Located at the southeast corner of Post Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco, in the Kearny-Market-Mason-Sutter Conservation District near Union Square, 185 Post Street, a six-floor office building with ground floor retail, offers a new take on restoration strategies. “We wanted to look at the history of the building,” says project architect Koonshing Wong, “but offer a contrasting viewpoint and represent a building of today.”

The original 1908 building, an unreinforced masonry structure, suffered many changes through the years, but the most unfortunate adjustment was a 1951 effort to re-clad it. Brand + Allen's new solution—a core and shell modernization—called for preserving the 1908 masonry façade, removing the 1950s cladding, and enveloping the building with a new glass curtain wall. The building rehabilitation also involved the installation of a new centralized mechanical system, vertical circulation, and a seismic retrofit to bring the building up to current code standards.

Lighting plays a central role in the building's new façade. The transparency level of the curtain wall's fritted glass panels changes with the light, and the building assumes different personalities as the new façade gradually reveals more of the historic structure underneath throughout the day. The curtain wall is set 9 inches from the original masonry, which creates a cavity for airflow, thermal movement, and a location to recess the linear fluorescent lamps that illuminate the façade and horizontal edges of the new window frames.

The idea to shroud the existing structure with a diaphanous glass scrim allows the texture and history of the existing structure to become an integral part of the new design. “There is a synchronicity between the architecture and the lighting,” says Michael Webb, lighting designer at Revolver Design. “The new design exercises simplicity, while respecting the 1908 façade.” With a design solution and a lighting detail that differentiates the old from the new, 185 Post Street interacts with the city—past and present.

Project 185 Post Street, San Francisco

Architect Brand + Allen, San Francisco

Lighting Designer Revolver Design, Berkeley, Calif.

Project Size 26,200 square feet

Project Cost $7.9 million