SANF January 2017 : Page 45

STARING DO WN CIT Y ST YLE THE LOOKER WINTER 2 017 Outside an office building, six stories above street level, a lone ginkgo tree acts as sentinel and symbol. BLAKE MARVIN ILLUSTRATION BY Nametk Name January 2017 | San Francisco 45

The Looker: Design Scout

Lauren Murrow

Office as Oasis

A once-drab building’s metamorphosis marks a new day in workplace design.

Since the 1940s, the uninspiring concrete box of 375 Beale Street has been a perfunctory container for the necessary, rather unsexy businesses that have churned through its interior. Originally constructed as a navy supply warehouse during World War II, the fortresslike structure has since served as a mail-sorting facility, a server farm, and a drug evidence lab (OK, that one’s kind of sexy). So when Gerry Tierney, associate principal architect at Perkins + Will, was tasked with turning the eight-story edifice into an airy and inviting multiuse office space, he knew the transformation needed to be radical. “It was gloomy, almost abandoned,” he recalls. “We didn’t want these workers to feel like they were being sent to prison.”

The top four floors of the building were slated to be the holistic new workplace for the Bay Area Headquarters Authority, a contingent of regional planning agencies including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Perkins + Will teamed up with interior design firm TEF to convert a bleak mail-sorting center into a setting conducive to innovation and collaboration.

They had their work cut out for them. Each of the eight floors spans 64,000 square feet—roughly the size of Union Square, says Tierney. With such a wide footprint, natural light never reached the building’s shadowy core, which was dark and uninviting. So Perkins + Will made the obvious move: It punched an eightstory atrium through the center of the structure. The effect was transformative, flooding the tomblike interior with light and luring employees from all the various agencies into new wood-bordered terraces surrounding the office’s core. “We think of it as the warm, wooden heart inside this very muscular, concrete building,” says TEF principal Bobbie Fisch.

Recycled wood was introduced throughout the building to temper the severity of the original concrete. A four-story staircase linking the top floors incorporates repurposed wood from bumper rails that previously protected the walls from careening mail carts. Wooden piles from the old Transbay Terminal were salvaged and integrated into the space in the form of accent walls, reception desks, and conference tables. Clever design strategies across the four floors personalize the space and reinforce the organization’s mission. For example, an aerial image of the Bay Area measuring 42 by 20 feet provides a striking, four-story backdrop to the central staircase. On each floor, conference rooms are distinguished by color-coded topographical maps etched onto glass, referencing the Bay Area’s cities, waterways, and open land.

Around the corner from the new glass-fronted entrance, six stories up, a live ginkgo tree rises in the open air above Harrison Street. Over time, the tree will grow and be visible across three floors. After 75 years as an unremarkable workhorse, 375 Beale Street now showcases a facade befitting the landscape-altering work that’s happening within. “This isn’t simply another tech company—these people are thinking about open space and fair land use and air and water quality,” says Tierney. “What better way to symbolize that than a tree growing out of the side of the building?”

What to Wear to the Fair

Local shopkeepers offer up on-point ensembles for January’s nonstop parade of major art fairs.

By Anh-Minh Le

Layered Look

“Visually, this strikes that perfect balance of creating a cool, in-the-know vibe while not trying too hard,” says Josh Podoll, co-owner of the Podolls. “And the layers accommodate different temperatures, inside and outside.” Silk slip dress ($171) and Milieu tee ($83), both by the Podolls; Jones coat ($422), Ampersand as Apostrophe tote ($420), and Freda Salvador boots ($550). THE PODOLLS, 3985 24TH ST. (NEAR NOE ST.), 415-529-1196; 251 PRIMROSE RD. (NEAR BURLINGAME AVE.), BURLINGAME, 650-389-2346

Tangerine Dream

“Contemporary art is so much about bright colors, bold statements, and clean lines,” says Hero Shop proprietor Emily Holt. “This look embodies all of that. Plus, to wear head-to-knee orange takes confidence and an individual point of view—two essential qualities of any artist.” Protagonist top ($380) and skirt ($640) and Ancient Greek sandals ($355). HERO SHOP, 982 POST ST. (NEAR LARKIN ST.), 415-829-3129

