June 3, 2016

Perkins+Will’s Pro-Bono Design for the Tenderloin Museum in San Francisco

The museum’s reception desk in zinc and mahogany. Photography by Emily Hagopian/Perkins+Will.

Living in San Francisco for decades, Perkins + Will senior associate Seth Meisler always avoided the Tenderloin. “I’m a tough guy, but it still scared me,” Meisler says of the district, with its reputation for crime. Now that’s changing, thanks in part to Meisler’s design for the Tenderloin Museum, conceived and supported by the nonprofit Uptown Tenderloin. The museum’s mission is to change perceptions and to draw visitors by highlighting the area’s rich history. San Francisco’s gay and lesbian movement started in the Tenderloin, and the Grateful Dead and Santana recorded major albums there.

San Francisco’s Tenderloin Museum by Perkins + Will has opened in a 1907 landmark hotel. Photography by Emily Hagopian/Perkins+Will.

Working pro bono over the course of seven years, Meisler led a Perkins + Will team in the design of the museum, which occupies the ground level of the landmark Cadillac Hotel—a luxury establishment when it opened in 1907, a year after the earthquake, and now an SRO run by the nonprofit Reality House West. He chose the color red for signage and the transom of the new storefront system as a way to attract the attention of passersby. Inside, the airy 3,300-square-foot space has become a community hub, hosting film screenings, lectures, photography exhibitions, and, of course, live music.

Signage designed by the graphics firm Mucho for a reduced fee. Photography by Emily Hagopian/Perkins+Will.
LED light boxes representing the Tenderloin street grid. Photography by Emily Hagopian/Perkins+Will.

> See more from the May 2016 issue of Interior Design

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