Newsletter | Mar/Apr 2002

Review of January Event - Yerba Buena Tower
by Suzan Swabacker, OWA; Lavina Liburd


While not a member's project, the Steering Committee felt that the mixed-use development was of sufficient importance to the redevelopment of downtown San Francisco that it would be beneficial to arrange a tour. Guided by Connie Maxwell, Project Manager at Gary Handel and Associates, we toured the hotel lobby and bar, as well as the rooms, which featured interior design by Frank Nicholson, the condominiums above (interiors by Gary Handel and Associates), and the Sports Club designed by Gensler.

I communicated with member Suzan Swabacker via email to get her impressions of the January meeting--a tour of the Four Seasons hotel and residences in San Francisco. Although ambivalent about the building's impact on the SF skyline, Suzan was impressed by some of the clever design solutions employed in various areas of the project.

An interesting feature of the interiors of the hotel and residences was the fact that the floor assemblies were designed to meet the perimeter girders halfway through their depth rather than sitting on top in order to maximize the exposed glazing area. This resulted in a raised sill about one and a half feet wide, which was nicely detailed as a window seat, and as Suzan noted, a similar detail was nicely carried through to disguise I-beams in the walls of the hotel guest rooms. The inclusion of full height operable panels in the curtain wall was a little surprising. These panels swing outward just enough to allow ventilation without the risk of falling.

The project incorporates an older adjacent five-story building, which serves as the pedestrian entry to the Four Seasons Residences, the sales office, and houses the Architect's offices. We were told that the four-hour wall separating the old and new structures is penetrated to allow the hotel reception desk and a portion of the bar to be accommodated in the older building. However, owing to excellent detailing the transition from one structure to the other is invisible from within the space. Also impressive was the lack of noise throughout the condos and the hotel. Clearly the mechanical systems were well done and the flooring system solidly built.

The vehicular entrance to the Four Season's Hotel is, surprisingly, located on Stevenson Street--a small alley running between, and parallel to Market and Mission streets. Suzan found this a "nice way to handle traffic without being on Market Street" which would have been undesirable considering the typical congestion on this main thoroughfare.

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