Metallic Moment

“This outfit is all about the shimmering fabric—which, appropriately enough, is named after artist El Anatsui,” says Erica Tanov, who has a pair of eponymous storefronts. “The simple silhouette allows the textile to shine, literally.” Gregoire jacket ($708), Jade skirt ($673), and Valda blouse ($282), all by Erica Tanov; Ariel Clute necklace ($140) and Maryam Nassir Zadeh mules ($409). ERICA TANOV, 1827 4TH ST. (NEAR HEARST AVE.), BERKELEY, 510-849-3331; 2415 LARKSPUR LANDING CIR. (NEAR SIR FRANCIS DRAKE BLVD.), LARKSPUR, 415-464-0008

Black and Tan

“This look is classic, fun, and understated—just the way I like my art, too!” says Jessie Black, namesake of the Pacific Heights boutique. “The bag can hold whatever magazines or brochures are accumulated.” Hannah cashmere dress ($690), Georgina cashmere leggings ($145), Quinoa Paris bag ($590), and Owen Savary cuff ($490), all exclusive to Jessie Black; Heidi Says boots ($645), Club Monaco hat ($100), and TwoA necklace ($210). JESSIE BLACK, 3252 SACRAMENTO ST. (NEAR PRESIDIO AVE.), 415-757-0202

So. Much. Art.

A fair-by-fair rundown.


The fourth annual edition of Fog hits Fort Mason on January 12–15, with a VIP preview gala January 11. More than 40 prominent gallerists and dealers will be showcasing works from jewelry to furniture, and a flower-themed pop-up shop will greet visitors with wares handpicked by Stanlee R. Gatti. The folks behind Jane café and A16 restaurant will handle the food and drink inside the Festival Pavilion. FOGFAIR.COM


For its West Coast debut, Untitled, Art—which started in Miami—is homing in on an avantgarde location: Dogpatch’s Historic Pier 70, once shipbuilding territory. (An enormous anchor at the site is a holdover from those days.) Fifty exhibitors from 10 countries are tapped for the fair, slated for January 13–15; a VIP preview will be held on January 12. The venue, a colos-Sal, skeletal structure, comes with an added perk: Along with curated pieces by a dynamic range of international artists, the organizers are introducing the Monuments program with large-scale, site-specific works from Jared Madere, Leo Villareal, and more. A panel discussion and a film screening are also on the docket. ART-UNTITLED.COM


Further cementing San Francisco’s status as a photography hotspot, Photofairs arrives here for the first time January 27–29. (Its only previous locale has been Shanghai.) The Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason will be brimming with international gallerists representing emerging and established artists and vintage and contemporary works alike. Allie Haeusslein of Pier 24 Photography is curating an exhibit on artists whose work explores the photographic process in unconventional ways. Talks, panels, and book signings are among the programming highlights. PHOTOFAIRS.ORG

“Awesome or Insane”

Two sisters. Two husbands. Five children. One duplex. Let the design-off begin.

By Anh-Minh Le

Parents often try to instill in their children the virtue of sharing. Sisters Helen and Julie Kim, now grown up and both attorneys in San Francisco, must have learned that lesson well: They currently live in the same duplex in the Castro alongside their young families. Helen, her husband, and their brood of two sons and two daughters occupy the downstairs quarters. Julie, her husband, and their son reside above them. “People usually have one of two reactions to our living arrangement: They think it’s awesome or insane,” Julie says. “The reality is that it’s a bit of both, but mostly the former—and has a million advantages when you put four working parents and five kids together.”

Not only can they easily coordinate play dates between cousins, but they can also divvy up babysitting duties, and most nights dinner is a communal affair. Friday dinners are usually followed by popcorn-fueled movie watching. “The thing I like most about [the setup] is that the kids are growing up together, and despite the occasional sword fight, I think that will really make a difference in how close they are later,” Helen says. “At the very least, if they all end up at the same school eventually, no one will mess with any of them on the playground!”

