It’s never easy trying to recreate a home away from home. But when designing a 13,000-sq.-ft. San Francisco office for the Dutch Consulate, Huntsman Architectural Group relied on modern Dutch styles, featuring neutral palettes and clean contemporary inclusions, to successfully create a space that’s reminiscent of workers’ native land and surprisingly homey, despite the presence of necessary high-tech security.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry specifically chose the new location in a downtown San Francisco high-rise as a means of capitalizing on its role as a business and cultural intermediary between the United States and The Netherlands. As an added bonus, access for staff and visitors was very convenient, with public transportation and other amenities close by. However, this more public profile did pose some challenges for the design team.
“The goal was to promote Dutch business and culture in California,” says Huntsman principal Sascha Wagner, IIDA, CID, LEED AP, adding that the styles of which tend to be more open and airy. But the design also needed to “seamlessly integrate the required high security features of a consulate with the design aesthetic so that the space feels, not like a government office, but instead as a relaxing hospitality suite or a gallery.”
Huntsman’s solution was to use a performance-based approach—and a little common sense—to construct a project that would reconcile the European workplace guidelines and security mandates by focusing on the intent of the regulations, rather than their black and white definitions. This widened the scope of available systems, finishes, and products.
The overall space separated public and private functions, divided by a custom airlock security vestibule, which was imported from The Netherlands. To incorporate the California vibe in the public reception area, as well as downplay the bulletproof checkpoint, Huntsman maximized the picturesque San Francisco views.
“Our team was able to review images from other projects Dutch Consulate projects in Europe and Asia, and a common design approach was evident. However, each locality had added its own character, and we wanted this space to reflect a sense of California as well,” Wagner explains. As a result, large glass windows were paired with the Consulate’s collection of Dutch art to showcase the blending of cultures in the reception area. A warm, light color palette throughout the room lifts the atmosphere, while honed limestone wall panels and FSC maple flooring add depth and home-like comfort. “We wanted to keep colors neutral and focused while creating interest with textures and forms,” Wagner notes.
A catering pantry and multipurpose meeting room, which can be opened and joined into one via a glass partitioned wall system, also lie on the public side of the office.
In the Consulate’s more exclusive areas, Huntsman continued its lightly hued “California Free” theme. Floor-to-ceiling glazing on all perimeter offices allows light to flow into the building core. Chairs with touches of gold, orange, and blue add playfulness and life to the Visa interview counters and rooms for document processing. Inexpensive laminate and stone veneers provide texture and grounding to the conference areas, which also feature large glass windows. Additionally, a Marcel Wanders wallcovering clads the conference room, while a collection of Dutch ceramic tiles from Royal Mosa covers the showers and restrooms.
“Of course, all materials were selected with the criteria for recycled content, rapidly renewable materials, and regionally sourced materials in mind,” Wagner boasts of the office currently targeting LEED Gold certification. Other sustainable features include lighting systems that utilize 15 percent lower energy than required by local building codes and a daylight harvesting system; recycled content in ceiling tiles, insulation, and metal studs; individual controls for solar shades at the perimeter windows to reduce heat gain and glare; as well as thermal comfort monitoring throughout the space.
While Huntsman made painstaking efforts to integrate a Level 4 security-rating requirement across the entire project—including access components manufactured in the Netherlands and full-height welded plate steel walls that provide impenetrable security to the consular functions—the design team enjoyed themselves, as well. “The people involved on this project were extraordinarily fun and interesting to work with,” says Wagner. “We really connected with our clients, who were all incredibly professional and understanding…We also loved using Dutch materials, products, and furnishings on the project and learning more about The Netherlands along the way.”
But the most important thing is that the Dutch Ministry truly valued the design and its inherent impact on the space’s occupants. “That kind of passion is too rare,” he says.
Project: Dutch Consulate, San Francisco, CA. Client: Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Architect: Huntsman Architectural Group; design Team: Sascha Wagner, IIDA CID LEED-AP, principal-in-charge; Charles Uehrke, IIDA, project director; Alison Woolf, LEED-AP, senior designer; Scott Colson, AIA LEED-AP, project architect; Bert DeViterbo Jr., LEED AP, job captain. General Contractor: BCCI Builders. MEP Engineers: AWA Engineers. LEED-CI Status: Targeting Gold. Sharon Risedorph Photography
Wood Flooring: Bamboo Hardwoods. Carpet: Constantine Commercial. Limestone: Walker Zanger. Wall Tile: Royal Mosa, Dal Tile. Countertops: Caesarstone. Paint: Kelly Moore. Ceiling: Armstrong. Wallcovering: Graham & Brown. Moveable Partition: La Cantina.
Location: San Francisco.