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Light shadows at 111 Sutter © Brixton Key
Light shadows at 111 Sutter © Brixton Key
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9 Awesome Building Foyers In San Francisco’s FiDi

Picture of Brixton Key
Updated: 11 March 2016
Foyer is a sexy French word that whistles through the lips. Originally Parisian theatrical parlance for the room where deep pocketed patrons met their actress sugars for public preening, theatrical foyers dot San Francisco‘s FiDi landscape and its SOMA edges. Some are small and intimate with Art Deco detailing, others are huge metropolises open to street scenes through their vertical sheer glass frontage, zooming stories high.
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Foundry Square III, 505 Howard Street

A gang of four office buildings designed by Studio, quad Howard and 1st Street, unifying the busy intersection; however, check out the landscaped walls tapestried by living plants and peopled by stark bronze white patinaed statues at Foundry Square III. Mythically deconstructed Greek inspirations, Boy III and Sleeping Boy are by the British sculptor Thomas Houseago. Ponder over them with a coffee from the adjacent Red Door Coffee, while breathing naturally plant-cleaned air.

Foundry Square lll, 505 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Boy lll at Foundry Square III © Brixton Key

Boy lll at Foundry Square III © Brixton Key

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Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building, 140 New Montgomery Street

When it opened in 1927, 140 New Montgomery Street was San Francisco’s tallest building, which it remained until 1964. Back in the day when Pacific Telephone and and Telegraph occupied the structure, the area was a dodgy skid row. Doss houses and soup kitchen’s lined nearby Howard Street, cool art school kids drinking lattes on the move. Sadly, for many years the building slowly emptied, became old fashioned and expendable until it reopened completely refurbished and modernized two years ago. Home to Lumosity, the foyer feels European grand with islands of leather seating, sculptured flower arrangements, seductive lighting, and marble floors. Great restaurants are reached from the foyer, Trou Normand and Mourad, and local coffee bars are within a stone’s throw.

Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building, 140 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Pacific Bell window medallion © Brixton Key

Pacific Bell window medallion © Brixton Key

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Russ Building, 235 Montgomery Street

The foyer in the Russ Building is cloistered. The vibe: small ribbed ceiling chapels leading off a Gothic cathedral nave. Hushed voices and a chiselled stone sign for the smoke shop. Remake jeans and sneakers with pinstriped suits and hats, and you can pull from your rucksack a briefcase full of grainy noir movie scenarios. A chill environment for daydreams.

Russ Building, 235 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Cloistered elevators in the Russ Building © Brixton Key

Cloistered elevators in the Russ Building © Brixton Key

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1 Kearny Street

The foyer inside 1 Kearny Street is a marriage of light, shape, and form. It’s a tremendously intimate and yet expansive art installation. This super cool foyer leads to a magical Lilliputian 11th-floor roof garden, once past the amusing guard, Kelly, whose scripted roof rules are hilarious and well worth the trip. The views are San Francisco panoramic, and back through Iwamotoscott Lightfold, the feet refreshed for more shopping, sightseeing, or that cloud code meeting.

1 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Shadows and Light at 1 Kearny © Brixton Key

Shadows and Light at 1 Kearny © Brixton Key

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Hunter-Dulin Building, 111 Sutter Street

The foyer at 111 Sutter Street is French Renaissance Revival. The building, clad with carved Granitex gargoyles and the Four Seasons motif, is L7-biz serious and yet snappy. A bas-relief of Mercury stands guard at shiny brass doors. The chequered marble floors, polished and patinaed by sneakers and shoes, provide the backdrop for BBC costume drama elegance, Miss Fisher suave, a must-drop-in when cruising the FiDi; the building once housed NBC’s West Coast headquarters.

Hunter-Dulin Building, 111 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Light shadows at 111 Sutter © Brixton Key

Light shadows at 111 Sutter © Brixton Key

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275 Battery Street

Behind the scroll-fronted glass entrance to 275 Battery, Bill Barrett’s Biale Merengue bronze sculpture dances on as the late 1980s modernist building’s foyer receives a face lift. Taking its title from the fast syncopated dance that originated in Haiti in the early 20th century, the Biale Merengue echoes the pavement dance of FiDi shakers and movers Friday nights as biz turns to pleasure. The sculpture’s fluid movement fills the foyer with joy and should be seen.

275 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Biale Merengue sculpture at 275 Battery Street © Brixton Key

Biale Merengue sculpture at 275 Battery Street © Brixton Key

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One Bush Street

Designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill, the freestanding International Style architectural landmark is a glass-fronted island that towers from its 1.3 acre triangular Market Street site. The style of building that England’s Prince Charles has railed against, the foyer here is simply beautiful, a stunning argument for an office structure free of ornamentation, left to reflect its neighbors on all four sides. Reached by a bridge of illusion echoing Japanese courtyard landscaping, the foyer inside is glass open and lit by daylight so subtly that the elevators seem as if they belong outside with the mountain of buildings.

I Bush Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Floating in a tranquil island © Brixton Key

Floating in a tranquil island © Brixton Key

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350 Mission Street

Soaring LED art forms cascade across the lobby at Salesforce’s recently completed 350 Mission Street office block. This foyer shouts modern clean and free to cloud compute. It begs to be visited as it dovetails nicely with another Salesforce office across the road at 50 Fremont, where slow moving videos of redwood forest scenes take up the entire wall behind the security counters fronting the elevator bank. Where One Bush Street relies on openness to reflect on city landscape, these buildings use computer fantasy to create the illusion of a work laissez-faire away from it all with a cell phone and internet access. An illusion. Perhaps. Salesforce is building acres of office space in the triangle of this area. Open but chained?

350 Mission, Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Soaring LED art installation at 350 Mission © Brixton Key

Soaring LED art installation at 350 Mission © Brixton Key

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One Market Plaza

One Market Plaza is where three office structures join into one almost solid block of buildings behind the entrances on Market, Steuart, and Spear Streets, and beyond the foyers is an inside plaza that climbs floors above to a suspended glass ceiling. In a utopian play worthy of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, it’s not shopfronts that catch the eye but cliff-front buildings. A contemporary architectural building that places people within an open environment, there’s a cool living installation at Autodesk on the second floor celebrating the creative process and the postmodern tools that made the structural openness. Tucked into the corner of Market and Steuart is one of the city’s finest restaurants, One Market, and close by there’s great eats on the Embarcadero Esplanade at the Ferry Building.

One Market Plaza, Market Street, San Francisco, CA, USA

Office cliff face at One Market Plaza © Brixton Key

Office cliff face at One Market Plaza © Brixton Key

By Brixton Key

Brixton Key, author of the fictional memoir Charlie Six, lives in the Rincon Hill district, San Francisco. Formerly the manager of Chris Isaak, Brixton loves walking through his adopted city to stumble upon hidden delights.