Text description provided by the architects. For Tolleson, a nationally recognized branding and creative agency, relocation to 560 Pacific in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast represents the third iteration and evolution of its studio space in partnership with Huntsman Architectural Group and Design Workshops. Formerly the home and showroom for the Amtico flooring company, this two-story masonry and timber warehouse embodies many of the rustic characteristics found in Tolleson’s earlier offices, .such as exposed brick walls and wood trusses, wood floors, and skylights. The building owner, Birmingham Development, specializes in the redevelopment of unique and historic properties in San Francisco and also served as the general contractor for this turnkey office delivery. Working in tandem with Birmingham, Huntsman began to evaluate ways to fit Tolleson’s program into the 11,000 square foot upper floor through retrofitting and augmenting the structure while preserving the building’s character.
Coming from a 3,500 square foot space, Tolleson wanted its new office to better relate to how the firm currently works with its clients. This translated into a suite of spaces catering to client engagement, an expansion of the studio, and the addition of specialty functions such as video and audio editing and a photography studio. Huntsman planned the long, shoebox footprint of the building to maximize efficiency and functionality while clarifying circulation. As visitors enter the building, they ascend to the second floor where reception and lounge await. At the helm of the office, a light-filled library, reading area, and lounge are adjacent to the main conference room. Collaborating with Design Workshops, Huntsman designed this room to read as a floating volume within the warehouse space. Many of the features of the original Tolleson office come into play in the new location; the reception desk is made of hot rolled steel – a technique that defined the design direction of the original studio. Timber trusses and posts were bead-blasted to reflect the redwood’s natural warmth and color. New steel beams form the edges of the room and define a contrast with the original construction. A series of four-foot wide pivoting doors connect the conference room to the surrounding public spaces. Rippled glass panels hark back to the design elements of the first Tolleson office and provide translucency while maintaining privacy.
Anchored by the public areas on the south end, the studio is centrally situated on the floor. On one side, open collaborative areas house flat files and a shared bar-height table for impromptu meetings. The other side features a photo studio and audio/video editing room. Full-height steel doors and wall panels wrap the photo studio and editing room and their surface offers an opportunity for designers to fasten work in progress via elegant magnets. An opening in the ceiling allows natural light from rooftop monitors to permeate the two spines of circulation. A magnetic back-painted glass marker board offers another neutral canvas for displaying client work. Mid-century icons like Eames’ LCW chairs nestle around a string of hand-dimpled copper lamps in the war room, a more private environment for design teams to brainstorm often confidential concepts and campaigns.
The communal kitchen and break room space anchor the north side of the studio. Natural and rustic materials once again articulate the restored warehouse aesthetic. Materials sourced locally, such as the tiles from Heath Ceramics and a slab of marble, make up the backsplash of the kitchen wall. Design Workshops fabricated cabinetry that elegantly conceals kitchen appliances, as well as a custom bar-height counter lit by a Marcel Wanders designed lamp. Eames DSR chairs make the perfect companion to an oversized white oak dining table.
The mezzanine houses business functions such as accounting and operations. A staircase comprised of open timber treads and forged steel railings reveals the activity in the reception and studio below. Much like the lower level, the upper open space is flanked by two volumes - a lounge and a private office. On the far side, the employee lounge takes on a more casual feel. Moveable table allow teams to easily reconfigure the room for project pin-ups and review. On the other side, the office, belonging to Tolleson’s president, sits directly above the main conference room. Reclaimed barn wood surrounds the conference room and extends up into the office, seamlessly forming its interior walls. The building’s original timber trusses frame the view from this perch across the light-filled public zone below and towards the activity of the Barbary Coast neighborhood beyond.