Bechtel Conference Center at Public Policy Institute of California
Best Interior Design Project
When a gift from the Stephen Bechtel Fund allowed a partial facilities overhaul at the Public Policy Institute of California, the challenge was to fit a large conference center into a relatively small infill space and configure it around a grid of imposing structural columns and a jungle of existing mechanical infrastructure.
The center's dominant feature is a central, circular ceremonial forum for speaking events. The center also includes a less formal meeting salon as well as a green room, servery and storage space.
The center's circular plan made the acoustics challenging, according to architect/project submitter Marcy Wong Donn Logan, a Berkeley-based firm.
The center's interior is outfitted with a series of sculpted plywood fins that vary in profile and spacing. Space between the fins is lined with an acoustical substrate that alternates from absorbent to reflective as directed by the project's acoustic engineers. The variations produced a surface that is sufficiently uneven to distribute the sound as needed by the room's world-class AV equipment.
This solution, which represented a collaboration between the architect and the acoustical engineer, was fabricated with CNC technology by Lignum Vitae cabinetmakers and woodworkers in Oakland, and then installed with a custom-made stringer system by cabinetmaker and master craftsman Ross Craig, also of Oakland. The resulting space is architecturally unique and the acoustics are superb, says the architect.
Another challenge for the team was achieving LEED-Gold certification for the project in an infill site that prevented major alterations to the existing building.
The project's designers focused their sustainability efforts on materials and hardware selection. Credits were received for the use of recycled redwood paneling salvaged from renovations elsewhere in the building as well as for the specification of low-VOC paints and carpeting. Energy efficiency is achieved through the use of state-of-the-art HVAC and control systems, including high-efficiency lighting and Energy Star-rated equipment.
Owner: Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco
General Contractor/Construction Management: NOVO Construction, San Francisco
Architect: Marcy Wong Donn Logan, Berkeley
MEP Engineer: Amit Wadhwa & Associates, San Francisco
Marcy Wong Donn Logan