Reimagining a three-story, 14,000-square-foot abandoned warehouse building in the South of Market, or SoMA, district in San Francisco is an interesting challenge. That challenge becomes far more difficult when the abandoned warehouse also is on the National Registry of Historic Places. That means the structure needs to be kept intact and all siding must be replaced “in-kind.” The results of this ambitious project earned the former warehouse the winning spot in the Retrofit category of the 2011 Metalmag Architectural Awards.
Awards judge Tim Wurtele, architect with HDR in Omaha, Neb., explains the magnitude of the challenge: “This project took on the task of maintaining a site that is on the National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco. As if that was not enough, it also was San Francisco’s first LEED Gold for Adaptive Reuse [from the Washington, D.C.–based U.S. Green Building Council] project.”
The stunning 355 11th Street—Matarozzi/Pelsinger Building deserves all of the recognition it’s been getting. The second floor houses the headquarters of Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders, who also acted as general contractor of the project. The end results speak for themselves, but getting to this point wasn’t easy.
“Given the requirements the local jurisdiction placed on reuse of the existing structure, this transformation was amazing,” says awards judge Jason Wright, associate with Hickok Cole Architects in Washington. He refers to the replaced and decidedly unsalvageable corrugated metal siding on the original structure. Corrugated zinc was used as the replacement siding due to its sustainability, durability, and the fact that its appearance is in line with the historic, industrial character of the building.
Punches of Light
The siding is perforated on the east and west facing walls, creating a clever façade that conceals the newly built, operable windows behind it. This second skin also reduces the solar heat buildup during the day. This greatly reduces the need for air conditioning and allows ample natural light to enter the space.
The panels were not pre-perforated—the patterns were carefully designed via customized computer numerical control (CNC) milling. This control and attention to detail allowed for a building-scale gradient from opaque to over 50 percent open that flows seamlessly across the façade and creates a visually stunning effect. As the light changes throughout the day, it allows for reflection of the glass behind it and as night falls it makes the lighted interior visible from the outside. “The transformation in the evening reveals the metal screening with punches of light behind and gives the building a whole new feel,” Wright explains.
While very little fenestration is visible from the outside, there are a few newly created apertures of metal and glass. On the exterior, these dramatic features have been designed to blend seamlessly with the zinc siding and add a modern detail to the historic look of the building. On the interior, these features offer dramatic contrast to the visible and original wooden structural frame. The large, narrow apertures also create a sense of entry and exit to the building.
The old wooden post and beam frame of the building has been kept entirely visible and is especially impressive when viewed in the evening through the perforated siding. It’s this mix of wood, metal, and light, as well as the sense of old and new that makes the building so special. Awards judge Raffi Tamassian, designer with DNK Architects in Cincinnati, explains, “ … the original utilitarian timber structure is rediscovered as a counterpoint to the slick metal surface of the interior and exterior elements.”
Perhaps it’s Tamassian who best explains why the Matarozzi/Pelsinger Building was such a successful project: “If there is a factual definition of value added, this must be it—starting from the utilitarian reorganization of the space, to reducing the carbon footprint of the building, to the contemporary reinterpretation of the building skin, down to every single interior detail.” And for those working in the building, it’s a striking, yet comfortable space with plenty of light, comfortable temperatures, fresh air, and a pleasing view of the world outside. At the same time, the new metal skin offers a degree of privacy, as well.
Adam Miller writes about metal and architecture from Chicago.