San Francisco Symphony Hall aerial view, image by Google Satellite
BY: ANDREW NELSON 5:30 AM ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 (SFYIMBY.com)
The San Francisco Symphony has started the entitlement process for renovations of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall at 201 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco’s Civic Center. While plans are preliminary, the Symphony has hired local Mark Cavagnero Associates and the world-renowned Gehry Partners to produce a dramatic reimagination inside and out. Construction is expected to cost at least $100 million.
San Francisco Symphony Hall existing (top) and proposed changes (bottom) along the east elevation, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
The existing symphony hall was built in 1980 with a post-modern design by SOM and Pietro Belluschi. The project shows inspiration, reflecting the neighboring neo-classical icons, City Hall, and the Opera House, with sloped copper roofing and formal exterior organization. Futuristic details include two balconies extending out of the third floor. In a public statement, the Symphony writes that it is “exploring ways to enhance the physical space to make the building more publicly accessible, transparent, and operationally efficient.”
Mark Cavagnero Associates is responsible for designing the project lobby, exterior envelope, and new recital hall. Gehry Partners will oversee the design of the concert hall interior, utilizing the firm’s longstanding experience designing many concert hall interiors, the most famous being the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Preliminary elevation plans show much of the original pre-cast facade, and a portion of the copper roofing will be replaced with curtain-wall glass skin and patterned shading ornamentation.
San Francisco Symphony Hall existing (top) and proposed changes (bottom) along the south elevation, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
San Francisco Symphony Hall existing (top) and proposed changes (bottom) for the north elevation, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
San Francisco Symphony Hall existing (top) and proposed changes (bottom) for the interior concert hall, cross-section illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
The project will expand the Symphony Hall from 210,200 square feet to 247,780 square feet, including a new 400-seat recital hall at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Hayes Street. The interior hall will expand by 5,000 square feet, though the total seat capacity will decrease from 2,700 seats to 2,100 seats. Parking will be increased to hold 76 cars and 133 bicycles, shifting the capacity from a surface lot along Franklin Street into a two-level basement garage. An outdoor performance terrace and event space will replace the surface parking. The Zellerbach Hall at the corner of Franklin Street and Hayes Street will remain the same through construction.
San Francisco Symphony Hall proposed ground-floor map, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
San Francisco Symphony Hall proposed orchestra-level floor plan, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
San Francisco Symphony Hall birds-eye view, illustration by Mark Cavagnero Associates
OJB will be responsible for the landscape architecture. The plans will reduce the public space available along the streetscape with an expanded ground-level floor space, though compensated with widened sidewalks along Grove Street, Franklin Street, and Hayes Street. For visitors, though, the proposal could bring a remarkable expansion of open space, up from 4,600 square feet to 39,000 square feet across several outdoor terraces. The most significant will be the orchestra-level terrace above the lobby, providing a 10,500-square-foot balcony facing City Hall and punctuated with oculus skylights.
San Francisco Symphony Hall, image by Google Street View
Arup is consulting on engineering. The estimated timeline for construction has yet to be established. In a closing statement, the Symphony said they “enthusiastically look forward to sharing details about the plans as they evolve in the future.
Subscribe to YIMBY’s daily e-mail