Founded in 1917, San Francisco Conservatory of Music offers music education in addition to community enrichment programs and world-class performances. The expansion of the school dramatically increased its instructional and performance opportunities as well as its contribution to the cultural life of the Bay Area. The new facility almost doubled the square footage of the Conservatory’s site at 1201 Ortega Street in the largely residential Sunset District and positioned the 84-year-old college of music in the arts nexus of San Francisco, amid Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, new Asian Art Museum and other prominent arts-related venues and institutions.
Acquired in March, 2000, the Conservatory’s Civic Center location consists of two buildings, 50 and 70 Oak Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin. With its historically significant facades and relatively sound structure, 50 Oak Street has been restored and reconfigured, while adjoining 70 Oak, previously under a precautionary shroud since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, was rebuilt in a complementary and contemporary design. Together almost 73,000 net square feet of space was made available to accommodate the Conservatory’s needs for acoustically correct studios, practice rooms and performance spaces as well as classrooms, offices and an expanded library. “The space is a wonderful metaphor for the Conservatory’s past and the future promise embodied by our students,” said Colin Murdoch, Conservatory president. “When completed, the building will be a transfixing combination of historical architecture and contemporary new design,” he said prior to project completion.
Among plan highlights was the innovative utilization of the existing grand ballroom with its elegant gilt columns and ornate 38′ ceiling as the audience chamber for the new Concert Hall, augmented by state-of-the-art performance amenities. The Concert Hall seats up to 450; a new Recital Hall seats up to 160 and a smaller Salon seats up to 120.
The new Conservatory’s library almost triples the square footage of the pre-construction library and faces an open rooftop terrace. Practice rooms increased from 15 to 39 and the number of faculty offices tripled. Contrasting areas of public and private spaces were incorporated into the building, with a dramatic 3-story atrium lobby linking the main entrance to the performance halls. A new street-level entrance facilitate access for people of all abilities to attend the 365-plus performances and events presented by the Conservatory each year.
Plans called for demolition and site preparation to begin in October 2002, groundbreaking in January, 2003, followed by construction, move-in and set-up, opening for the fall, 2005, semester. Project cost was $80 million.