Structure Type: built works - performing arts buildings

Designers: Roller, Albert F., Architect (firm); Albert F. Roller (architect)

Dates: constructed 1940-1942

4 stories

San Francisco, CA

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San Francisco architect Alfred F. Roller (1891-1981) won the commission to design the NBC San Francisco studio at 420 Taylor Street; he created a remarkably austere Streamline Moderne design of two intersecting boxes. The larger box turned the northeast corner of Taylor and O'Farrell Streets, and had glass block ribbon windows and subtly curved exterior walls. The windows' three, thin bands of glass block allowed in light, but maintained privacy and sound-proofness, critical for a broadcasting studio. A second box sliced through the main one asymmetrically on the Taylor Street facade, and contained the canopied main entrance above which was a large ceramic mosaic. Through the main entrance was a lobby, with streamlined rounded walls covered in gold leaf and curved ceiling patterns; Streamline Moderne was also the style selected for NBC's Radio City in Hollywood, designed by John C.W. Austin (1870-1963) in the mid-1930s. Both building exteriors had rounded corners and utilized long ribbons of glass block to illuminate interior spaces. NBC's San Francisco studio was finished just before the federal moratorium on commercial building due to the onset of World War II. NBC had built its main transmission lines from New York to Los Angeles during the 1930s, meaning that programming could be shared directly from its East Coast source for distribution from a new West Coast hub that replaced San Francisco. This made the San Francisco facility less crucial to the network. Nonetheless, the network utilized Roller's building for its local Red network station (KPO) and its Blue Network station (KGO). With changing electronic technologies, the nature of broadcast studios changed rapidly during the 1950s-1960s. NBC's local radio affiliate (first called KNBC, later changed to KNBR), continued to use the building until 1967, when it was sold to KBHK, Channel 44, Kaiser Broadcasting's San Francisco UHF station. Kaiser occupied the building for ten years; by 1999, it stood vacant. Another tenant, ABM Industries, a company providing maintenance and janitorial services, had renovated into offices and moved in by about 2006, although they did not stay long. By 2013, Practice Fusion, a medical records software concern, again renovated and utilized the facility.

Joseph Arnone was the Architectural Supervisor for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on this project.

The building was remodeled to contain offices in the 1990s. The original glass block ribbon windows were removed and replaced with tinted glass.

PCAD id: 4031