On a last-of-its-kind waterfront location along San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a stunning tower rises 20 stories high, housing 120 units and a 5,000-square-foot restaurant. Dubbed One Steuart Lane, the project was approved in 2015, broke ground in 2017, and upon completion—slated for this summer—it will be “unlike any other residential building on the West Coast” according to Christopher Brandt, senior vice president of asset management at Paramount Group, the company owning the property.
The city’s only waterfront condominium offering brought together some of the most illustrious names of the global real estate industry. Paramount Group and SRE Group are the developers, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are the architects of the project, Rottet Studio are responsible for interior design, Swinerton is the general contractor and Polaris Pacific handles marketing.
Prime waterfront destination
One Steuart Lane acts as a visual bridge between the traditional loft buildings of the city’s historic waterfront and the modern towers of the Financial and Transbay districts.
“One Steuart Lane started with our understanding of this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime site—one of the last high-rise sites on San Francisco’s downtown waterfront,” explained Mark Schwettmann, design director at SOM. This understanding materialized into residences that boast floor-to-ceiling glass and more than 9-foot ceiling heights, optimizing the colors that radiate off the water’s edge.
“Unique to any residential building in the last century in San Francisco, the exterior of One Steuart Lane is luminous in solid Roman travertine, sourced from quarries in northern and central Italy,” detailed Brandt. “It is the same stone used to build the great works of early Rome.”
Travertine’s endurance and beautiful aspect makes the high-rise unique not just in San Francisco, but in the U.S. In Brandt’s words, it makes owning a residence in the tower a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
“We embraced the idea of creating a residential tower in which the residents were uniquely connected to the place—the views, the light and the air, both literally and figuratively,” he added.
One Steuart Lane is carved into a series of three-story volumes defined through wraparound terraces and each volume is divided horizontally by recessed balconies trimmed in stone, metal and clear glass. The building carries just minimal modern details and all elements have been engineered to maximize Bay views, including mullion-free windows, grand terraces and balconies that transition from indoor living space to open air.
“One Steuart Lane is superlative and unusual in many ways,” according to Schwettmann. The windows are 8 feet wide, and the interior and exterior of the terraces are completely flush. Moreover, there are outdoor spaces on every level of the building.
When asked about his favorite part of the project, Schwettmann responded that the seamless transition between the interior and the exterior is the winning design feature. “It’s unusual in a high rise to feel so connected to the landscape,” he said.
Schwettmann confessed that this desire for extreme transparency and connection to views and place initially seemed at odds with the material vision for a warm, tactile building clad in contextually appropriate natural materials, but SOM owned the challenge and came up with the perfect design solution. They deployed larger elements of stone around the individual volumes of the building rather than at each window, and then at each individual window, carefully tailored the proportions of the cubic travertine to prioritize depth.
More so, the weight of the enclosure panels with the cubic travertine and insulated glass, coupled with the seismic performance criteria, was a prime design focus. After detailed development, full-scale dynamic seismic testing was performed to validate design and construction assembly. “Each full-size specimen passed the tests successfully,” Schwettmann confirmed.
Interior layouts emphasize the seamless flow from one space to the next and always draw the eye to views outside. Materials used include Fumed La Borra French Oak, Carrara and Glorious White marbles, satin nickel fixtures and polished white lacquer cabinet doors and trims. This combination reflects the elements of the culture and landscape of Northern California.
Top environmental performance
California remained on the top spot in the nation for the number of LEED certifications awarded to multifamily projects in 2021, according to data from the U.S. Green Building Council. Through June, the state already had 29 communities certified to a certain LEED level by the organization.
This number will grow and will likely include One Steuart Lane. Designed with the LEED Gold award in mind, the building’s sustainability features go hand in hand with its high-performance architecture. It is equipped with a mechanical system that allows heat to be transferred from one side of the building to the other, taking advantage of San Francisco’s bright sunlight, even on cool days.
With domestic hot water a major energy consumer in residential buildings, the project’s designers decided to integrate solar evacuated tube collectors on the roof, which allowed them to cover a large part of the roof area without sacrificing light and transparency the way flat plat collectors or photovoltaic panels do.
“As architects, I believe we have a responsibility to our clients but also to future generations, and a site like this demands a particularly timeless, ambitious response,” said Schwettmann.
The condos range from one to three bedrooms, spanning in size from 900 to 3,000 square feet, and rare penthouses measure up to 6,200 square feet. Priced from $1.6 million to more than $10 million, the residences at One Steuart Lane have already caught the eyes of buyers.
The most recent ones are from San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, but their profile is quite diverse, ranging from those looking to “right-size” in order to accommodate work-from-home setups where they need a larger home, to empty nesters who are now craving more travel and want the freedom to simply lock-and-leave.
First-time homebuyers also see the underlying value of the one-bedroom residences at One Steuart Lane, but so do those looking for a “pied-à-terre, allowing a presence in the city for occasional work and social events.”
For months last year, activity at the sales gallery had to be halted and shifted to an all-virtual model. “Thankfully, sales activity remained strong throughout the pandemic and the uptick in interest has significantly increased in recent months,” Brandt said.
The health crisis has had little impact on the project’s design, according to Schwettmann. The project was already optimized for health, having outdoor space for every unit, generous operable windows and doors, and a very high-performance mechanical system with filtered outside air supplied directly to every unit when needed.
The work process, on the other hand, was altered, and challenges included following the ever-changing city and state guidelines to ensure the safety of the teams involved in the project, coordinating the arrival of overseas materials and adapting the construction site.
“Everyone in every industry around the world would agree it has been a stressful and challenging time, and we’re grateful to see light at the end of the tunnel,” said Brandt.