The Best Commercial Architects in San Francisco

The San Francisco skyline is changing by the month. The buildings that define the city’s built environment are in flux whether directly or indirectly in relationship to the surrounding structures. We looked into the architects that are responsible for building commercial and large-scale residential projects around the city and ranked them. Architects on this list include those from around the world that have designed buildings in San Francisco, and considers projects that have been designed but not constructed. The list is full of starchitects and local heroes. Below you can see the architects we feel have made the biggest impact on San Francisco, their bio’s, accolades, and the buildings that got them there.

The Top 15 Commercial Architects


15) Fougeron Architecture

Website | (415) 641-5744 | Featured Principal: Anne Fougeron

French-American architect Anne Fougeron is a nationally recognized architect whose work is on display throughout the Bay Area. With over 30 years of experience, she has been trusted to redesign or update many of San Francisco’s historic and culturally significant buildings, including Brava Theater, a 1918 Carnegie library.

San Francisco Educational Architecture

 

Anne Fougeron founded Fougeron Architecture in 1985. Her firm was acknowledged as one of the 50 best architectural firms in the United States by Residential Architect Magazine in 2010. Fougeron’s innovative work is defined by its use of natural light and the ability to use design elements to influence how people interact with the built form. She is known for her collaborative creative approach which directly includes craftsmen and artists into the design process. Actively involved in the community, Fougeron serves on the Board of Directors of the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland and is a Committee Member of the SFMoMA Accessions. In the past, she has taught architectural design at the California College of Art and the University of California, Berkeley. Her talents have been recognized by the American Institute of Architects with the award of Fellow, one of the highest honors an individual architect can be awarded. Her designs have won more than a dozen awards from various chapters of the AIA. She received her Bachelors of Arts from Wellesley College and her Masters of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

Featured Projects

Fougeron’s designs can be seen in commercial, civic, residential and multi-family housing projects throughout the Bay Area. Her talent for design can be seen in the Ingleside Library, which won a national design competition and was awarded The Kirby Ward Fitzpatrick Prize for the best new building in San Francisco by the Architectural Foundation San Francisco. Fougeron Architecture has also been trusted with renovating the Sunset Branch Library, a historic Carnegie library built in 1918, and a 5000 square foot remodel of the historic Brava Theatre. She designed the 400 GROVE mixed-use condominium building in Hayes Valley and has many multi-family developments that are currently under construction. Other commercial projects in the Bay Area include the Planned Parenthood at Eastmont Mall and Fuel Lounge.


14) Garcia Tamjidi

Website | (415) 788-5800 | Featured Principals: Michael Garcia and Farid Tamjidi

For 20 years Michael Garcia and Farid Tamjidi have been trusted by some of San Francisco’s top companies to design efficient and innovative office spaces. The firm has exhibited expertise in a wide range of building projects, from single office buildings and small residences to high-rises and large commercial buildings.

San Francisco Office Architecture

Michael Garcia and Farid Tamjidi founded the architecture firm Garcia Tamjidi in 1997. Garcia and Tamjidi focus on how to incorporate over 100 years of architectural theory with the newest ideas from the field. The practice uses state of the art technology to create truly innovative designs. Garcia and Tamjidi both studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where they met.

Featured Projects

Garcia Tamjidi have designed commercial spaces across the Bay Area.  The firm completed a major expansion for a venture capital firm’s office that includes a vaulted hallway and focuses on capturing natural light. Other commercial work by Garcia Tamjidi include a downtown San Francisco office for beauty brand incubator Kendo, Mountain View offices for analytics firm Elastic and a temporary office space for the Parker Foundation in Presidio.


13) Kwan Henmi Architecture and Planning

Website | (415) 777-4770 | Featured Principals: Sylvia Kwan and Denis Henmi

Sylvia Kwan and Denis Henmi have lent their architectural expertise to the San Francisco Bay area for over 35 years and founded Kwan Henmi Architecture and Planning in San Francisco in 1980. For their significant contributions to architecture and society, Kwan and Henmi have separately been recognized as Fellows by the American Institute of Architects. an Henmi is committed to enhancing sustainable community growth through their designs and relationships to local organizations. Both architects are LEED AP certified and all of their designs incorporate sustainable building practices.

