2013 Market Winner: Twenty Five Lusk by CCS Architecture

As the winners of the 2013 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 48 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Cass Calder Smith, principal and CEO, discusses working with a lot of different elements, creating contrast and adding drama and “edginess.”

When did you decide to pursue a profession and design?
I decided this in high school when I started taking architectural drawing and mechanical drafting. I loved this like crazy and I could tell I wanted this to be my profession later in life. I developed this further when I was in college and studied architecture, and continue to be an architect today.

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How did you find your love for design, has there been anyone that played a major role in that?
I found my love for design pretty much during undergraduate school at UC Berkeley. I started having really great design studios which then led to seminars building models. I continued developing my skills and had lots of satisfaction out of design, enhanced with what I was learning in architectural history. I am inspired by some of the masters of the day; such as Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Louis Kahn.

Tell me about the selection process for this project. What you think made them select you for this work?
They interviewed a variety of Architects pretty carefully, and through that process we were selected. Since CCS has a deeper track record with a lot of successful similar types of projects around San Francisco, I think that was the key determining factor for them. I would also like to think that CCS was selected by them for the project because of the team that we bring to the table. Barbara Vickroy, our Director of Interior Design, and Brian Southwick, our Senior Restaurant Associate and myself put forth a very well-rounded confident team of design, management and interiors.

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What was my first memory of the project?
My first memory of the project was meeting the clients in my office for the first time and listening to them explain what they envisioned for the project. That really stuck with me – and the process with the team from the beginning to the very end.

How did you decide to incorporate fireplaces into the space?
Fireplaces are definitely focal points and a contrast of the rest of the environment and most of the lower-level. These were about creating distinctive areas for the lounge that people could gather around, much like a campfire. They became very dramatic vertical elements that helped connect the lower spaces to the upper space – in addition of that they were just very cool, and went with the overall ambiance which helped “young it up.”

How did you balance designing a modern restaurant in keeping with the original warehouse elements?
This is what the project is mostly about: it’s a contrast and counterpoint between what architectural elements we inserted, versus what was in the existing building. The building is very rectilinear, layered and dark, with masonry and heavy wood. We put in angles that cut the space diagonally, white plaster, polished stainless Polish glass and generally more reflective finishes.

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Tell me something that was unusual about the project.
The fact that we were creating something higher-end, and possibly more sophisticated than what you would usually find in a South of Market restaurant in San Francisco, so we really had to find a way to create a destination project.

Think about a situation when things turned out different than you expected and how did outcome impact and result of the project?
Things really turned out as expected in general, but the contrast between all of the white, polished stainless steel, and reflective finishes, in relation to the brick and concrete, created a more vivid contrast than I expected – but ended up in a very positive way.

What about this project represents why you chose to be a designer?
There are various elements of this project that I think represent why I became a designer: it has a lot of problem solving, involves a lot of brand recognition, and concept of style. It was a very complicated building and required a lot of thought and teamwork to figure out the best way to renovate it, in order for it to become a restaurant as well as a multilevel venue which had upper and lower spaces.

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What are you most proud of?
I would say I’m most proud of the way that we wrestled with the building spatially, and although I like coming up with finishes and working with other people to make that happen. As an architect I’m much more interested about space, and in this project – I feel that we achieved success and it was exemplary.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned during this process?
I learned that even when you push a project to pretty extreme edginess, people will appreciate that.

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What was the happiest moment of the project?
I think the happiest moment was when it was very nearly finished being built and when we saw it all come together – to really see it the spaces and the finishes which were stark contrasts. Another happy moment was when we’re working through design very early on, and we came up with a concept of the “Gucci interior” – which would be our Metaphor for creating everything ‘new and clean’ against everything that was ‘old and rough’.

What have been the customer’s reactions to the space?
The public’s reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. People are very surprised to find a restaurant like this at the end of an alley, and they mainly say that they’re so glad that they found it and they’re just often saying it’s very, very beautiful.

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