Before any joint habitation could take place, the Kims’ 1965 building needed an overhaul. The square footage was increased from 3,200 to 4,000—thanks in part to the conversion of a section of the garage into living space (allowing the lower unit to span two levels). And the interiors got a desperately needed aesthetic update, for which they turned to interior designer Grant K. Gibson. For older sister Helen, he conjured a warm environment with Japanese and Scandinavian influences. The palette is dominated by white and wood tones, with the liveliest motifs reserved for the kids’ rooms. Julie, meanwhile, wanted a “jewel box,” she says, “polished and bold in color and wallpaper.” So Gibson introduced a series of eye-popping patterns—Cole & Sons’ Nuvole Storm on the walls and ceiling of a long hallway, Kelly Wearstler’s Crescent in a watery blue in her son’s room, Makelike’s Lush in a red-goldand- black colorway in a bathroom.

The kitchens provide perhaps the best snapshot of the siblings’ divergent tastes: Helen’s is outfitted with clean-lined white oak shelving and cabinetry, a durable outdoor table plucked from a Restoration Hardware sample sale, and mismatched wooden chairs and a 15-foot bench. Julie describes her sister’s space as “the workhorse of the building. With [her] four kids and us down there for most meals, practicality was definitely taken into account.” The kitchen upstairs is decidedly more luxe—with a Calacatta marble backsplash fabricated from a single slab, alongside cabinets painted to dramatic effect in Farrow & Ball’s Drawing Room Blue. Further adding an exclamation point in here is the combination of the striking La Cornue range and the brass vent overhead.

“I really thought of this as two separate projects, rather than one,” Gibson says. “Just because they are connected—the sisters and the spaces—that didn’t mean there needed to be any flow between the units.” Indeed, while they admire elements of each other’s decor—“I should’ve done a leather couch!” says Helen, referring to Julie’s living room seating—there’s little overlap in their design sensibilities. Adds Gibson: “I wouldn’t be offended if someone looked at the two homes and didn’t even realize that the same designer worked on both.”

Where Art and Artificial Intelligence Converge

Artist Trevor Paglen’s one-night exhibition provides a glimpse of the world, as seen by computers. By Anh-Minh Le

Within San Francisco’s Historic Pier 70—just a few blocks from bustling Third Street, yet seemingly a world away—is the expansive industrial shell of a structure with a dirt floor, rustedout metal supports, and the occasional graffiti-laden panel. It appears an odd venue for an event headlined by a famed artist and a string quartet. But later this month, the former shipbuilding factory will be briefly transformed into a multimedia performance space, hosting Sight Machine— an evening that brings together the artistic vision of Trevor Paglen and the sounds of the Kronos Quartet. Suddenly, the outside-the-box site makes a little more sense.

“This is a big one-off,” says Alison Gass, associate director for collections, exhibitions, and curatorial affairs at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center. “I think of it as a one-night exhibition.” (While admission will be free, tickets, obtained through Cantor, are required.) Gass played a major role in making the singular show happen, first inviting Paglen to be the inaugural Cantor artist in residence, a sixmonth appointment that kicked off in late December; then securing as its locale Historic Pier 70, which will eventually be the headquarters for the digital-arts studio Obscura Digital; and, finally, reaching out to her university contacts to land the Kronos Quartet. (It didn’t take much convincing to get them on board.)

For Paglen, who has been working on artificial-intelligence-related projects in his Berlin studio for years, Sight Machine marks “the major introduction to that body of work for a lot of people,” says the artist, who is particularly interested in machines’ and humans’ disparate views of the world. “I was looking at a lot of different human activities that when seen through machines really encapsulate that contradiction, and I found that music is one of the most compelling things. When you hear music, it goes right to an emotional level. When a computer tries to interpret someone playing music, it doesn’t get it.”

