Thursday, January 17, 2013

SFJAZZ Center 1: The Building

The new, $63 million SFJAZZ Center has just arisen at the corner of Franklin and Fell Streets where the modestly scaled three-story building glows in the morning sun.

That stretch of Franklin Street from Hayes to Market has long felt barren, so the glass-and-concrete modernist building already feels like a major transformer in an increasingly lively neighborhood.

Though the 750-seat Robert N. Miner auditorium that is the heart of the Center is virtually complete, some of the public spaces on the first floor are still being worked on by a small army of construction workers in anticipation of the Opening Day ribbon cutting on Monday the 21st. A Grand Opening Concert, emceed by Bill Cosby with an impressive roster of jazz superstars, follows on Wednesday the 23rd.

The philosophy behind the building is to make it as open and welcoming to the surrounding community as possible. Part of that mission involves the glass-walled rehearsal and performance space along Franklin Street above called the Joe Henderson Lab. The sights and sounds coming from the very public room should be an exciting addition to the neighborhood.

In addition, SFJAZZ is offering low-priced courses in digital music production to the public, divided into classes for adults and teens.

There are three wraparound lobbies encircling the single auditorium, and the ground floor is attached to the second level by a striking modernist stairway.

There you are greeted by one of three hand-painted ceramic tile murals which are a collaboration by California artists Sandow Birk and Elyse Pignolet.

On the second level, there are pair of bars and balconies at either end...

...and the main entrance to the auditorium...

...with its steeply raked stadium seating surrounding a powerful and extraordinarily refined speaker system and a flexible stage.

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