San Francisco Transportation Architecture

Kwan’s commitment to building relationships and working with local organizations has made her a respected community leader. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum and a board member of the California Architects Board. She previously served as Director on the AIA National Board, the California Council Board and the San Francisco Chapter Board. In addition to many architectural awards, Kwan has been named as one of San Francisco Business Times’ 75 Most Influential Women in Business and the American Diabetes Association’s Woman of the Year. She received the Asian Women’s Resources Center’s Outstanding Asian Woman Award, and the Asian Business League of San Francisco’s 2000 Award for Achievement in the Business Community. Kwan earned her Bachelor and Master of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.

Henmi is an expert in navigating the complex field of urban building and is committed to providing outstanding service to the profession. For his significant contributions to the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare, Henmi was awarded NCARB’s highest honor, the President’s Medal for Distinguished Service. Having served on several National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) committees, he played a key role in California’s adoption of the NCARB’s Intern Development Program (IDP). He served as president, vice president, and master commissioner over two terms on the California Architects Board, and was awarded the Octavius Morgan Distinguished Service Award for 2011. Henmi earned his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley.

Featured Projects

Kwan Henmi’s thought-provoking designs can be seen in residential, educational, civic, transportation, and commercial projects across the city. The firm is currently behind the final architectural design for the $1.6 billion Central Subway project in San Francisco. They also designed Arterra, the first LEED silver condominium high-rise in San Francisco. Kwan Henmi projects with other partners include the Moscone West Convention Center, the Paramount residential highrise, and the Field Club of AT&T Park, a 1 million square foot interior space.


12) Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects

Website | (415) 626-8977 | Featured Principal: Stanley Saitowitz

Stanley Saitowitz is a world renowned designer who has over 30 years of experience in the Bay Area. His work spans from single-family residences to large scale urban and institutional projects and has been recognized with many awards.

San Francisco Residential Architecture

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Stanley Saitowitz is the founder of Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects Inc., an award-winning San Francisco-based architecture firm. Along with Neil Kaye, a licensed architect, the firm has completed commercial, institutional and residential projects around the world. Saitowitz shares his design talents as a professor and lecturer. He is an Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and has taught at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cornell University, and University of Texas at Austin, among others. He was a finalist for the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award given by Laura Bush at the White House. Saitowitz received his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Witwatersrand and his Masters in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Featured Projects

Saitowitz has designed housing, offices, museums, religious buildings, and memorials around the world. Perhaps his best-known work in San Francisco is the Congregation Beth Sholom Synagogue in the Richmond District at the intersection of Park Presidio and Clement Street. Saitowitz’s abstract design incorporates Jewish tradition and symbols and uses light in a unique manner. This design has been recognized with international awards and admiration, including the High Commendation Award, Religion & Contemplation at the 2008 World Architecture Festival, and the 2009 Kirby Ward Fitzpatrick Prize. It was also the recipient of an Honor award in Architecture from the San Francisco chapter of the AIA. Saitowitz’s design focus on space and time can also be seen in San Francisco at the multi-unit housing complexes Yerba Buena Lofts, 8 Octavia and 2146 3rd St (to be completed in 2018).


11) Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Website | (415) 495-1700 | Featured Principals: Marsha Maytum, William Leddy, Richard Stacy

San Francisco-based Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMSa) was named the country’s Best Architectural Firm for 2017 by the American Institute of Architects. Operated by three principals, this top tier practice has spent over 3 decades committed to making positive change through the built environment in the Bay Area. The practice is known for its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible designs and has built over a dozen apartment complexes in the city for low-income residents. For their contributions to the field of architecture, all three principals have been awarded the rank of Fellow by the AIA.

