Projects: Renovation

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco, CA

The Intent

The citizens of San Francisco voted to bring San Francisco's City Hall, a National Historic Landmark, into the 21st century by respecting and maintaining the building's historic character.

KTA completed this project in a joint venture association with Heller-Manus Architects and Finger & Moy Architects.

The Solution

Until the 1989 earthquake, City Hall was a sadly neglected, much altered building. City employees were crammed into every available space in the building including corridors, closets and mezzanines accessible only by ladders. After the earthquake, City Hall was evacuated with the assistance of Komorous-Towey Architects (see San Francisco City Hall Relocation) and underwent a seismic retrofit utilizing base isolators. The City wished to use this opportunity to restore the City Hall to its former Beaux Arts splendor.

The goal was to remove the inappropriate alterations and prepare the building to be reoccupied by City offices. The spaces used by the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor's office and his support staff were custom designed for these functions. Other spaces, mainly the Third and Fourth floors were designed to be flexible and changeable, and to accommodate a range of different departments and needs. This open space plan approach allowed for a functional use of the historical courtrooms, which could be left intact. Where the original architecture had been removed or altered beyond repair, new offices and support areas were built in keeping with the original design, KTA was in charge of several such areas. On the Main floor, the original light courts were replaced, allowing daylight back into the interiors of the building after some fifty years.

Carey and Company were the architectural historians responsible for restoring the rotunda area on the interior and the dome on the exterior. KTA, in turn, designed the ramps at the second story of the rotunda area. This allows disabled access and views from that area for the first time since the building's completion. The ramp, handrails and railing were designed using the motifs of the original railings, while meeting all current codes.

KTA also designed all typical details for new cabinets, counters, wood trim, wall types, and doors throughout the building. KTA was responsible for the design of new Cashier's Area for the Treasurer on the Main floor.

One of the most important aspects of City Hall's renovation was the installation of thousands of feet of electrical, telephone, and data wiring and cable. The unique construction of the historical walls made this a design and technical challenge. KTA was also instrumental in the routing and placement of mechanical air handling equipment and duct runs throughout the building. It was a difficult challenge to avoid obtrusive soffits, chases or other intrusions. This was especially critical in areas of symmetrical wood paneling, marble, special finishes or plaster details. It is a great credit to the designers that all these systems and wires are now invisible.

The City Hall project has been a great success and has been well received by the public as well as the City officials and employees. KTA has received numerous awards, including those from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Institute of Architects (AIA).

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