible group amenities,” said Mottola. “The key was this idea of creating a really collaborative, transparent company. You don’t want to have one place feel disconnected from the rest.”
Clean lines and lots of white (on steel panels, stretch-fabric ceiling panels, and drywalls) reflect the brand’s identity and lightens the mood, while salvaged wood elements, like the eucalyptus amphitheater stair, Plyboo cabanas, and end-grain woodblock flooring in the lobby, provide warmth and visual interest. Splashes of color demarcate important spaces, provide needed accents, and reflect the locale: Bright orange, for instance, recalls the Golden Gate Bridge, while blue shades evoke the nearby San Francisco Bay. The company installed new windows along the perimeters of the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors, drawing in natural light where there once had been none. Another big aspect of the design within a limited budget was lighting. BCJ employed a variety of techniques, from spear-shaped “light saber” LEDs above the boulevard to indirect lighting in the workstations and sculptural accent pendants in the lounge spaces.
“We tried to make the most of those dramatic moments when we could,” said Mottola, who noted that Square was drawn to BCJ’s clean work for Apple’s stores, but not its purely monochrome palette. As the company grows at an exponential rate, the airy, collaborative, and flexible spaces will no doubt come in handy. “We want them to be able to grow and shift over time,” he added.
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.