S C B SAN FR AN C I S C O TE N S TO R I E S . TE N Y E A R S .
Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) is an architecture, interior design, and planning firm with a thoughtful design vision and a dynamic national imprint. Since 1931, SCB has made a lasting visual impact on skylines, campuses, and neighborhoods nationwide. From offices in Chicago and San Francisco, we offer our expertise to clients across the country, helping them achieve their goals, serve their constituents, and create unique built environments. Our approach is to ask questions, listen, and apply our industry leading standards to determine the best design solution for each project. Our diverse practice includes architectural design, planning, programming, and interior design for projects that include urban mixed-use, high-rise residential, corporate office, hospitality, and campus environments. Our designs are responsive, responsible, and distinctive. We are future-oriented, continually challenging ourselves to design to a higher standard, innovate at every level, and give our clients more as we achieve design excellence.
DA R K T I M E S
TH R E E
LIFE ON MAIDEN LANE
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A C A M P U S P R AC T I C E
C R O S S I N G T H E B AY
S E VE N
C O M P E T I T I O N I N S A N TA C L A R A
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I N T E R I O R E X PA N S I O N
S T E R E O T Y P E S A N D S U R V I VA L
THE NEXT TEN
O N E R I N C O N H I L L | S A N F R A N C I S C O, C A
TH E B E G I N N I N G "Our decision to open an office in San Francisco wasn’t opportunistic. We were in it for the long haul and committed to its success." JOHN LAHEY
Why would an architecture firm with a 75-year pedigree, an established national practice, and a stronghold in Chicago make the risky move to open an office in San Francisco? In a word: vision. The idea of expansion had been under discussion for some years, and the time finally seemed right. The question was: where should SCB’s second office be located? The firm had completed some projects in California, and to SCB’s envoys, San Francisco felt more like Chicago than other California cities. However, there wasn’t a tradition of high-rise residential in the Bay Area due to stringent height restrictions designed to safeguard against earthquakes. When San Francisco raised height restrictions on residential buildings, embracing the value of urban density, only a handful of local firms were equipped to handle the new normal. SCB, on the other hand, had a long history of designing multi-family high-rise buildings and was uniquely positioned to bring its expertise into this new market. From the office’s first project, One Rincon Hill—the first residential tower built in San Francisco after the city raised height restrictions—SCB established itself as a trailblazer, blending expertise in high-rise buildings and technological innovation to set the tone for how the city would develop over the next decade. And they’ve never looked back.
DA R K TI M E S “We never got discouraged. We always had the sense that it would turn around.” CHRIS PEMBERTON
SCB San Francisco’s first year was a success by all accounts. The office won projects and grew to 18 people. The next year it grew some more. And then came 2009, bringing with it the economic downturn. Development in the Bay Area, as with the rest of the country, came to a halt. There were no cranes in the sky. No scaffolding was going up. The San Francisco office dialed down to a bare bones staff of four. There was no work, but the team found other ways to keep busy. They spent their days meeting with developers and building relationships, preparing for when the economy would come back online. They studied the city, assessing sites for development opportunities and identifying buildings ripe for rehab or adaptive reuse. One day, the team noticed a building at Market and 6th wasn’t locked, so they did what any red-blooded architects would do: they broke in and rode the elevator to the top floor. When they got there, they stepped out into a raw space, and began pacing the floors brainstorming how it could be converted from office to residential. It wasn’t a real project, but just a few weeks later, they won AVA 55 Ninth. Things were looking up.
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LI F E O N M A I D E N L A N E “Moving felt bittersweet for about five whole minutes. We were ready to grow.” CHRIS PEMBERTON
In 2010, the office started to rebuild. SCB’s first completed San Francisco project, One Rincon Hill, was polarizing, with city dwellers describing it as the work of “that Chicago firm.” But coming out of the downturn with two large projects, the new AVA 55 Ninth and adaptive reuse of 100 Van Ness, the group started to gain recognition as an established San Francisco practice. The team of four began to grow again, quickly filling the office SCB occupied on Maiden Lane. The space on Maiden Lane was essentially one big work room. There were no separate offices or defined work stations, which led to a highly collaborative, almost familial culture that was retained even as the group grew. The work was fast-paced, the vibe was entrepreneurial, and the excitement around growth was infectious. As the office won more work, the team grew to 42, necessitating the subletting of another floor in the building. Finally, with architects filling every corner and crevice of both floors of the building, SCB decided that it was time to move. The team moved to California Street, exchanging the retail-oriented neighborhood of its Maiden Lane infancy for the high-rise office towers of the city’s central business district. All of a sudden, the practice had matured.