San Francisco Educational Architecture

Maytum is an appointed member of the National Register of Peer Professionals for the U.S. General Services Administration, the San Francisco Waterfront Design Advisory Committee Association, the University of California, Berkeley, Design Review Committee, and the Eco-Structure Editorial Advisory Board. She is also an active member of the United States Green Building Council, Urban Land Institute–San Francisco, and San Francisco Planning and Urban Research. She has taught at the University of Oregon, Eugene and California College of the Arts. Maytum studied architecture at the Royal Academy in Denmark and earned her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon.

Leedy is a member of the United States Green Building Council, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, and AIA California Council Energy in the Built Environment Steering Committee. Formerly, he served as an appointed member of AIA National Committee on the Environment, for which he served as chair for 2013, and as an appointed member of AIA California Committee on the Environment. He has taught at the University of Oregon, Eugene and California College of the Arts. Leddy has been a registered architect in California since 1980 and also earned his Bachelor of Architecture from University of Oregon.

Stacy is a member of the United States Green Building Council, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University.

Featured Projects

LMSa has completed projects for non-profit social justice, educational and environmental organizations across the Bay area. LMSa designed the North Beach Branch Library to serve as a meeting place for the urban community. It earned a LEED Gold rating, an AIA San Francisco Merit Award, and was featured in Architect Magazine. LMSa is known for its housing projects that incorporate social interaction and services into modern design. The Plaza Apartments at Sixth and Howard Streets, a joint project with Paulett Taggart Architects, was San Francisco’s first permanent housing for the formerly homeless. Among the many national and regional awards, Plaza Apartments has won are the Housing Award, Affordable Green Housing Award, and Honor Award for Architecture from AIA National. It was also recognized as the Home of the Year Award from Architecture Magazine.

Lastly, LMSa’s design for Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley has been recognized nationally for furthering the independent living and disabled rights movement. This $36 million mixed-use project combines non-profit and government offices, conference space, classrooms, a fitness center and child care services. It has won numerous awards, including the Global Award of Excellence and the Award of Excellence (Americas) from the Urban Land Institute, and a Merit Award for Architecture from AIA California Council Residential.


10) Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ)

Website | (415) 989-2100 | Featured Principal: Peter Bohlin

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) is a staple in Bay Area design and started as Bohlin and Powell in 1965. The firm has designed award-winning and environmentally responsible civic and commercial projects across San Francisco.

San Francisco Office Architecture

Peter Bohlin’s lifetime contributions to architecture have been recognized with the AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor an individual American architect can receive. In 2010, Bohlin was named a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council. He has taught and lectured at many of the top schools of architecture throughout the United States. Bohlin received his Bachelor of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Master of Architecture degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Under his leadership, BCJ has been awarded more than 625 regional, national, and international design awards, including the 1994 AIA Architecture Firm Award, the Institute’s top honor for an architectural practice. Bohlin’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable design has earned BCJ three Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project awards from the AIA.

Featured Projects

BCJ’s recent design of Square’s headquarters on Market Street in San Francisco incorporated the company’s values into the design. It uses modern and functional elements to create a space reflective of a flexible and collaborative working environment. It was recognized with the 2016 Best of Design Award for Interior, Workplace by The Architect’s Newspaper. BCJ’s other contributions to the Bay Area include the design of the San Francisco Financial Services Center, numerous Blue Bottle Coffee locations and a new home for Adobe Systems. Located in an LEED-EB Platinum certified building, the design for Abode Systems creates an innovative workspace and restored the 1905 Baker & Hamilton building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Most recently, the BCJ’s design of the 11,900-square-foot Stanford Apple Store earned a Merit Award. Outside of San Francisco, Bohlin is responsible for Microsoft founder Bill Gate’s Washington state residence and the iconic 5th Avenue Apple store in New York City.


9) Jensen Architects

Website | (415) 348-9650 | Featured Principal: Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen is responsible for designs at some of San Francisco’s most iconic locations, including at Fort Mason Center, Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, and SFMOMA. Under his direction, Jensen Architects has been recognized with numerous awards and national praise.

