Bohlin Cywinski Jackson / San Francisco

San Francisco, California

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson moved from Berkeley to San Francisco in early 2006. The new larger office at 49 Geary Street is centrally located in downtown San Francisco, along Market Street and one block east of Union Square, in a building noted for its highly regarded art galleries and rare book shops. The move is a significant milestone for the firm's northern California office, which has quickly grown from a small office established in 1999 to support the construction of Pixar Animation Studios to its present size of 28 architects working on a diverse range of projects. The San Francisco office's projects include a series of High Profile Stores for Apple Computer, a new Digital Arts Facility for the University of California at Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Annex for Adobe Systems, Inc. and several private residences.

The office is located in a space that has been stripped of all previous improvements to expose the building's structure of raw board-formed concrete columns and deck. The column grid is the underlying framework for organizing the space while the existing concrete structure is expressed as an artifact. Fragments of embedded wood nailers, bits of plaster, the echoes of former partitions, and a network of exposed pipes at wet columns reveal the countless repairs, additions and changes to the building over its ninety-year history. These layers of the building's past are archeological in nature. The rhythm of columns and the "found" character of the space unify the office's layout and design.

To celebrate the nature of this space and to reinforce the collaborative nature of the firm, the office was designed as an open studio of 40 workstations with a collection of team meeting areas and adjacent support spaces. The simple, axial plan organizes the workstations into two rows along low data and power spine walls that are modulated by the existing pattern of columns. The insertion of crisp maple plywood panels provides a distinct contrast to the raw concrete of the space. Maple plywood panels bracket these concrete columns, forming a series of shared work areas. Spare linear fluorescent light fixtures reinforce the rhythm while providing balanced illumination to the concrete ceiling and workstations. Conduits for power, lighting, telecommunications, and life safety systems are organized and expressed in an honest and unadorned fashion. The office space takes advantage of the generous expanse of windows flanking both sides of the studio. North windows face an interior light well, while south facing windows look out to the city along Market Street. Operable windows and ceiling fans provide ventilation in San Francisco's temperate climate.

The entry to the new office doubles as gallery space to display models, drawings and photographs in a nod to the building's other arts-oriented tenants. A floating ceiling plane made of maple veneer plywood panels defines the entry sequence and gallery space in contrast to the working studio's exposed open space. The entrance ceiling obscures overhead piping and organizes the display lighting.

A memorable and powerful new space celebrates the raw nature of the original construction while offering a collegial and collaborative work environment for the firm's growing California practice.
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