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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.