Situated half way between San Francisco and San Jose, Redwood City is a place in the active pursuit of an updated urban identity. Being strategically located at the northern edge of Silicon Valley- Electronic Arts is headquartered here- it straddles traditional and modernist imagery for its civic and residential architecture alike. Neither a fully colonized outpost for tech companies nor a suburban dormitory for commuters to both cities, this is a town seeking a recognizable presence on the San Francisco Peninsula corridor.
As an infill plot located in a moderate density area and next to a governmental compound filled with key institutional facilities, the oddly sized lot inscribed in a triangular parcel necessitated a less conventional approach to its architecture. And the design outcome is consistent with the latest trends toward a modernist aesthetic slowly emerging in the district. Still holding on to tested practices of reinforcing the street edges and representing the vertical hierarchy of urban intervention in the manner of the 19th-century European block, the scheme presents kinetic traits that place it squarely in the 21st-century sensibility.
The blend of the modern and traditional informs the design moves of this project. Against the flatness of the elevations envisioned in precast panels made to look like terracotta, the layering of reveals, mullions, glazing surfaces, and fascias make the articulated elegance of a building skin as refined as it is cultivated in its architectural references. In styling the otherwise squarish facades, great attention is paid to building up a crescendo toward the upper level. There the glass is recessed 6 feet back to create a generous linear terrace linked to a grand balcony in the back of the structure. That cushion of glass and the deep shadow from the stepped back treatment is what make the roof floats.
This place wants to be a memorable building, a visual anchor for people to remember and to point to as they orient themselves in the city fabric. The massing is as earthbound as it is suggestive of weightlessness. Glass appears on all those points in a structure where load would be ordinarily transferred to the ground: the top floor, the corners, and the base. Its verticality is most pronounced at the intersection of Fuller and Winslow street, where the resulting acute angle triggers an upward thrust raising the roof hovering on the glassed corner. We name this spot the “Corner Loggia”, a special place for the passers-by to look forward to either visiting and/or inhabiting. This powerful gesture is the dynamic termination of the sculptural roof element, continuous and distinctive against the skyline. Evocative of expressionist architecture, the formal tension of this specific moment in the design signals the apex in a scheme defined by respectful rules of urban design. In contributing to the urban character of the neighborhood, this is conceived as a city building, courteous to the adjacent edifices, but with an attitude about itself. It is envisioned to be pedestrian-friendly, non-intimidating in its outer form, yet unforgettable in its studied materiality.
On this project, great attention is given to bring warmth, texture, and richness of detail and articulation of the building massing. The schism that late modern architecture has fuelled between the everyday people and their environment is amenable to creative solutions still in an architectural language of our time. The pride typically bestowed to traditional construction and lost to the anonymity of the urban blight is dormant in the proverbial “man on the street”, but can be reawakened in the spirit of listening to human needs and shaping their form through fine-grained sensibility. We hold this to be city-making architecture.
Redwood City, California
70,000 sq ft, 6-Story Building over Parking Garage (104 spaces)