San Francisco

As a latecomer to San Francisco's performing-arts district, SFJAZZ, a 30-year-old concert series, had to figure out how to fit into the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Working against the backdrop of the Beaux Arts'styled San Francisco Conservatory of Music and War Memorial Opera House, Mark Cavagnero Associates set out to design a modern building for the jazz center that would look as if it had always been there. 'We wanted to lock it into the street,' says principal Mark Cavagnero, 'and to have the sidewalk and the lobby and the caf' all open up into the public realm.' Pointing out the center's diaphanous glass facade, he adds, 'There's no opaque wall between you and the SFJAZZ Center. It's as transparent as we can make it.'

When the new building for SFJAZZ opened in January, it became the first stand-alone venue specifically built for jazz in the U.S. (Jazz at Lincoln Center's Rose Hall in New York is part of the Time Warner Center.) This musical arrival to the neighborhood replaced a muffler shop that had not extended all the way to the sidewalk. To integrate the center into the streetscape, the architects massed the upper two levels of the three-story building to align with those of neighboring structures and pulled back parts of the top floor to echo, in an abstract manner, the pattern of a mansard roof next door. Along the building's south side, a concrete wall bookending the upstairs balcony juts out in front of a neighboring church. To avoid blocking the sun on the church's facade, the architects added a slotted opening that lets daylight through.

The architects conceived the 36,550-square-foot structure as a living room for the neighborhood. The central volume, a concrete box housing a state-of-the-art auditorium, carries the building's entire seismic load so the L-shaped perimeter, containing public amenities, can have as much uninterrupted glass as possible. Such spaces'including porchlike lobbies on the first and second levels, a sidewalk caf' run by restaurateur Charles Phan, and an ensemble room for rehearsals or smaller performances, which are visible to passersby'stay open both day and night.

To build an auditorium that would recall the intimate experience of a jazz club, the architects discarded the traditional shoebox layout with a proscenium stage and a narrow block of seats. Instead, they took inspiration from a nonmusical typology: a cube-shaped community room along the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois (1908). With a customized acoustics system aided by a large steel-tube canopy and baffles behind the musicians, the architects (with theatrical consultants Auerbach Pollock Friedlander) were able to arrange seating on all sides of the performers. Flexible elements, such as movable risers, an adjustable stage, and acoustic screens'which block unfilled seats from view'allow the space to make a transition in scale and configuration from a small dance floor surrounding the musicians to a 734-seat concert hall.

By giving the seats a steep rake, the architects set up a personal relationship between the audience and performers. 'The musicians look at people's faces and not at the tops of their heads,' says Cavagnero. 'They like that feeling of being immersed in the audience. There's a sense of energy they get from a steeply raked house.'

To extend that spirit of exchange to the building edge, the architects used low-iron glass for the facade. Its balance of transparency and reflectivity picks up nearby buildings, trees, and passing cars so that the perimeter seems to dissolve into the cityscape in the daytime. At night, the center's lights restore the building's edge, revealing the activity within. Through a swath of glass that cuts from the caf' to the stage, passersby looking in before a concert can see the piano bathed in a spotlight.

Cavagnero sees the building's relationship with its surroundings as a reciprocal one. 'Once you start engaging the neighborhood,' he says, 'the neighborhood can benefit from you. But you can benefit from it, too.' Using glass on three sides of the second-floor lobby, for instance, makes the narrow, 25-foot-wide hall appear much more spacious. To visually extend its boundary, SFJAZZ installed large black-and-white photos of jazz personalities in the windows of a vacant school across the street. Suddenly, 'the lobby isn't 25 feet, it's 125 feet,' says Cavagnero. 'You bring that into your building, and it further reinforces'subtly, almost subliminally'the sense that SFJAZZ is part of the neighborhood. It's all just one big urban space.'

Lamar Anderson is a frequent contributor to record who is based in San Francisco.

