Living in San Francisco for decades, Perkins + Will senior associate Seth Meisler always avoided the Tenderloin. “I’m a tough guy, but it still scared me,” Meisler says of the district, with its reputation for crime. Now that’s changing, thanks in part to Meisler’s design for the Tenderloin Museum, conceived and supported by the nonprofit Uptown Tenderloin. The museum’s mission is to change perceptions and to draw visitors by highlighting the area’s rich history. San Francisco’s gay and lesbian movement started in the Tenderloin, and the Grateful Dead and Santana recorded major albums there.
Working pro bono over the course of seven years, Meisler led a Perkins + Will team in the design of the museum, which occupies the ground level of the landmark Cadillac Hotel—a luxury establishment when it opened in 1907, a year after the earthquake, and now an SRO run by the nonprofit Reality House West. He chose the color red for signage and the transom of the new storefront system as a way to attract the attention of passersby. Inside, the airy 3,300-square-foot space has become a community hub, hosting film screenings, lectures, photography exhibitions, and, of course, live music.