Architectural Resources Group, Deborah J. Cooper, Principal; Laura Cook Interiors, Laura Cook, Principal; O’Mahony & Myer, Pieter Colenbrander, Principal, Electrical Engineering; David Orgish, Principal, Lighting Design
Photography by David Wakely
Lodge at the Presidio
by Camille LeFevre
Adventures in San Francisco have long focused, for a majority of travelers, on such well-known destinations as Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building Marketplace and Ghirardelli Square; the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill; and Golden Gate Park and Bridge. Not far from the iconic bridge, within the Golden Gate Recreation Area, lies another destination fast becoming a hot spot: The Presidio.
Claimed by the Spanish from the original indigenous inhabitants in 1776, then later transferred to Mexican ownership, the United States took control in 1848 and turned the area into a military base with more than 800 structures. Since the Presidio Trust took over the site two decades ago, in partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, 1,191 acres have been transformed into a destination brimming with recreation, education, and hospitality opportunities that are open to all.
In 2012, Pershing Hall, a former bachelor-officers’ quarters, was renovated into the Inn at the Presidio. Six months later, Funston House next door was renovated to add four more guest rooms to the Inn. The Inn has been booked to 94 percent occupancy ever since. To build on this success, the Trust asked Architectural Resources Group, San Francisco, which specializes in historic preservation and adaptive reuse, to do the same with the former Montgomery Street Barracks, also known as Building 105. The U.S. Army built the barracks between 1895-97 to accommodate six artillery companies, a cavalry troop, and two infantry companies.
Last year, the 43,038-square-foot Lodge at the Presidio opened in the former barracks. Within two months, it was the number-one hotel on Trip Advisor, says Deborah J. Cooper, Principal, Architectural Resources Group (ARG). “The Lodge has views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, downtown, and the Presidio’s parade grounds,” she explains. “Also, the Presidio Trust has created so many activities in the area that are appealing to visitors, including 24 miles of hiking trails, 25 miles of bicycle paths, and museums and restaurants within the historic buildings. It’s an incredibly inspiring location.”
Centrally located on the Main Post in the heart of the Presidio, the 42-room Lodge provides easy access to the park’s amenities, as well as downtown San Francisco. Because the barracks contributes to the Presidio National Historic Landmark district, Cooper and her team utilized the principles of adaptive reuse: They preserved the barracks’ historic elements and original character while reimagining the Lodge as a contemporary hospitality amenity. The Lodge was also designed in compliance with the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standard.
The red-brick and sandstone barracks building was renovated in the 1980s, then sat vacant for more than a decade before ARG began work on the project. “The exterior envelope had signs of wear,” Cooper says, “including some damage to the stone sills. The building needed a new roof. Many exterior doors were gone. But the historic elements were still there.” Brick walls, most of the windows, cast-iron columns, and the wood framing were intact, she adds, “as was the original floor plan once we removed the non-historic infill walls.”
The front of the building, with its welcoming porch and two doorways, remains intact. The former barracks is actually comprised of two buildings conjoined by a party wall. The two entrances open into a lobby with restored stairways on either side of the wall, which gives the building a simple symmetry. After abating hazardous materials, removing the 1980s wall additions, and strengthening the structure to meet California’s seismic code for historic buildings, ARG began reprogramming the interior.
“We looked at how to layout the common spaces and the guest rooms in a way that would allow the original plan to read,” Cooper says. The first level’s large open spaces are arranged in quadrants. Offices original to the barracks were not reconstructed in the new spacious hotel lobby, but ARG indicates their former locations with dark wood inlaid into the floors where old walls stood. The lobby also opens out to a back porch where a new courtyard with fire pit beckons guests to enjoy views of the Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge.
The lobby’s ceiling beams align with the front desk, to further reinforce the space’s symmetry. Brass striping along the desk provides a detail “drawn from the military aesthetic,” Cooper explains, “which is spare and crisp.” In collaboration with Laura Cook Interiors, Sausalito, ARG developed a color palette of blues, grays, and gold for the Lodge’s interiors that reference not only the building’s military history, but also the sky and ocean.
A large space at the front of the building is now the dining room. Here the designers wrapped a new element, the Servery, with an ocean mural. They also used wall graphics behind the beds in three rooms on the third floor. “Two of the rooms are very small, so we brought in nature with the wall graphics to create a sense of expansiveness and connect the interior spaces with the outdoors,” Cooper says. “On the third floor, in a large room perfect for families, we put a 30-foot mural across the main wall.”
In the other guest rooms, canvas headboards reference tents the military issued when servicemen camped on the parade grounds. Lighting throughout the building, whether integrated into the structure or portable and decorative, had to include light sources that meet California code and LEED requirements. “Integrating new ‘authentic’-looking LEDs and the State’s current lighting-control requirements into the historic structure took lots of thought and collaboration,” says David Orgish, Principal, Lighting Design Studio, O’Mahony & Myer, San Rafael.
Orgish finessed the color temperatures of the various LED light sources to complement the interior décor and the hotel’s hospitality needs. He made sure the decorative fixtures that Cook specified, including pendants and chandeliers, could accommodate LED products with the appropriate lumen output for the visual needs of the space. Digital occupancy sensors for public spaces and key-card overrides for the guest rooms had to be integrated into the historic structure. Wall-mounted picture lights, recessed accent lights, and recessed wall washers were selected for specific artworks and historic artifacts.
To meet the building code and simplify conduit routing within the historic structure, the emergency lighting system was wired separately from the architectural lighting. Additionally, the covers of the emergency lights were field painted to match the surrounding architectural surfaces. On the building’s exterior, custom-shielded pole lights prevent light from entering guest rooms and from illuminating the night sky.
An energy-efficient VRF heating and cooling system was installed after “an in-depth conversation about whether to air condition the building,” Cooper says. “At the Presidio, most of the buildings are cooled by the ocean breeze, rather than mechanically.” To keep the building quiet for guests, the client opted to install air conditioning. The design team sited the air handers on top of the two stair towers and wrapped them with louvers painted to match the roof color.
The Presidio Trust has “set a high bar for sustainability for the entire campus,” Cooper adds. “In the future, the Trust is looking to make the whole area a net-zero water and energy site.” Sustainable and spectacular, the site has become a top tourist attraction for the City by the Bay.
“The Army gifted us with iconic buildings in a great location,” Josh Bagley, Director, Real Estate Development, Presidio Trust, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s an authenticity to the building you’re in and the place you’re in. The plan was putting these buildings back into service in a way that respects their histories and that allows guests or visitors to experience them in a new way.”