A Future for the Past

A Future for the Past

Retrofit Office
Market Square
San Francisco, CA

At the heart of San Francisco’s Market Street renaissance is a pair of buildings between 9th and 10th streets, former furniture warehouses reborn as creative office space. “I thought, if you really want to do something and leave a mark, the old furniture mart was a great opportunity,” said architect Olle Lundberg. “[When it closed] it created this incredible dead zone on Market. Having nothing in there created an inherent problem. Who would move in there to have enough of an impact to make it work?”

The answer is Twitter, which recently moved its global headquarters to 1355 Market. The Twitter offices, designed by Lundberg Design and IA Interior Architects, breathed new life into a downtown Art Deco landmark. An outstanding example of adaptive reuse, the complex, known as Market Square, is the result of collaboration between real estate investor Shorenstein and multiple design firms.


Market Square comprises two buildings, 1355 Market and 1 TENth (formerly 875 Stevenson), and The Commons, a park built over Stevenson Alley. The centerpiece of the project is 1355 Market, constructed in 1937. Massive floor plates and low ceilings characterize the 800,000-square-foot building’s interior, while its 11-story elevation is clad with terracotta and features a Mayan motif.

With support from historic building specialists Page & Turnbull, RMW Architecture & Interiors renovated 1355 Market’s exterior and public floors. The facade was left largely unchanged, with only the windows and ground-floor storefronts replaced. The interior was a different story. The lobby of 1355 Market Street had been renovated in the 1980s, its Art-Deco fixtures replaced and walls covered with glass mirrors. The designers removed the mirrors and used historic photographs to recreate period lighting fixtures. They also repainted the lobby’s decorative plaster ceiling.

The building’s other defining feature is a series of two-story concrete columns that had been obscured by the furniture showrooms’ walls. RMW cleared these out to create Stevenson Hall. The columns were “a driving force for the interior architecture,” said Terry Kwik, a principal at RMW. “All of the architecture was really designed to emphasize that portion of the building.”

The designers added a second lobby, accented with Douglas fir beams reclaimed from a 1941 addition to the building. Around the new elevators, RMW created a concrete core, which, with the addition of shear walls, satisfied California’s rigorous seismic retrofit requirements. The firm also installed all new MEP infrastructure and doubled the number of bathroom fixtures on each floor. These upgrades helped earn Market Square LEED Gold certification.

At 1 TENth, the design team found less worth saving. Built in the 1980s as a furniture showroom, the concrete building’s small windows made it unsuitable for office space. RMW re-skinned the building in glass. “Literally every bay was cut out,” said Kwik. “It’s a whole new building now. Before you would only look out 3-by-3 windows. Now you have floor to ceiling glass, it’s totally transparent.” The team made few infrastructure upgrades, and instead focused on the building’s connection to 1355 Market.

Anna Bergren Miller is a regular contributor to AN.

Retrofit for resiliency
Sunset Coffee Building
Houston, TX

Built in 1910, the Sunset Coffee Building is one of the only remaining industrial structures on Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston. Sited near Allen’s Landing, at the corner of Commerce and Fannin streets, the one-time coffee roasting warehouse has a colorful history that includes a brief stint in the late 1960s as artist David Adickes’ psychedelic rock venue Love Street Light Circus and Feel Good Machine. Because of this link with the past, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) and Houston First (HF) decided to do something almost unheard of in Space City—they decided to preserve and restore the old brick building by turning it into a recreation and cultural center.

“Keeping the historic elements of building and scale is a really great thing in a city like Houston,” said Joseph Benjamin, project manager with Lake|Flato, which designed the project with BNIM. “In San Antonio it’s a given, but in Houston that’s a challenge. There could have been lots of pressure to develop it into a larger, denser site.”


The adaptive ruse project presented several challenges to the architects. BBP applied for historic preservation grants from the National Park Service, requiring the design team to restore and/or replicate the character of the building. The three-story, 12,000-square-foot warehouse’s poured-in-place reinforced concrete structure was in good shape, but the brick veneer wall had crumbled beyond repair. The architects conducted an exhaustive search to find a contemporary brick that matched the color and spotting of the original masonry. The wooden casement windows also had to be restored, where possible, and replaced with newly fabricated windows that matched the originals where necessary.


Another challenge was that the site is 12 feet below street level, solidly within the bayou’s flood plane. The first floor could expect to contend with regular inundations. Consequently, the architects located a canoe, kayak, and bicycle rental station on this level, securing it with permeable gates and garage doors capable of allowing floodwaters to flow into and out of the interior without causing much damage. An elevated rainwater collection tank posted beside the building will serve as a symbol of BBP’s commitment to improving the bayou’s water quality.

