A San Francisco Bay institution for 97 years, the San Francisco Chronicle, on the corner of Mission and 5th Street, required a newsroom design that reflected the evolution of communication—bringing the past, present and future together. The office space was the victim of a series of small changes over the years and in need of modernization in all senses: technology, amenities and design aesthetic. With an extensive background in historic renovation and adaptive reuse, HGA was the ideal choice to achieve the Chronicle’s goal of creating a more modern, open and collaborative experience—infused with technology— while respecting its heritage as the city’s oldest newspaper. The resulting design balances history and technological modernity to provide the publication’s intergenerational staff with an adaptable and collaborative experience.
Although a major Chronicle remodel had been rumored for over a decade, the time was finally right in 2021 when most of the newsroom staff was working from home due to the pandemic. While changes to the newsroom over the years were not uncommon—occasional new furniture, the introduction of computers in the 1980s, etc.—HGA’s renovation is the most revolutionary in its history.
Bill Nagel, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, reflected on the project, “The renovation shows the commitment we have to the history of San Francisco, but that we’re also looking forward to the future of our beloved city.” He continued, “We’re going to be here for a long, long time, and our readers can rely on that.”
The complete overhaul brought the space down to the studs, and the process became a unique kind of archaeological dig through the storied past of the historic landmark. Unexpected elements that hadn’t been seen for generations, including hardwood flooring, terracotta tile and even a shower, were unearthed. Some elements, like the hardwood floor, were decidedly kept and integrated into the new design. The team’s ability to work through the various surprises the project presented is credited to the connection between the architect and SC Builders, staying nimble and problem solving on the fly, without ever missing a deadline.
To achieve the Chronicle’s goal of balancing a classical feel with a fresh, modern look, the HGA team took advantage of pre-existing elements while introducing new ones. Exposing the ceiling allowed more access to natural light through the high arch windows, while breaking up small, segmented workspaces gave way to a variety of desk configurations: hoteling, shared space and quiet spaces designated for independent research and writing. LED light and fresh signage juxtapose historic building elements. Enhanced technology and design reflect the evolution of immediate communication into the digital realm, while the lobby and third-floor reception areas (designated historic landmarks), with their wood paneling and original stained-glass windows, remain untouched. HGA worked closely with CRI to curate the furniture selections to enhance the varied work postures to support the newsroom.
“We are pleased to unveil the most significant renovation of the Chronicle’s 97-year history,” said Melissa Pesci, AIA, NCIDQ, LEED AP, principal at HGA. “The new space is a continuation of telling stories—a conduit of information to the people—about San Francisco, the Bay Area and the world.”
The references to culture and heritage in the Chronicle’s new newsroom do not stop at the corner of Mission and 5th Street, however. Many design elements pay homage to the city of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. A theme of “bridges and communication that connect the Bay Area” plays out in the newsroom, with artistic lighting paying homage to the Golden Gate and Bay bridges on the most prominent wall. Bay Area bridges play another role in the naming of conference rooms and in the design of the main boardroom. Even the San Francisco fog receives a subtle nod through the window film applied to the office and conference room glazing.
HGA is a national multi-disciplinary design firm rooted in architecture and engineering. Founded in 1953, we believe that enduring, impactful design results from deep insight into the people and passions that animate each unique environment. Our 12 offices from coast to coast craft specialized teams to serve clients in education, arts, healthcare, corporate, government, community, and energy industries. Visit HGA.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
CONTACT: Andrea Tobias, HGA Business Development
atobias /at/ hga.com