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David Andreini in front of the Presidio Visitor Center.

Feb 3, 2017

PlaceMaker: Architect David Andreini Talks about Design and the New Presidio Visitor Center

He shares his favorite aspects of this new gateway to the national park.


Bay Area architect David Andreini is an associate principal at  Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) and has a history of adapting historic structures for new uses, including Apple Stores in London, Paris and New York. David was the architect for the new William Penn Mott, Jr. Presidio Visitor Center, housed in a rehabilitated building that was once a military jail (David and BCJ worked in partnership with exhibit designer Macchiatto and Presidio Trust project manager Christina Wallace). We asked David to share his favorite aspects of the new Presidio Visitor Center.​

How does it feel to work on a project meant to welcome the public?

Working on the Presidio Visitor Center provided an opportunity to improve a sense of place through design. The fundamental design goals for the Presidio Visitor Center have quite a bit in common with the work we did for Apple. In both cases, we designed experiences for the public to feel immediately welcome and to understand the options available to them. We’re looking to make it easy for visitors to feel comfortable.

What were the biggest challenges in completing the Presidio Visitor Center?

We found ourselves instinctively aligned with the park’s historic preservation guidelines; they helped shape the vision of the project and keep the team focused. There was an inherent design challenge in creating a welcoming experience for visitors while preserving a building that previously functioned as a detention center, which by nature would not be a welcoming place. Overall, this provided a great opportunity to create a sense of interest and drama.

How does the Presidio Visitor Center welcome visitors?

It’s important that visitors get their bearings, especially on a first visit to a place as complex as the Presidio. Our goal, along with that of Macchiatto, the exhibit designer, and the three agencies involved, was to create a total experience around orientation. We wanted the space to be welcoming and to provide opportunities for visitors to deepen their understanding of the Presidio through understanding what’s happening today and what happened in the past; by retaining and reconstructing the qualities of the preexisting building, we reinforced this historic connection.​

What was your favorite aspect of the new Presidio Visitor Center?

The location! It’s in a great spot for orienting visitors. It fronts the historic Main Post and provides a window outward toward the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay, and Crissy Field. It’s also an intriguing building architecturally with its own compelling history, and a great vantage point for watching the Presidio Tunnel Tops get built over the next few years. ​