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A CA M PU S PR AC TI C E “The fact that SCB’s San Francisco office was still young and building its identity was incredibly attractive, because we knew we’d be able to contribute to developing the culture.” TIM STEVENS
Business publications relish sordid tales of hostile takeovers and misguided mergers. Given the cutthroat character of private sector trades, the history of SCB and Sasaki reads more like a love story than “The Art of War.” But that speaks to the early wisdom of this young studio. When the San Francisco office of Sasaki closed, their leadership was faced with a choice: each develop their own practice, or find a firm willing to take them on as an already-established higher education practice. It was a delicate moment for higher ed development; in the years following the economic downturn, institutions’ best chance to advance much-needed campus projects was to try new delivery methods, including public-private partnerships. These new approaches were anathema to institutions, and often felt uncomfortable. But this challenge also offered an exciting opportunity— especially for SCB. The former Sasakians respected SCB’s design ethos, which took a collaborative, almost open-source approach rather than the traditional protectionist attitude of most architecture firms. SCB had a diverse practice across sectors, with a long legacy of working with the development community. As a result, taking in the well-respected Sasaki higher ed group positioned SCB’s San Francisco office to develop a successful higher ed practice that could uniquely facilitate partnerships between institutions and private developers, speaking to both clients’ needs and filling a critical gap in the market.
KING S VILL AG E | HONOLULU
ANAHA | HONOLULU
A LO H A S C B "At the interview for One Ala Moana, we all showed up wearing ties. Our local partner on the job saw us and said, ‘Lose the ties if you want to win this job.’ We took the ties off. We got the job." BEN WRIGLEY
California’s higher ed market wasn’t the only new door that opened to SCB with the establishment of the San Francisco office. The proximity to the Pacific meant the team soon found themselves working on Hawaii’s shores. The firm’s introduction to Hawaii came from Chicago connections. In 2009 SCB was invited to compete against a handful of other Chicago firms on Hale Ka Lei, a midrise luxury condominium development bankrolled by a Korean developer. SCB won the design competition. While ultimately the project never progressed past the design stage, the experience led to contacts and relationships that developed into numerous built projects in Honolulu over the next handful of years: One Ala Moana, Kings Village, Anaha, Park Lane, and others. Equally important to the design work the firm has done in Hawaii is the extensive research conducted to identify where the best Mai Tais can be found. After an eight year study, the team concluded that they’re at the Royal Hawaiian Beach Bar.
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C R O S S I N G TH E BAY “634 + 114 + 326 = 1,074 SCB apartments approved by the Oakland planning commission last week!” E M A I L F R O M S T R AC H A N F O R G A N T O A L L S TA F F
More recently, SCB started looking for new opportunities closer to home, and began working next door to San Francisco, in Oakland. With 12 projects at various phases, working with a variety of clients in a range of typologies and using vastly different team configurations, the designs are each unique and uniquely suited to the context of Oakland. Oakland seems to contain multitudes of difference, possibility, and opportunity. It’s widely known that the cost to build projects in Oakland is roughly the same as in San Francisco; however, the returns generally aren’t as great. But as a place to design, it’s very different from San Francisco and other nearby California cities. Oakland is a diverse place with a youthful vibe, which gives rise to a sense of willful innovation, an attitude of joyful risk-taking, and a warmth to experimentation in its design community. The atmosphere in Oakland might be compared to what San Francisco felt like 15 or 20 years ago. In many ways, Oakland’s experimental, entrepreneurial spirit derives from a strong arts movement that is afoot in the city. SCB is tapping into this spirit in its Oakland projects, developing buildings that feel equally authentic, invigorating, and exciting.
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C O M PE TITI O N I N SA NTA C L A R A “The folks on the selection committee either loved it or hated it. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees, loved it. The President of the University, on the other hand…” TIM STEVENS
After three years of building its Campus Environments practice, SCB San Francisco had established itself as a major player in California’s higher ed market. By 2015, over half the office’s architects were engaged on institutional projects across the state. In February of that year, the group was invited to participate in the first-ever design competition hosted by Santa Clara University, a private Jesuit school in one of California’s original mission towns. The competition was to develop a new facility for the University’s law school, situated at the entry to a campus characterized by mission revival architecture. The SCB team decided to take a risk - developing an intentionally provocative, bold design, incorporating hallmarks of contemporary architecture to complement the missionstyle campus context: lots of glass, flat roofs, and clean lines. They felt satisfied that even if they didn’t win the project, they’d make an impression. They were confident that their interpretation of the building’s program, mission, and vision was exactly what the client needed. The risk paid off and SCB won the project. Over the next few months, they worked on refining the design, which became more adaptive to the campus context. The flat roofs became clay tile peaks, but the bones and interior organization of the building remained almost exactly as presented in the competition.