San Francisco Cultural Architecture

Mark Jensen is the founder and principal of Jensen Architects. His design style puts an emphasis on combining culture and construction. Jensen is an active member of the San Francisco arts and design scene. He is the former chair of the California College of the Arts (CCA) Interior Architecture Department and the Headlands Center for the Arts Board of Trustees. In addition to his architectural practice, Jensen is an adjunct professor at California College of the Arts. After earning his Bachelor of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Jensen gained early experience around the United States and Italy. Prior to starting his own firm, Jensen worked with world renowned architects Superstudio, Jim Jennings, and Mark Mack.

Featured Projects

Mark Jensen’s work can be seen all around the Bay Area. He made his mark at the Fort Mason Center by transforming a former waterfront military machine shop into an arts exhibition and event space. Jensen also stripped and re-designed two floors of a downtown San Francisco office building to create the new headquarters for Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Jensen Architects received a 2015 Kirby Ward Fitzpatrick award from the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco for their work at the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion. This annual award is given in recognition of the best new building by a small firm in San Francisco. Jensen’s firm also won a design contest for a new rooftop sculpture garden at SFMOMA, beating top firms from around the country. Jensen is also responsible for the designs of the California College of the Arts Graduate Center and the transformation of an old industrial building into a gallery and event venue at 1275 Minnesota Street.


8) WRNS Studio

Website | (415) 489-2224 | Featured Principal: John Ruffo

WRNS Studio was named the number one architecture firm in the country in 2013 by Architect Magazine. Founding partner John Ruffo has over 37 years of experience working in San Francisco’s architecture scene. Ruffo’s inspiration is rooted in science, so it is no surprise that the firm specializes in architectural designs for education, healthcare, transportation, and civic projects. His designs can be seen in many of the Bay Area’s top scientific and educational institutions.

San Francisco Educational Architecture

John Ruffo has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as a Fellow, one of the highest honors awarded to individual architects. Dedicated to sustainable design, Ruffo is LEED AP certified and tries to incorporate sustainable design elements into all his projects. Ruffo is actively involved in his community, including with The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) where he has served as president, Board Member, and Faculty Member of the SCUP Planning Institute. He has also served as President of the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco and Chair of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Architecture and Environmental Design Advisory Council. Ruffo earned his Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and his Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

Featured Projects

John Ruffo is committed to contributing his expertise to the social fabric of San Francisco. His designs can be seen in higher education and healthcare campuses around the city, and the entire United States. He was on the design team of the Welch Road Translational Research Campus at Stanford University School of Medicine, the Recreation and Aquatics Center at California Maritime Academy, the Recreation Wellness Center at SFSU and the Student Health and Wellness Center at UC Davis. WRNS Studio also recently completed work on Boeddeker Park, a Sustainable Sites Initiative participant. This redesign of the 1-acre park and clubhouse was done with community needs in mind and won an AIA San Francisco Honor Award.


7) SOM (Skidmore Owings & Merrill)

Website | (415) 981-1555 | Featured Principal: Craig Hartman

Craig Hartman has been at the San Francisco office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) since 1990 and is responsible for making it one of the West Coast’s top architectural firms. His work has been recognized with nearly 200 awards for design.

San Francisco Commercial Architecture

Hartman first joined SOM’s Chicago office in 1973 and served as a design partner in the firm’s Houston and Washington, D.C., offices. With his move to San Francisco, Harman established SOM as one of the West Coast’s premier design groups. He has worked on projects across the US, Europe, and Asia and demonstrated the ability to work on projects as varied as entire urban districts to single cultural buildings. His work demonstrates innovation and a multi-disciplinary understanding of space, climate, and architecture. Among Hartman’s many achievements are 10 national AIA Honor Awards and a Federal Design Achievement Award in the 2000 Presidential Design Awards Program. In 2001 he was presented with the AIA’s Maybeck Award for recognition of “lifetime achievement in architectural design.” At 51 years old, Harman was the youngest recipient of this award ever, designated for individual California architects. Hartman’s commitment to sustainable design has been recognized with AIA awards for environmental sustainability. He has earned multiple Gold LEED certifications and currently has two LEED Platinum projects.

