When the design team at Jensen Architects first considered the idea of using dichroic glass in the renovation of a 1980sera office building for a technology company, principal Dean Orr was skeptical. “I just thought of those cheesy belt buckles from the 1970s and wondered if it would look gimmicky,” he recalls. But the San Francisco firm, known for its refined minimalism on such projects as the renovation and addition for artist David Ireland’s house, did use the color-changing material, to surprising effect, along with a freshly stripped-down material palette and updated lighting scheme, regenerating the nearly 40-year-old structure for the young screen-centric workplace.

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The overarching challenge was to transform the three-story building, which was designed to house multiple tenants, into a cohesive space for a single tenant. The structure has an X-shaped plan, with a skylit central atrium that separates the east and west wings, accessed by discrete elevator cores. Jensen’s client wanted its 600 employees to mingle rather than be siloed on the various floors. The architects’ solution: to put the common amenities—the company café and large meeting rooms—on the ground floor, and bisect the atrium with stairs to turn it into a high-profile circulation corridor.

The building’s cruciform layout made lighting problematic. While it had narrower floor plates and more glazing than the typical office, the glass was only 20 percent transmissive and still let in glare. The lighting consultants at Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design (HLB) protected the many facades by installing manual shades throughout. To infuse the upper level with more natural light, they installed industrial and tubular skylights above private offices and meeting rooms near the core of the building.

The client specifically did not want linear fixtures in the open office where the desks are located. HLB selected 17-inch-diameter industrial pendants that provide both uplight and downlight with a cool color temperature of 4000 Kelvin (K) that provides even, neutral illumination. Meanwhile, the café and lounge areas are lit with bare LED A-lamps at a warmer 2700K for a more intimate ambience. Because the staff conducts a lot of business via videoconferencing, special attention was given to the lighting of the private phone booths, which are lit not just from above but also from the side, via a wall sconce and a table lamp specified by the architects. (Jensen took the lead on the decorative fixtures). A fringe benefit: employees of color say they no longer fade into the background. HLB also worked to softly illuminate a large artwork created by the architects in a lounge area near the atrium. The 6-by-14-foot piece of backlit etched glass is laminated with a magnified photograph of nearby San Francisco Bay’s coral-red salt fields. The image is an abstract expanse of colors that looks like a glowing Rothko painting.

The effective but quiet integration of natural and electric lighting systems is enlivened by the playful, iridescent qualities of the dichroic glass, which brings both color and reflectivity to the space. It is used in several ways. In collaboration with the New York–based design firm Office of Things, the design team developed a series of dynamic digital installations with the versatile glazing. Bands of LEDs, sandwiched between dichroic glass panels and sheetrock walls, are programmed to loop abstract, pixilated displays at the ends of open-office areas and behind the reception desk.

The architects also used the vibrant glass to separate the private offices from the corridor; since the film is somewhat reflective, it provides a level of privacy screening for the occupants. Finally, and perhaps most dramatically: reflections that bounce off dichroic-glass dividers in the groundfloor café make the space seem infinite. This is a fitting metaphor for today’s digital technologies—ubiquitous and ever morphing into new genres.



Jensen Architects, 833 Market Street, 7th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103, p:415-348-9650, www.jensen-architects.com


Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Mark Jensen –FAIA, Dean Orr –AIA, Keri Goodlad –AIA, Nicole Germano, Lauren Takeda


Architect of record:

Jensen Architects, 833 Market Street, 7th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103, p:415-348-9650, www.jensen-architects.com



Structural Engineer: Degenkolb Engineers

Civil Engineer: BKF Engineers

Mech, Elec, Plumbing BOD: AlphaTech

Electrical Design/Build: Randall Lamb / Decker Electric

Mechanical & Plumbing Design/Build: Silicon Valley Mechanical



Lighting: HLB Lighting

Digital Design Installations: Office of Things

Landscape: Brightview Design Group

Accessibility: Marx / Okubo

Kitchen Design: Ricca Design Studio

Furniture: One Workplace

Project Manager: CBRE

Mural Artist: Heather Day


General contractor:

GCI General Contractors



Cesar Rubio Photography, Mariko Reed


Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: International Cellulose Corp. – K-13 Spray-on System, Rockfon – Tropic Tegular, Kirei – Acoustical H-Baffle System, Topakustik – Topperfo Type M, & Type 6/2 M

Suspension grid: Rockfon – Ultraline 4600 9/16”

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: SF Millwork

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore – Super White, Iron Mountain

Wall coverings: Filzfelt – Wool Design Felt, Buzzispace – Sliced Buzzifelt, Calico Wallpaper -Topographies Aurora

Paneling: Topakustik –Type 6/2 M

Plastic laminate: Formica – ColorCore2

Solid surfacing: Caesarstone - Blizzard

Special surfacing: Decorative Plaster Finishing – Eco Stucco by Orit Yanai Studio

Floor and wall tile: Spec Ceramics – Transition, Design and Direct Source – Umi – Naya & Basic

Crossville – Simpatico

Resilient flooring: Expanko – Heirloom cork floor tile, Spinneybeck – Herringbone Leather Floor Tile

Carpet: Shaw – Dye Lab, Interface - Composure

Special interior finishes unique to this project: 3M -- Dichroic Film Blaze & Chill, GlasPro - custom laminated glass panels, Maharam/Danskina Area Rugs – Argali, Bold, Multitone, Duotone



Office furniture: Pair

Reception furniture: Alias Gran Cobi lounge chair , Glas Italia Shimmer side table, High Tower Ruby occasional tables, Custom benches by Northwood

Fixed seating: Custom by Northwood

Chairs: Muuto, Classicon, Emeco, DWR, Andreu World, Stua, Space Copenhagen, Carl Hansen & Son, Allermuir, Vitra

Tables: E15, Bensen, Phase Design, custom by Northwood, West Coast Industries

Upholstery: Maharam, Febrik, Camira

Other furniture: Moroso, Hay, RS Barcelona



Interior ambient lighting: Finelite – HP-4 Series, Finelite – HP-2 Series, Finelite – HP-WS Series, ERCO – Optec, Delray – IL7801, ALW – RPD14, Davide Groppi – Moon 60, Vibia – Puck Series, Electric Mirror – Fusion Series, Muuto – Grain Pendant, Bocci – 28.1 Pendant

Downlights: USAI – BeveLED, iGuzzini - Laser Blade, Delta Light – SPY, V2 Lighting – C2

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Enlighted