Completion Date: January 2013

Size: 36,550 square feet

Total construction cost: $33 million



Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects
1045 Sansome Street
San Francisco
Phone 415-398-6884
Fax 415-398-6943

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Design Principal: Mark Cavagnero, FAIA
Principal in charge: Kang Kiang, AIA
Project Architect: Goetz Frank
Job Captain: Cameron Cooper
Construction Coordinator: Larry Biggs
Paul Loeffler
Jon McNeal
Paul Davison, RIBA
Charlotte Hofstetter

160 Pine Street, Suite 600                           
San Francisco, CA  94111  

WSP | Flack + Kurtz                                     
405 Howard Street, Suite 500                       
San Francisco, CA 94105

Theater Consulting:
225 Green Street                                              
San Francisco, CA 94111

Hollywood Office:
3575 Cahuenga Blvd
Suite #254
Los Angeles, CA  90068

Architectural Lighting:
WSP | Flack + Kurtz Lighting Design                                   
405 Howard Street, Suite 500                       
San Francisco, CA 94105

Monica Viarengo Landscape Design              
148 Townsend Street                                      
San Francisco, CA 94107  
Civil: KCA Engineers, Inc.
318 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Façade Consulting:
Maurya McClintock Façade Consulting                                
895 Autumn Drive
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

Emily Borland Specifications                       
380 Campbell Ave.
San Francisco, CA  94134
Code Consulting:
560 Mission Street, Suite 700                       
San Francisco, CA 94105

Vertical Transportation:
Syska Hennessy Group, Inc.                               
425 California Street, Suite 700                  
San Francisco, CA  94104

TEECOM Design Group                              
1333 Broadway
Suite 601
Oakland,  CA 94612-1906

Guidepost Solutions
Technology Design Consulting Practice
388 17th Street, Suite 230,
Oakland, CA 94612

PROPP + GUERIN                                          
550 15th Street, Penthouse                                 
San Francisco, CA 94103

General contractor: Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company

Tim Griffith
PH: 415-640-1419

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autocad, Sketchup. 



Structural system
Steel and Concrete

Exterior cladding
Metal Panels: Aluminum

Metal/glass curtain wall: Zetian

Rainscreen: Swiss Pearl

Other cladding unique to this project:
Architectural Concrete Wall sealed with Protectosil Antigraffiti Chem Trete BSm 400
Membrane: W.R. Grace Bituthene system 4000

Custom design and fabricated by Zetian

Shade: Nysan Green Screen Eco 500

Custom design and fabricated by Zetian

Entrances: PRL Glass Systems with Dorma USA floor closers

Special doors: Ambico Acoustic doors

Locksets: PRL Glass System

Closers: Dorma USA auto opener & Rixon

Exit devices: PRL Glass System

Pulls: PRL Glass System

Other special hardware: SEDCO ADA push button

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: ARMSTRONG - Optima Plank Tegular

Metal Mesh Ceiling: custom design and fabricated by Devco Engineering Inc. Flynn & Enslow metal mesh. Owens Corning QuiteR Rotary Duct Liner. 

Suspension grid: ARMSTRONG – Grid Sys – Prelude XL 15/16” 

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Commercial Casework, Inc.

Paints and stains:
Wood floor: Sherwin Williams Wood Classic Interiors Stain
Paint : Kelly Moore

Wall coverings:
Knoll Textiles: “Allegory”
Carnegie: “Xorel Meteor”
Walltalkers: “Tac-wall”

Paneling: Wall and Ceiling acoustic panels: custom design white oak slat panel. 

Plastic laminate:

Solid surfacing:
Pental “Chroma Quartz”

Floor and wall tile:
Crossville: “Retroactive” + “ColorBlox Mosaic” porcelain tile

Resilient flooring:
ARMSTRONG –Static Dissipative Tile
EXPANKO – “XCR cork rubber” tile
ARTIGO  -- “Multifloor ND-Uni” tile
BURKE – Rubber Base
JOHNSONITE – Treads & Riser

Bentley: “Domestic Alchemy” + “Pure Element”

Raised flooring:
Concrete Floor; Kinetics Roll out Floor Isolation System

Acoustically isolated wood floor: Connor RetroFlex Floor System

Adjustable Platforms: Novoflex Platforms

Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Acoustically isolated wood floor: Connor RetroFlex Floor System

Acoustic Banners:  ACOUSTACORP – 26oz DFR WOOL SERGE

Room Reduction Banners: ThermoVeil -  2100 Series

Office furniture: Knoll

Reception furniture:
Custom design by Mark Cavagnero Associates; Fabricated by Dfm

Fixed seating: Mobel Opus Chairs at Auditorium

Chairs: Knoll, Emeco

Tables: Knoll

Upholstery: Bensen

Interior ambient lighting:
Zumtobel, Elliptipar, Litelab,

Downlights: Kurt Versen, Belfer

Exterior: Bega, BK

Dimming System or other lighting controls:
ETC, Lutron

Elevator: Kone

Water Closet: Toto
Urinal: Toto
Lavatory: Just and Sloan
Lavatory: American Standard and Sloan
Sink: Just, American Standard and ISE
Drinking Fountain: Haws

Energy management or building automation system: Lutron