The architects located BBP’s offices on the second level. The office floor is linked to the street with a bridge that connects to an elevated veranda, which wraps around to the bayou side of the building. On the third floor is an exhibition space and on the roof a terrace, both of which can be rented out for events. The design team left the interiors open and the structure exposed, creating a flexible, loft-like environment.

While this restored bit of history will offer Houstonians with a connection to the city’s ever more obscured past, perhaps the project’s greatest function for downtown will be the improved access it creates to the revitalized Allen’s Landing and the Buffalo Bayou Greenway.

Aaron Seward is AN’s managing and Southwest editor.

Retrofit Curtain Wall
First Canadian Place
Toronto, Ontario

At 978 feet, Toronto’s First Canadian Place is the tallest occupied building in Canada. While that claim to fame has endured since its construction in 1975, the tower’s white Carrara marble cladding has not fared so well. The exterior of the building had not undergone any significant changes beyond general maintenance, said Dan Shannon of Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects (MdeAS).

“Over time, the marble had deteriorated to the point that one piece of stone had fallen from the building,” said Shannon. “The anchoring, the stone itself, was in a place where it could no longer be maintained, and a change had to be made.” But with tenants like BMO Harris, Manulife Financial, and other major Canadian corporations, primary building owner Brookfield was left with little time to renovate. MdeAS and B+H Architects, who worked as the architect of record, had to replace 45,000 pieces of marble in one year—a job Shannon said would easily take two years under typical circumstances.


To accomplish the job the team commissioned a custom suspended rig with three tiers for simultaneous work. The rig was climate controlled, but not airtight. “This was an occupied building,” said Shannon. “You can imagine trying to change that at 800 feet up during the Canadian winter.”

The design goal, he said, was to come up with a new curtain wall assembly that would bolster the building’s integrity while maintaining the stately appearance of the original design by Edward Durell Stone’s office and Bregman + Hamann Architects.

MdeAS had worked on Stone buildings before, notably New York’s General Motors Building. As with that project, the architects were drawn to Stone’s affinity for recurring geometric patterns. On First Canadian Place, they added a ceramic frit to the custom seven-by-ten-foot Viracon glass panels, evoking the texture of the original marble with a series of triangles.


Each of the new opaque spandrel glass panels replace eight marble tiles, extending beyond the corners of the building on all sides. “Rather than just having the white glass fold back into these corners that were important to the original design, we used the contrasting glass color to make spandrel glass, accentuating the corners,” said Shannon.

The subtle sheen and restored brightness of the curtain wall contrast strikingly with those shadowy corners. New solar-reflecting window treatments and repaired air leaks update the insulated glass units that remain from the original assembly. In all, the unitized spandrel panel glass system nests three panes of ¼-inch low-iron glass in an extruded aluminum frame, with three types of PVB interlayers between.

In place of the 45,000 marble panels now sit 5,370 glass panels, reducing the amount of cladding sealant needed by 39.8 miles. The removed marble is being crushed into roof ballast and sand for other projects, and a portion is going to local art programs.

Chris Bentley is AN’s Midwest editor.

Retrofit Plaza/entrance
1200 New Hampshire Ave
Washington, D.C.

In the resurgent real estate market of Washington D.C., the owners of older buildings are competing for tenants with newer, more dynamic office spaces. And while D.C.’s reputation as a city remains buttoned-up, the city has an increasingly vibrant street life and a young and choosy workforce. This forms the backdrop for Janson Goldstein’s glittering addition to a mundane 1980s brick office building in the Capital, which adds retail space to the streetscape and creates a reflective, eye-catching surface that captures images of trees, passing cars, and pedestrians.


The new angled glass pavilion aligns with the sidewalk to better engage street life and contains two retail spaces set within a subtly prismatic, reflective volume. The mirrored quality is achieved through a silvery metallic frit pattern, which allows a carefully calibrated ratio of transparency to reflectivity. Two bands of massive sheets of glass—the upper of which angles out, the inner bending in—create a dynamic surface. Janson Goldstein worked with German glass manufacturer BGT Bischoff Glastechnik, which was capable of fabricating the pieces, the largest of which is thirteen and a half feet long. No mullions separate the glass, which is hung from above. “It creates one continuous image for the property,” said Hal Goldstein, a principal at Janson Goldstein.

Janson Goldstein also renovated the building’s lobby and entrance, creating a new signature bronze wall that extends from the interior out to the building facade. Allied Development fabricated the panels, which provide a rich, textural contrast to the sleek glass volume outside and the bright white lobby inside. “The developer came to us, looking to rebrand the building, bring in retail, and create a new iconic entrance,” said Goldstein. “Our project was simple enough to appeal to the developer. We were taking advantage of leftover space that hadn’t been designed at all. It’s another step toward making this a 24-hour neighborhood.”

Alan G. Brake is AN’s executive editor.