Featured Projects

Hartman is responsible for many iconic and sustainable designs around the Bay Area. His work is on display to travelers visiting the area, as he designed the International Terminal at SFO. Hartman is also behind the master plans for the revamps of Treasure Island and Park Merced. His design for Park Merced, a 1950’s housing development, will nearly triple the population, increase access to public transport, and incorporate a major organic farm and ample bike and pedestrian traffic ways. One of his most recognizable projects is the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. For this project, Pope Benedictus XVI bestowed upon Hartman the Vatican’s Knighthood for Service to Society (St. Sylvester) in September 2008.


6) Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects

Website | (415) 398-6944 | Featured Principal: Mark Cavagnero

Cavagnero’s success has been recognized by top awards from the AIA, SF Chamber of Commerce, California Preservation Foundation, and many of the region’s cultural and civic organizations. And he is one of just 16 recipients of the AIA California Council Maybeck Award for lifetime achievement.

San Francisco Cultural Architecture

Mark Cavagnero co-founded San Francisco-based Barnes and Cavagnero (later renamed Mark Cavagnero Associates) in 1988 with a focus on cultural, education, and civic projects. Now a famous architect with projects around the world, Cavagnero began his career in the New York office of Edward Larrabee Barnes Associates. For his contribution to architecture and society, the AIA has recognized Cavagnero as a Fellow. And in 2015, Cavagnero joined an elite group of 16 professionals recognized with the AIA California Council Maybeck Award. This lifetime achievement award is the highest honor in California architecture. He is also the recipient of the Cyril Award from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and a Special Commendation Award from the AIA California Council. Cavagnero earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, and Master of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.

Featured Projects

Mark Cavagnero has managed projects for many of San Francisco’s premier civic, education, and arts institutions. Mark Cavagnero’s latest project, the Transbay Tower, in collaboration with Italian architect Renzo Piano, is just one of his many contributions to San Francisco. His design of the three-story, transparent SFJAZZ Center earned a 2013 Excellence in Architecture Honor Award from AIA San Francisco. The Sava Pool Facility, with Paulett Taggart Architects, earned many awards, including the AIA San Francisco Excellence in Design Award and the Kirby Ward Fitzpatrick Prize for Best New Building in San Francisco from the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco. His renovation of a historic 1920’s building in the South End Historic District of South Beach for Chronicle Books‘ new corporate headquarters earned the 2009 National AIA Honor Award. Cavagnero was also behind the award-winning California Palace of the Legion of Honor, the restoration of the historic Moorish Art Deco Brava Theater Center, the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, the San Francisco Civic Center Courthouse, San Francisco Public Safety Campus, and the Moscone Convention Center. His talents have also been lent to eateries around the city, including MC2 Restaurant and Zero Degrees Café.


5) OMA

Website | (415) 474-2112 | Featured Principal: Rem Koolhaas

Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most important architectural theorists and urbanists. It is no surprise that he was chosen to design the new 550-foot residential tower in San Francisco on Folsom. He is the recipient of many national and international awards, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000.

San Francisco Commercial Architecture

Rem Koolhaas is a founding partner of OMA (The Office for Metropolitan Architecture), and of its research-oriented counterpart AMO. OMA has offices in Europe, North America, and Asia and has designed award-winning buildings around the world. Koolhaas was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2000. This annual award is given in recognition of an architect who has “produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” Interested in social attitudes towards design, the built environment, and global perspectives, Koolhaas co-founded Volume Magazine in 2005. This venture, or ‘think tank’ as its founders consider it, aims to influence architecture and serve as an ideas platform, rather than to report only on completed buildings. Before starting OMA in 1975, Koolhaas studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, Cornell University and the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City. He is a Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

Featured Projects

Rem Koolhaas’s OMA was chosen by San Francisco’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure to design a 550 foot residential tower on Folsom Street. This building, between First and Fremont streets, will be a mix of condominiums and rental apartments, over 25% of which will be affordable units. Koolhaas is perhaps best known in the Bay Area for his unique design of the 10-story Prada store near Union Square, which featured 8,000 portholes instead of windows. Although this project never came to fruition due to Prada’s financial struggles, the design received accolades from around the world.


