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The SFJAZZ Center - Mark Cavagnero Associates

Lead DesignersMark Cavagnero, FAIA
Prize(s)Gold in Architecture Categories / Urban Design
Project LinkView
Entry Description

The SFJAZZ Center is the first freestanding venue in the country purposely designed for the performance and appreciation of jazz. Serving as the organization’s first permanent home in its 30-year history, the three-story, 35,000 square-foot Center comprises an ensemble room, 700-seat auditorium, rehearsal spaces, digital learning lab, café, box office, and administrative offices.

Located on the edge of the city’s Civic Center Performing Arts District, SFJAZZ joins a constellation of established cultural venues including the Opera, the Symphony, and the Ballet. The glass and concrete structure establishes a contemporary and dynamic counterpoint to these venerable neighbors, embodying the vibrancy of jazz and actively engaging its urban surroundings.

Wrapping the ground floor public spaces, a transparent glass façade reveals the excitement within, allowing the lobby, café and ensemble room to activate the urban streetscape and invite the public inside. The acoustically-isolated ensemble room—the Joe Henderson Lab—places artists within feet of street onlookers, enhancing the sense of accessibility and connection. The upper stories employ a rhythmic façade of opaque and clear glass and street-facing balconies, underscoring the Center’s civic spirit.

Conversely, the Robert N. Miner auditorium is an intimate and focused space, providing a range of viewing experiences. This flexible, state-of-the-art space accommodates audiences from 350 to 700 and has a reconfigurable stage that supports a wide variety of performance types. Raked seating establishes an intimacy that allows the audience to be part of the performance, contributing to a more dynamic experience.

Underpinning the spatial and visual design priorities is the goal of creating performance spaces with superior acoustic qualities. Every design detail ensures an optimal live jazz experience - from the custom seats to the delicate wood slats wrapping the auditorium’s interior. Expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, the Center also incorporates next-generation technologies for recording, broadcasting and production.


With clarity in form and function, and roots in their surroundings, Mark Cavagnero’s projects mirror and honor their communities. Since the firms founding in San Francisco in 1993, Mark Cavagnero has built the practice on flexible design, simple solutions, and a palette of elemental materials of glass, concrete, and wood. The firm’s consistent consideration of each project’s context has garnered clients’ trust, and has allowed the firm to drop architectural gems throughout the city of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area that tie their communities together.

Awards and Prize

2017- Architect- The Architect 50: Ranked #2 in Business

2016- Architect- The Architect 50: Top Design Firms in the Nation

2015- AIA California Council: Maybeck Award

Architect- The Architect 50: Ranked #23 in Design

2014- Architect- The Architect 50: Ranked #8 in Design, #10 Overall in the Nation

2013 - Architect- The Architect 50:Ranked #29 Overall in the Nation

San Francisco Business Times: Top 50 Bay Area Architecture Firms

2012- AIA California Council: 2012 Firm Award

Architect- The Architect 50: Ranked #16 in Design, #19 Overall in the Nation