HGA Transforms Revered San Francisco Chronicle Newsroom

To achieve the San Francisco Chronicle’s goal of balancing a classical feel with a fresh, modern look, the HGA team took advantage of pre-existing elements while introducing new ones.

Formerly consisting of small, segmented spaces, a variety of work configurations were designed for the new space, adaptable for employees’ needs.

A San Francisco Bay institution for 97 years, the San Francisco Chronicle required a newsroom design that reflected the evolution of communication—bringing the past, present and future together. The office space was the victim of a series of small changes over the years and in need of modernization in all senses: technology, amenities and design aesthetic. With an extensive background in historic renovation and adaptive reuse, HGA was the ideal choice to achieve the Chronicle’s goal of creating a more modern, open and collaborative experience—infused with technology— while respecting its heritage as the city’s oldest newspaper.

Although a major San Francisco Chronicle remodel had been rumored for over a decade, the time was finally right in 2021 when most of the newsroom staff was working from home due to the pandemic. While changes to the newsroom over the years were not uncommon—occasional new furniture, the introduction of computers in the 1980s, etc.—HGA’s renovation is the most revolutionary in its history.

The lobby and third floor reception areas (designated historic landmarks) remained relatively untouched, maintaining their wood paneling and original stained-glass windows.

To achieve the San Francisco Chronicle’s goal of balancing a classical feel with a fresh, modern look, the HGA team took advantage of pre-existing elements while introducing new ones. Exposing the ceiling allowed more access to natural light through the high-arch windows, while breaking up small, segmented workspaces gave way to a variety of desk configurations: hoteling, shared space and quiet spaces designated for independent research and writing. LED light and fresh signage juxtapose historic building elements. Enhanced technology and design reflect the evolution of immediate communication into the digital realm, while the lobby and third floor reception areas (designated historic landmarks), with their wood paneling and original stained-glass windows, remain untouched.

HGA worked closely with the client on the layout of the new, open plan office to ensure it met the needs of their various departments.

When was the project completed? 

2021

Describe the work space type.

The office is an open plan with hoteling and shared space as well as quiet spaces for independent research and writing.

Even the San Francisco fog receives a subtle nod through the window film applied to the office and conference room glazing.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Boardrooms and conference rooms are provided throughout the space.

What is the project’s location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

The San Francisco Chronicle office is located on the corner of Mission and 5th Street in San Francisco and is within walking distance to bus stops and the light rail.

Audio-visual monitors were integrated throughout the office, so that display metrics and news feeds are now visible from multiple locations.

How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Proper distancing factored was factored into the design plan. Formerly comprised of small, segmented spaces, a variety of work configurations were designed for the new space, adaptable for employees’ needs. The space now includes hoteling and shared space as well as quiet spaces for independent research and writing with enhanced technology throughout.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

The San Francisco Chronicle provided a headcount target for the new office. HGA collaborated with the client on the department layout and conducted an online review of the plan to guide the client through the programming and process.

Various meeting spaces are named after Bay Area bridges throughout the reimagined office.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

HGA distributed a programming document to the client to get a sense of what they envisioned for the new space.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

Not during this stage due to the onset of the pandemic.

The design allows for ample access to daylight, creating a more energetic and collaborative office environment complete with shared amenities for employees.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

The San Francisco Chronicle needed space to observe online metrics and news feeds that were visible in areas of the floor. They also required a formal conference room for visiting politicians, dignitaries and guests. The Chronicle needed an all-hands space with audio-visual capabilities to conduct office-wide meetings and important announcements.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Yes, there were requirements for health and wellbeing. The client needed a space for mothers – so we created a separate mother’s room.

Every aspect of the design seeks to accomplish the Chronicle’s goal of balancing a classical feel with a fresh, modern look.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?

Various elements from the original building design were unearthed during the complete overhaul and kept and integrated into the new design: hardwood flooring, high-arch windows, wood paneling and original stained-glass windows.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Herman Miller sit/stand workstations make the biggest impact on employee health and wellbeing.

The new design includes a variety of desk configurations—hoteling, shared space and quiet spaces.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

  • A salvaged movie set prop sign was repurposed in the space.
  • A custom-made neon sign for the SF Chronicle was incorporated in the elevator lobby.
  • Custom room signage was developed to accompany conference rooms named after Bay Area bridges.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

Unique references to Bay Area culture and heritage include: a theme of “bridges and communication that connect the Bay Area” in the newsroom, with artistic lighting paying homage to the Golden Gate and Bay bridges on the most prominent wall; conference rooms named after Bay Area bridges; a main boardroom design inspired by Bay Area bridges; a subtle nod to San Francisco fog through the window film applied to the office and conference room glazing.

Details throughout the office nod to the rich history of the Chronicle and the city of San Francisco.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?

HGA worked closely with CRI to curate the furniture selections to enhance the varied work postures to support the newsroom.

What kinds of technology products were used?

Large audio-visual monitors are integrated throughout the open office so that display metrics and news feeds are visible from multiple locations. Each office has a large monitor for group collaboration, but also serves as the daily screen for the end users.

HGA’s design included exposing the ceiling to allow more access to natural light through the high-arch windows.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

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