San Francisco CA
A refurbished, 1855 coffee-bean warehouse, near San Francisco’s Embarcadero, is a highly appropriate setting for this Ehrenkrantz branch office – the firm is well known, among many other architectural endeavors, for the restoration of the Woolworth Building, and the 1855 Tennessee State Capitol.
The Firm’s search for space had ranged from new, downtown high rises to warehouses in less convenient vicinities. “What we were seeking was a balance between office and workshop/studio space… a spirit and vitality,” comments Christ Kamages, director of the office. That have managed all that with great economy.
The owner had previously divided up the Georgianish, historic landmark building. Most of the first floor, with a separate, side-street entrance, was rented to a law firm. What remained was a big, 30 foot high space of 6500 square feet, with brick walls and an exposed wooden support structure – all well-lit by multiple skylights. There was a private entrance with lobby and stairs off the main street.
With this to start from, and a long term lease, the front portion of the second level was arranged with reception, conference, and administration spaces: the remaining big space was converted into a sort of constructivist-fantasy studio “village”. Geometric forms of white plasterboard, replete with peekaboo slots and varied profiles, were used to create workstations – giving considerable privacy while maintaining a sense of community. An integrated light band tops the partitions. The idea was to “express the new use within the fabric of the building, creating an energetic juxtaposition of old and new”.
A wide balcony, created over service areas and library at the back, provides additional work and computer space for the staff of 35. It also provides an area, when needed, to assemble members of a single project team: custom-designed furniture mounted on casters makes the area easily adaptable. The offices were done within a very tight time and budget framework – the entire project met a two – month design and construction schedule. The studio “village” idea is carried further by the staff, who feels that the big, bricked walled room suggests a “courtyard”. To further that idea, the skylight dotted ceiling is painted sky blue. Whatever the validity of those analogies, the total impact of the space is that of a lively, bright, and visually stimulating environment. Visiting clients can’t help but be fascinated.