Paglen devised a program that combines the human and machine experiences. The Kronos Quartet’s 12-song set will be filmed in front of a live audience. “Those videos,” he explains, “will be fed to a suite of computers that will analyze them in lots of different ways—facial recognition, edge detection, object detection—and you’ll see that projected.” Attendees will be able to watch and listen to the ensemble and simultaneously observe how various computer algorithms parse the performance.

As an artist in residence at Cantor, Paglen plans to continue focusing on machines—taking advantage of access to Stanford’s computer science department, its artificial intelligence laboratory, and even the law school to explore technical and ethical issues. “I spend a lot of time trying to understand what the implications of technology are for human societies, politics, the surface of the earth, the environment,” he says. His recent projects have shared a fascination with online privacy and government surveillance: He learned to scuba dive so he could photograph undersea Internet cables that may or may not have been tapped by the NSA. And Autonomy Cube—which he created with Jacob Appelbaum and exhibited at last year’s Fog Design+Art fair—is an approximately one-foot acrylic block that contains a custom-fabricated Wi-Fi router. The sculpture acts as a Tor relay, which anonymizes any connected device.

“What I want out of art is things that help us to see the world that we live in,” Paglen says. While it may seem like a simple enough task, modern-day advances can complicate matters. “The world is constantly changing, and often the ways in which the world is structured are not always immediately visible to us.”


Roughing It No More

Where once there was a safari tent, now a Norwegian-inspired cabin calls. By Lauren Murrow

Eight years ago, a pair of city-weary Castro dwellers purchased two and a half acres of land on top of Inverness Ridge and pitched a roomy safari tent. The couple would take their kids, now 9 and 12, up there for weekend campouts and summer getaways. When the family eventually decided to build a proper home on the site in 2013, they didn’t want to lose that roughing-it spirit. “We loved being so immersed in nature,” says one of the owners, who prefer not to be named. “We wanted a place that’s not precious. Somewhere the kids could still roll around in the dirt.”

The family enlisted Emily Huang and Greg Iboshi of Huang Iboshi Architecture, who had previously renovated their Victorian in San Francisco. “Our mission,” Huang says, “was to maximize the views while minimizing the home’s overall footprint.” The structure’s design was largely inspired by a cabin in northern Norway that one of the homeowners had visited as a child. “I gravitate toward simplicity and natural materials,” the client says. “Spaces that feel modern but warm.”

The exterior is sheathed in naturally weathered Alaskan yellow cedar, while the interior incorporates whitewashed plywood and white oak. In their effort to emphasize the surrounding views, the architects started by selecting the windows: a series of industrial-style Fleetwood panes, chosen for their durability. The aluminum frames were given a custom dark bronze finish, an aesthetic that carries over inside the house. The home’s centerpiece is the custom wood-burning Rumford fireplace, which is clad in a thin layer of blackened hot-rolled steel (and emits less smoke than a standard model).

With coastal zone guidelines capping the roof height at 18 feet, Huang and Iboshi devised a clever solution to the sloped site: a bi-level layout with a loft that overlooks the living room. The loft’s gabled ceiling slants from eight feet at its peak to three feet on either side. While that can be a “head knocker” for adults, jokes Huang, it’s ideal as a reading nook or sleepover space for the kids. (It was recently filled with a gaggle of girls for a 12th birthday party.) Throughout, the home’s decor melds contemporary furniture by local designers with vintage pieces from the owners’ collection. Case in point: The living room’s slab coffee table and side tables were custom-made by Inverness artist Ido Yoshimoto, while the framed botanical prints were handed down by the homeowner’s mother, a former high school biology teacher in Norway.

At less than 2,000 square feet, the house is filled with cozy alcoves—a custom window seat here, a tidy office nook there—each with stunning views of the meadow, woods, and valley beyond. The backyard, once the site of family campouts, now holds an outdoor dining area surrounded by vegetable plots and young fruit trees. And off to one side, tucked in a shady glen, the safari tent remains.

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