4) Foster + Partners

Website |(408) 610-5800 | Featured Principal: Norman Foster

London-based Foster + Partners is one of the top design and architecture firms in the world. With the Oceanwide Center, Foster + Partners is adding two mixed-use skyscrapers to the Transbay area of San Francisco. Foster + Partners combines the best in innovation and design with modern technology and engineering practices. The practice is particularly known for its high-profile glass-and-steel buildings.

San Francisco Commercial Architecture

The practice is led by its Chairman Norman Foster, who founded the firm in 1967. It has built award winning buildings on six continents and has expertise ranging from government and cultural buildings to skyrises and stadiums. Foster + Partners’ designs have won national and international awards, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and many awards from the Royal Institute of British Architects, including the Stirling Prize, and multiple of the European Award and International Award. The RIBA Stirling Prize, which was awarded for the design of Swiss Re’s headquarters, is given annually for the design which made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture.

Featured Projects

Foster + Partners will change the San Francisco skyline with the Oceanwide Center, a collaboration with local firm Heller Manus Architects. At 2 million square feet, this project will add two mixed-use skyscrapers to the Transbay Area of San Francisco, close to Market and the financial district. At 850 feet tall, the mixed-use hotel, residential and office tower will be the tallest residential project on the West Coast. Foster + Partners also designed Apple’s new retail store in the Union Square. This building is powered by 100 percent renewable energy and integrates photovoltaic solar panels into the roof. It features a 6K-resolution video wall, a 50-foot-tall green wall in an art-filled plaza, and 42-foot tall sliding glass doors. Although Foster + Partners focus on commercial projects, the practice was hired to renovate Apple’s CDO Jonathan Ive’s Pacific Heights home.


3) Snøhetta

Website | (646) 383-4762 | Featured Principals: Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Dyker

Snøhetta is a world renowned architectural practice making a permanent mark on San Francisco. The firm began in Oslo and now has offices around the globe. For over 25 years, the practice has designed award-winning cultural and public spaces around the world. Not only is the practice responsible for the recently completed SFMOMA remodel, but it will add to the city’s skyline with the One Van Ness Tower and is responsible for designing the new stadium for the Golden State Warriors.

San Francisco Institutional Architecture

Kjetil Trædal Thorsen and Craig Dykers founded Snøhetta in 1989. The San Francisco office is run by architect Nicolas Rader, Director of San Francisco Operations. Snøhetta specializes in cultural and commercial buildings, parks and gardens, and bridges, roads, and public spaces. Snøhetta is committed to sustainable design and founding partner Dykers is LEED AP certified. For the National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, Snøhetta was given The Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2010. The firm is also responsible for the National September 11th Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center in New York City. Both founding partners have been recognized by The Royal Institute of British Architects as International Fellows, an award for non-British architects for achievements made to architecture.

Featured Projects

Snøhetta’s talents are making a permanent mark in San Francisco. The top practice won the contract for an extensive expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was completed to much praise in 2016. The remodel more than doubled the museum’s gallery spaces and its design included almost six times as much public space as the previous building and grounds. Snøhetta is collaborating with SCB on the One Van Ness tower, a new 400-foot tower due to be completed in 2019. And Snøhetta is currently designing plans for the Golden State Warriors’ new stadium. In addition to their commercial work, Snøhetta was recently hired to renovated a 1907 Dutch Colonial Revival at 2950 Pacific Avenue, a home briefly owned by Zynga founder Mark Pincus.


2) Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Website | (212) 417-9496 | Featured Principal: César Pelli

Argentinian born, American César Pelli is one of the world’s most prolific architects. Known for designing many of the world’s tallest buildings, he is the main designer of the Salesforce Tower, which upon completion in 2017 will be San Francisco’s tallest building, at 1,070 feet. Pelli is also behind the designs for the city’s Transbay Transit Center, which will revolutionize Bay Area transit. Among his many awards are the AIA Gold Medal and The Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award.

San Francisco Transportation Architecture

César Pelli was born in Argentina before he moved to the United States to continue his career. Pelli first worked as a Project Designer at Eero Saarinen before becoming Director of Design at DMJM and, later, Partner for Design at Gruen Associates. In 1977, Pelli formed Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (CPA), now one of the world’s most recognizable design firms. Pelli has received twelve Honorary Degrees for his superior skill and over 200 awards for excellence in design and architecture. His work has been recognized with The Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. He was named among the ten most influential living American architects by the AIA in 1991, is an AIA Fellow, and was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1995 in recognition of his lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Pelli earned a Diploma in Architecture at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán and completed his studies at the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Featured Work

César Pelli’s upcoming work on the Salesforce Tower will define San Francisco’s skyline. At 1,070 feet tall, the tower will be the highest in the city upon completion. Pelli’s superior design incorporates the newest sustainable practices, neighborhood development, and financial feasibility. CPA is also behind the Transbay Transit Center at the base of the Salesforce Tower. The Center is a $4.5 billion project dubbed the “Grand Central Station of the West.” Upon completion, it will be the main transit hub of the Bay Area and feature a 5.4-acre public park on the roof. Perhaps Pelli’s most recognizable work to date in San Francisco is the 2002 JPMorgan Chase Building on the border between South of Market and the Financial District.


1) Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Website | (415) 474-2112 | Featured Principal: Renzo Piano

Italian architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop is adding to the already iconic San Francisco skyline with the upcoming 555 Howard Tower. A world famous architect, Piano is the recipient of many of architecture’s top honors, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Piano previously contributed his talent to the city of San Francisco with the multi-award winning California Academy of Sciences building.

San Francisco Educational Architecture

Renzo Piano founded the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) in 1981. The architectural practice has offices in Paris, Genoa, and New York. Piano is largely credited with re-defining modern and postmodern design. RPBW pushes building technology and design to their limits to create truly innovative works. Under his direction, RPBW has successfully completed over 120 projects across Europe, North America, Australasia, and East Asia. Piano was honored with the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1998 for his demonstrated talent, commitment and vision, and consistent contributions to humanity and the built environment. He also holds a gold medal from the International Union of Architects and the AIA. Piano’s contribution to the field of arts and design has been acknowledged outside of architectural circles as well. In 2005, Piano was selected as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world. And in September 2013, he was appointed senator for life by then Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Piano graduated with a degree in architecture from the Milan Polytechnic University

Featured Projects

Renzo Piano Building Workshop is set to make a permanent mark on San Francisco with the 555 Howard Tower. A joint project with Mark Cavagnero Associates, this mixed-use tower will rise 37 stories at 555 Howard Street. Work on this iconic project is set to begin in 2018. The 555 Howard Tower is not RPBW’s first major contribution to the Bay Area. He previously designed the California Academy of Sciences building in collaboration with Arup and Stantec. His design for this LEED Platinum building was awarded the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Award for Excellence for the Americas region in 2008, the 2005 Holcim Award Silver for sustainable construction projects in the North America region, and received an Honor award in Architecture from the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

5 thoughts on “The Best Commercial Architects in San Francisco

  1. I am not sure how this list can be complete without Russell Naylor and Heddie Chu and the rest of the team over at NC2. A very talented group at NC2!

    1. Gary, thanks for your comment. NC2 does have great work. I am particularly fond of their Amero project. Have you worked with them? I’d love to hear more about why you like them. Additionally, I will continue to track their work and consider them for next years list.

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