Projects

Alibaba

Located on the 26th floor of one of San Francisco’s Art Deco masterpieces—the old PacBell Building, built in 1925—Alibaba’s new office mixes modern austerity with refinements from a more ornamental age. The local office of China’s largest e-commerce company demonstrates how historic architecture can facilitate work focused intently on the future.

Located on the 26th floor of one of San Francisco’s Art Deco masterpieces—the old PacBell Building, built in 1925—Alibaba’s new office mixes modern austerity with refinements from a more ornamental age. The local office of China’s largest e-commerce company demonstrates how historic architecture can facilitate work focused intently on the future.

  • City San Francisco

  • Year 2015

  • Size 8,000 sf

  • Team Denise Cherry, Alma Lopez, Kelly Waters, Sarah Dziuba, Grant Usken, Clem Soga, Renee Laput-Mendoza

  • Photographer Jasper Sanidad

Mixing Raw with Deco

Here raw concrete, exposed ductwork and the minimalist elegance of contemporary design combine with features from the existing building—20 foot ceilings, original hardwood floors, decorative molding—to create a unique hybrid.  O+A’s challenge was to achieve a harmonious balance between the classic elements of the space and the requirements—both practical and aesthetic—of a tech office in the 21st century.

Natural Light on Natural Surfaces

We began by accentuating values shared by both eras. Interior brick evokes the strength of early 20th century commerce—and the energy of 21st century entrepreneurship. Natural light flowing through the space from big windows passes through glass partitions exuding the early optimism of both centuries. The mix of glass, pecan wood, white plaster, brass fixtures and brick gives this space a timeless finish that travels seamlessly from 1925 to 2015.

The Sistine Effect

Pulling it all together, decorative bands of ceiling plaster soften the modern edges and give the office a cozy visual unity. An example of the fine craftsmanship that used to be standard in interior architecture—and now represents modern design’s determination that these skills not be lost—the bands were hand-painted for Alibaba in classic Michelangelo fashion by one artisan on a ladder with a small brush.

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