San Francisco Conservatory of Music
How do you preserve the historic core of a building while creating a modern facility?

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music always wanted a home in the Civic Center to be close to other important cultural institutions such as the Opera House and the San Francisco Symphony.  In the late 1990’s the Conservatory began a search for buildings and found the current site on Oak Street.  Of the two buildings that were purchased, one was a hazardous unreinforced brick building in disrepair while the other was a historic neoclassical structure originally built as a Young Men’s Institute in 1912. This fine-tuned music building in the heart of the Civic Center incorporated ornate historic elements seamlessly into a state-of-the-art acoustic teaching and performance center.

Customized Solution

  • In order to preserve the historic facade and ballroom of the existing structure, a careful shoring scheme was devised to support these elements while a new building could be built around them.  The demands of the architectural program lowered the basement level by ten feet, undermining all the existing footings.  This required a sequence of shoring to hold up the structure and build a new mat foundation underneath before extending the existing structure down to the new basement. Due to a change from steel columns to concrete columns at the existing first floor, shoring/bracing towers were required at the front and back facades as well as at a line of interior columns supporting the historic ballroom.
  • The Conservatory program required three performance spaces in the building.  The largest space is the concert hall which incorporates the historic ornate plaster of the former ballroom.  Since the existing exterior wall of the ballroom occupied the space between the planned seating area and stage of the new concert hall, a large transfer truss was engineered to support the existing ceiling and create a large column-free space.  Additional transfer trusses and hanging framing over the historic ballroom enabled the formation of two additional levels of program space without imparting load on the historic ballroom below.  The other two performance spaces, the Salon and the Recital Hall are two-story high spaces that are created with large plate girder framing.  The atrium at the entrance is also expanded into a large inspiring space by the use of two story-deep transfer trusses and hanging framing.


  • Architect: Perkins + Will Architects
  • Owner: San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Steel framed buildiing with concrete shear walls
  • All the performance and practice rooms have full acoustic isolation with double walls and floor construction.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music


San Francisco Conservatory of Music

René Vignos

Chief Operating Officer