A Registered historic landmark building receives a fresh modern lobby.

The Italian Swiss Colony Warehouse Building, originally designed by Hemenway and Miller and built in 1903, was remodeled and repurposed as an office building in the early 80s as part of the Levi’s Plaza development. A registered San Francisco Historic Landmark (#102), the building’s exterior facade and structure are protected by preservation guidelines.

The existing lobby for the building is tucked away at the interior of the lot, at the innermost corner of the building. As well, the lobby was further obscured behind a corner open bay of the building. No longer a campus for one tenant, the Plaza has needed new lobbies in many of its buildings over the years.

The goal of the project was to provide more presence for the wide and varied companies moving into the buildings. To do so, the lobby plan extends into the exterior bay. Given the historic limitations on the building, the new bays were in-filled with somewhat traditional/historic storefronts. The presence of the lobby begins with a very modern insertion: flat canopies reach out from the doors and continue into the lobby, folding down to create the main reception desk. The canopies are a blend of historic material (darkened bronze at the fascia, where most visible) and new technology (sleek LED strip lighting). The forms beckon visitors to an otherwise non-descript interior corner. Due to its dark location, the artificial lighting became a strong theme, culminating at the primary beacon, a back lit base at the reception desk. The ipe wood ceiling provides a warm contrast to the newly exposed steel and concrete structure of the building (remnants of a seismic upgrade), while working in harmony with the exposed historic brick. The theme is echoed at the innermost rear of the lobby, where the elevators are located.


General Contractor: Richlen Construction
Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz and Heger
Art Consultant: Laura Grigsby Art Consulting
Photography: Matthew Millman