399 FR E M O NT | SAN FR AN C I S CO, CA
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I NTE R I O R E XPA N S I O N “As designers, there is nothing better than being able to create and realize the full vision for a project. The SCB Interiors practice allows the firm to do just that.” JULIA NELSON
In addition to outward expansion into new markets in California and Hawaii, expanding the firm’s services and establishing an interiors studio emerged as another strategic growth opportunity for the firm. One key lesson from the recession was that firms with established interiors practices kept busy through the lean years because they were able to help companies with right-sizing or subletting spaces. Bringing this diversification to the San Francisco office would help the practice be even more resilient in the case of another recession. The firm’s Chicago office had established an interiors practice early on, and the studio had grown to develop its own client list, including an impressive number of Fortune 100 clients. At the same time, it developed a seamlessly integrated process in working with SCB’s architectural studios, adding value to projects across the commercial, multifamily, and higher education sectors. Building from the Chicago office’s prototype, the San Francisco office established an equally robust interiors studio that has grown in its own right.
S TE R E OT Y PE S A N D S U RV I VA L "I don't understand why you are trying to ruin my life." BERKELEY COMMUNITY MEMBER
Stereotypes about California are plentiful. Everyone "eats clean" and does juice cleanses, and nobody works because theyâ€™re too busy surfing or doing yoga. While the SCB San Francisco office has its share of health-conscious, surfing yogis, its healthconscious surfing yogis work, and they work hard. The office quickly understood that in order to be successful in San Francisco, they had to learn to expertly navigate the entitlements process. With laudable and stringent environmental protections, managing the environmental review process in California takes longer. This in turn means there are more opportunities for community meetings. And more community meetings means more varied, more spirited, more emotional, and more interesting interactions with the residents of a neighborhood experiencing development. The SCB San Francisco team can safely say that theyâ€™ve experienced the full gamut of the human expression of emotions at these meetings, from fear to rage, to melancholy to fatalism, and even some chair throwing. Whatever the tone, SCB has always valued all forms of community engagement as part of the design process. Community meetings provide a space for dialogue, and sometimes that dialogue can get heated. It makes sense for people to care, become emotional, seek to protect, and ultimately better the places they call home. And for that, the SCB San Francisco office is glad to be part of a truth about California- those health-conscious surfing yogis really care about their communities.
TH E N E X T TE N "Someone said to me the other day 'I didn’t know you had a Chicago office.'" PETE NOONE
At the 10 year mark, the firm’s impact is undeniable. We have changed the city’s skyline and helped it grow to new heights. We have supported institutions and their mission to educate a new generation of learners. The office has completed 31 projects up and down the west coast, and that number continues to grow with another 40 projects under construction and in design. The staff count stands at 76. A month ago it was less. A month from now it will be more. SCB San Francisco didn’t get here alone. Through the trust of visionary clients, support from innovative collaborators, dedication of skilled building partners, and the steadfast determination and immense creativity of talented staff, San Francisco has become home. And for that, the firm is thankful. Here’s to the next 10….
S C B SA N F R A N C I S C O 2 01 7 Abby Lagasca Adria Oswald Alvin Prakash Anabelle Lee Andrew Wang Arman Hadilou Aynav Mor Aysan Khorraminejad Ben Schulte Ben Wrigley Brandon Baunach Brendan Carr Brian Sanchez Bruce Toman Caitlin Miller Chris Bennett Chris Pemberton Christopher Ray Clayton Mandly Cliff Peterson Cyril Chong Dawn Yim Di Wang Ella Gorji Emily Moore Emily Wang Ernie Bello
Fermin Gonzales Francesco Mozzati Giovanni Plater Grant Chang Greg Montgomery Ian Tomtich Irene Ung Jaclyn Gutierrez Jane Lee Jay Wilson Jeffrey Galbraith Jesse Phillips Jessica Yin Juan Garrido Judy Zhang Julia Nelson Leandro Sensibile Leo Lung Leslie Maienschein-Cline Linn Kagay Lyla Xiao Matessa Mariano Matthew Bens Matthew Gadie Matthew Pietras Melissa Godfrey Michael Kehl
Naomi Motomura Natalie Marcisz Nathan Buxser Nathan Nagai Ningning Shang Panchaya Siengsakul Peter Williamson Peter Noone Phoebe Leung Rachael Brice Ram Subramanian Rishi Ostrowski Romina Hausmann Ryan Combies Sami Houari Scott Berry Scott Odom Simon Mance Stephen Ellis Strachan Forgan Tim Stevens Tom Shiozaki Valerio Massimi Vanessa Espinoza Vern Lohman Vitas Viskanta Willy Burhan
DESIGN FOR A CHANGING WORLD
SOLOMON CORDWELL BUENZ
255 California Street San Francisco, CA 94111 T 415.216.2450
ARCHITECTURE | PLANNING | INTERIORS W W W. S C B . C O M