Text description provided by the architects. The SFJAZZ Center is the first freestanding venue in the United States designed specifically for the performance, appreciation and enjoyment of jazz. The transparent, three-story Center comprises the Robert N. Miner auditorium, Joe Henderson Lab, rehearsal spaces, digital learning lab, café, box office, and administrative offices. The Center, which opened in January 2013, provides SFJAZZ with its first permanent home in the organization’s 30-year history and establishes a hub of music, culture, and community. It is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification from the USBGC.
History: SFJAZZ, founded in 1983 by musician and entrepreneur Randall Kline, is one of the world’s most comprehensive and innovative jazz organizations. In the decade prior to opening the Center, SFJAZZ presented year-round programming for nearly 100 concerts annually, reaching an audience of 100,000 patrons, in venues throughout San Francisco. An anonymous $25-million gift—the largest in history given to a jazz organization—catalyzed an ambitious $63-million capital campaign to fund the creation of the SFJAZZ Center and bolster the organization’s endowment and programming.
The Future: The 35,000-square-foot Center unites SFJAZZ’s multi-faceted mission to showcase worldclass jazz artists, nurture young musicians, and promote jazz education, preservation and experimentation. Located on the edge of San Francisco’s Civic Center performing arts district, the Center joins a constellation of established cultural venues that include the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, and San Francisco Ballet. The glass and concrete structure establishes a contemporary and dynamic counterpoint to these venerable neighbors, embodying the vibrancy of jazz and actively engaging its urban surroundings.
A transparent glass façade wraps the ground floor public spaces to reveal the excitement within. The floor-to-ceiling glass allows the lobby, café and ensemble room to activate the urban streetscape and invite the public inside. The all-glass, acoustically isolated, multipurpose ensemble room—the Joe Henderson Lab—puts artists within feet of passersby on Franklin Street, further enhancing the sense of accessibility and connection. On the upper two stories, a rhythmic façade of opaque and clear glass and street-facing balconies underscore the Center’s civic spirit.
While the public spaces open to the city, the Robert N. Miner auditorium is intimate and focused. This flexible, state-of-the-art room accommodates audiences from 350 to 700, and provides a range of experiences including views from behind the stage. A reconfigurable stage supports a wide variety of acts while raked seating establishes an intimacy that makes the audience itself part of the performance, contributing to a more dynamic experience.
Underpinning all of the spatial and visual design priorities is the most import goal: to create performance spaces with the highest quality acoustics throughout. Every detail from the custom seats to the wood slats wrapping the hall’s interior was developed to ensure an optimal live jazz experience. The Center also integrates next-generation technologies; the building is fully wired for recording, broadcasting and production.
Finally, the Center expands SFJAZZ’s capacity for educational programming and outreach, providing rehearsal space for the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars and serving as the new home of the SFJAZZ Collective. The Collective, established in 2004, brings together the world’s finest jazz musicians to examine the work of a great jazz master, followed by composing an original work. Through these experimental and educational efforts, the SFJAZZ Center promotes the vitality, evolution and cultural significance of jazz.