The SFJAZZ Center - Mark Cavagnero Associates

Lead DesignerMark Cavagnero, FAIA
Project LinkView
Prize(s)1st Place in Architecture Categories / Urban Design
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.


Since its establishment in 1988, the firm has completed a wide range of architectural and master planning projects, including large and small scale institutional, non-profit, commercial, and residential projects. The firm provides a full range of services, from programming, master planning, site planning and conceptual design, through construction documents and administration.

The firm’s commitment to design excellence has been noted by the larger architectural community with a number of professional awards. The firm’s work has garnered numerous awards beginning with San Francisco and California AIA awards in 1997 for the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. Since then, the firm consistently has received awards nearly every year totaling over 95 honors from state, local, national and international organizations.

Mark Cavagnero Associates was honored with the AIA California Council’s 2012 Firm Award, the highest honor that the organization bestows upon a firm, recognizing distinguished architecture and a culture of mentoring the next generation of architects. The firm ranked #29 in Architect magazine’s 2013 The Architect 50, the ranking of top architectural firms in the country. In 2010, Mark Cavagnero was awarded the AIA California Council’s Distinguished Practice Award
for a career of exemplary dedication and commitment to the built environment.

Numerous periodicals have published the firm’s work including Architect, Architectural Record, The Architects Newspaper, Business Week, Contract Magazine, Metropolis, Interior Design, New York Times Newspaper and Magazine, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, California Home & Design, SOMA, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Francisco Examiner Magazine, among many others.