Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland: “There is no there there.” The same could have been said of 201 Spear Street in San Francisco, right across the bay. The building was stuck in the 1980s: its lobby dark and forbidding, its multiple entries confusing, its deep back lobby a waste of space. But the budget for reviving this lobby was modest. “It’s all about Return on Investment,” notes Brereton principal David Peebles, who explains that every design problem challenges the architect to enter the client’s value system and work to find a solution that honors those values. Stepping up means listening up, intently.
A light touch is the new lobby’s hallmark. New, bright surfaces were applied directly over the old granite to cut demolition costs. Adding new tenant amenities, such as a conference room and a bicycle storage/shower facility, reduces the back lobby size. Space up front was reconfigured to be more welcoming. Previously under-utilized space up front is now a private lounge where tenants can have lunch, entertain, and hold events. Visible from the busy sidewalk, it immediately signals an uptick in the building’s allure.
Front entry doors are more visible and accessible, along with a public sitting area distinguished by commissioned art and a spatial divider that becomes a brand identity: a virtual grove of metaphorical walnut trees that appear to grow above the ceiling, reaching toward sunlight.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Photography: Cesar Rubio