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San Francisco Adaptive Reuse: From Church to Tech Office

San Francisco Adaptive Reuse: From Church to Tech Office

When it comes to finding available, unique spaces in San Francisco, tech companies like Twitter, AirBnB, and countless others take on a hermit crab approach. Limited space, dense urban conditions, and nightmarish building regulations make it nearly impossible to build from the ground up. In response, tech companies have resorted to adaptive reuse. Repurposing neglected

St. Josephs Church, San Francisco, California

When it comes to finding available, unique spaces in San Francisco, tech companies like Twitter, AirBnB, and countless others take on a hermit crab approach. Limited space, dense urban conditions, and nightmarish building regulations make it nearly impossible to build from the ground up. In response, tech companies have resorted to adaptive reuse. Repurposing neglected buildings and industrial warehouses into unique, open, and collaborative spaces seems to be the visual aesthetic of the tech world.

St. Josephs Church west entrance, San Francisco, California

One adaptive reuse project in particular stands out from the rest. Vacant since the 1989 earthquake, Saint Joseph’s Church may be transformed into tech offices in San Francisco’s tech driven SOMA district. This historic city landmark will hold over 18,000 square feet of office space, 1,300 square feet of retail space, and 2,500 square feet of assembly space. Renovations to the church include repairs to the exterior, construction of a freestanding mezzanine, and additional seismic strengthening. The repurposed space will remain sensitive to the original church’s Neo-Romanesque style and preserve the facade’s ornamentation and stained glass windows. The renovation of the church has received a thumbs up from the Historic Preservation Commission and brings hope of revitalizing the corner of Howard and 10th.

The open floor plan and unique architectural elements fit neatly into the tech aesthetic. Establishing a tech company within a church in a tech powered city is an amusing thought. It almost seems as if the tech company is the new religious institution. However, some have already started to question whether or not the previous program of the building will deter people away from establishing a new company in the building. Some tech individuals are already claiming that they would not work in the environment due to religious beliefs, while others are intrigued by such a unique and historical space.

View of east side of St. Joseph's Church, San Francisco, California

The Saint Joseph’s Church is not the only church which has been repurposed in such a way. The Second Church of Christ Scientist on Dolores Street will receive a similar treatment by being renovated into residential units with a loft set within the church dome and a garden in place of the parking lot. Architecturally, churches offer a distinct character through their open space, beautiful light, and detailed ornamentation. In San Francisco, not all orphaned churches receive a second chance. Seismic complications quickly deem structures unsafe and can rack up a large bill. The difficult decision surfaces when we must decide which historic churches to salvage.         

What are your thoughts regarding the adaptive reuse of San Francisco churches? What adaptive reuse projects are taking place in your community? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments area below.

Credits: Images by Lauren Golightly. Data linked to sources.

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Lauren Golightly is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a degree in Architecture and Art History. Her studies in art history are based in architectural history, theory and criticism, and focus on modern and contemporary influences. A back...

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