Within the San Francisco Civic Center are some of the city's most distinguished civic buildings, not the least of which is the sprawling, gold-domed San Francisco City Hall. While the nearby Bi-Rite Café is no match for those buildings
in terms of size, prominence or importance, the 640 sq. ft. food kiosk looks quite at home despite the architecturally imposing setting. Helping the little building make a big visual impression are ornately designed bifold liftstrap doors
from Schweiss Doors.
As designed by WRNS Studio of San Francisco, the doors are fitted with decorative, laser-cut stainless steel panels. When the business is open, so are the doors. In the up position, they double as canopies over the customer serving counters. When closed, they
form a attractive, box-like shell that secures the business and all of its contents.
The Bi-Rite Café is directly adjacent to City Hall and the Helen Diller Civic Center playgrounds near Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. Other nearby edifices include the elegant War Memorial Opera House, the Asian Art Museum and the Civic
Center Plaza. Just a stone's throw away are the David Symphony Hall and the SFJazz Center. The design of the doors was the result of architectural influences and inspirations found in many of those buildings.
“We worked with Zahner, based in Kansas City, who fabricated the panels using our custom perforation design, which was inspired by some of the other metal work at the Civic Center, mostly what you see on City Hall,” says Hattie Stroud,
a WRNS Studio architect. “It’s a modern interpretation of these historic patterns.”
Zahner’s abilities in metal fabrication, including engraving and etching, have provided a canvas of possibility for expressions on plate and panel surfaces worldwide.
The doors remain open during business hours and then can be locked shut with an automatic latching system to protect contents when not in operation. The largest door measures 49 feet, 4 inches wide by 12 feet tall, while the four other liftstrap doors
vary in size from 16 feet, 8 inches to 12 feet, 11 inches in width. They all feature weatherproof electrical and stainless steel windrails.
Bi-Rite Café is a fun, lively outdoor gathering space where anyone can relax with the historic and picturesque city hall as a backdrop. The menu offers breakfast and lunch all day and includes healthy and child-friendly options. They also
have Bi-Rite Creamery soft serve ice cream made with Double 8 Dairy water buffalo milk and a full espresso bar and coffee program featuring Sightglass Coffee.
“I think the owners were happy with the doors,” Stroud says. “We are increasingly using big overhead doors because with the climate in our area; people really like to be able to open up a cafeteria or school space adjacent to an
outdoor space. On this particular project, we used Schweiss because we felt the straps would be more reliable from a maintenance standpoint in the long run. We looked at two other door manufacturers, but liked these doors because they actually
have fairly minimal equipment on the siderails. A lot of other products seem to have counterweights, electrical equipment, guards and such. One of the nice things about Schweiss Doors is that we were able to work with them to do some custom work
on the things that had to be there. It worked pretty well on the installation.”
The kiosk is a change of pace from some of the nationally prestigious projects WRNS is known for.
“We do a lot of bigger work, but a lot of the things we really are about are these small projects we do for the city because we live here and use these spaces too and we want to see them doing well,” Stroud says. “It’s work
we are really passionate about. There was a really committed team of people working on it, not just from our office, but also from Rec & Parks, Trust for Public Land, Roebbelen, Bi-Rite and a bunch of different agencies in the city. Everybody
really had the best interest of the project in mind and were behind making this happen. It was a great thing to work on.”
The contractor assigned to building the kiosk was Roebbelen Contracting of El Dorado, Calif. Nick Tisell, a superintendent for Roebbelen says he was impressed with the doors and customer service from Schweiss Doors.
“The install went great and everything on these doors went swimmingly,” Tisell says. “We worked with Dave, Brent and Paul at Schweiss Doors and they were willing to take numerous phone calls from me no matter how complicated the
questions were. They were all very helpful. Customer service from Schweiss was very good, I’m happy to say. I like the actual fabrication of the doors; shop drawings and the wiring diagrams were very good quality. Overall, these attractive
doors give you the ability to put any type of cladding on them. It is a neat door with a wide opening surface.”
Installation of the bifold doors was completed by ABS Builders Inc., a general contractor from Maxwell, Calif., the same firm that installed the five large doors from Schweiss Doors on the new Kings Stadium Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.