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211 Linden Avenue
211 Linden Avenue, South San Francisco, CA 94080

Built from bricks scavenged from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Royal Theater opened its doors more than 100 years ago as the first silent movie theater in South San Francisco. Over the years, the building underwent a series of transformations in both structure and function. By the turn of the 21st century, the building was a furniture storeroom. The screening room was half its original size, the balcony seats had been replaced with a loft, the original ticket window had been bricked over, and the once-grand entry arch was overshadowed by an awkward concave storefront.

In 2003, the building underwent yet another transformation – this time, into Group 4’s new offices. Firmwide collaboration created a work environment that promotes communication and teamwork while preserving the historic portions of the original theater. The ground floor houses conference, administrative, and support spaces, including showers for staff who bike to work or go for a run at lunch. But the heart of the office is the second floor open studio shared by all principals and professional staff. Movable workstations support easy reorganization as project needs and teams change. Skylights give the space a warm feeling and reduce the need for supplemental lighting during the day.

The renovation celebrates the building and its original materials. Few original surfaces are covered – the brick walls are bare, the steel columns are unwrapped, the conference room ceiling is unfinished, and the wood roof trusses are exposed. A simple and elegant new storefront showcases the entry arch. Bright colors and textures create an atmosphere that is both dynamic and comfortable. By keeping the spaces open and flowing and respecting the original structure, the renovation of 211 Linden Avenue demonstrates that well-planned and sensitively-designed “less” creates a more functional and dramatic environment.

Merit Award – AIA San Mateo County Chapter