Ron Nyren -- Interior Design, 7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
In the homeland-security era, federal architecture is already tricky: It must invite the public—but defend against potential terrorists. Now add sustainability requirements: Welcome daylight, but keep out solar heat. The San Francisco Federal Building by Morphosis carries off both balancing acts with pizzazz.
"We decided," principal Thom Mayne says, "to challenge the idea of the generic office building." And not to mirror the low-rise 1905 U.S. Court of Appeals across the street. His design stacks the bulk of the offices in a narrow 18-story tower along the edge of the 2-acre site, leaving room for a public plaza with a four-story annex and a café.
Perforated steel sunscreens plunge down the tower's south-facing glass facade, fold as they approach the ground, and hinge up over a grassy berm, making drama out of the need for barriers. The north elevation looks completely different, its orderly vertical rows of translucent glass fins filtering east-west sunlight with a delicacy that belies the building's concrete base.
The tower's 65-foot depth, 13-foot ceilings, operable windows, and perimeter workstations let breezes and natural light penetrate the office floors. A computer system detects changing environmental conditions and adjusts sunscreens, windows, and vents accordingly. How's that for governmental responsiveness?