How One Architect Is Redesigning Your Social Life
While you probably don’t know SFJones Architects owner Stephen Francis Jones personally, it’s likely you know his work.
Stephen is the architect behind Lucky Strike Lanes, Wolfgang Puck’s signature restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills and MB Post in Manhattan, and has designed countless restaurants and chains throughout the US and as far away as East Africa.
His latest project, Foundry & Lux in South San Francisco, breaks away from what Stephen has done in the past. While his design work typically tells a story about the space, the new amenity facility at HCP’s life sciences complex centers around the idea of a break from the workday.
He struggled with the concept behind this project until one Saturday morning while reading the Los Angeles Times—when he saw articles about food, mind and soul, and activities. Then everything clicked.
“This facility is what Saturday is to the rest of the week,” Stephen said.
The 27k SF center (above) offers a place for people to socialize and get something to eat or go to the gym, bowl a friendly game, practice yoga or relax at a bar with pool tables.
HCP executives came across Stephen’s work while at a Lucky Strike Lanes and determined this was the kind of fun and causal design their amenity center needed. So they contacted him.
During the design of the project, Stephen said he did a lot of research on workspace trends. He has become fascinated by the idea of co-working and the creation of a space that offers a blurred line between work and play.
He has since added transforming office spaces to his résumé and has been collaborating with a firm in El Segundo to design a 50k SF co-working space, El Camp. This co-working space focuses on catering to people in the same profession, providing space where they can share ideas and come together for a project and disband or continue with other projects.
Instead of taking the entire space and dividing it up into cubicles, Stephen dedicated 10k SF to a living room. It's a flexible space that offers movable furniture, different seating arrangements, a fireplace and a food component. There’s a morning coffee bar that can be transformed into an evening liquor bar. The living room can be used as an event space for guest speakers. He said the space can also be used for weekend events with catered food, adding extra revenue for the building’s owner.
“There are endless opportunities to network and really engage with the community,” Stephen said. “I felt this could be a unifying way through the basics of human contact and conversation.”
Stephen’s repertoire of bringing people together includes adding a 35-foot display case to La Brea Bakery and rebranding with a lowercase “b” in its logo, a rebranding of Japanese chain Mister Donut, and designs for Del Frisco's Grille in Irvine (above), Santa Monica and Pasadena. He’s working on the sixth and seventh sites for Greenleaf restaurant in Glendale and Calabasas, fine-tuning the brand based on the locations.
Stephen’s also designed Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, Louisville, South Beach and Orange County. He designed Big Al’s in Vancouver, WA, and Ten Pin Alley in Atlanta.
In 2012, Stephen received an email from an American who lived in Kenya and owned coffee shops. Stephen said he was brought on, rebranded the look and concept and created prototypes for new restaurants. Java House is up to 30 restaurants and is considered one of the largest chains in East Africa. Stephen also is working on 360 Degrees Artisan Pizza in Kenya with the same partner and is up to the second location.
He says designing in Africa is not much different than the US. A lot of the equipment is shipped from the US to Africa. The construction is a bit different, with basic formed concrete used more frequently in East Africa, he said.
Stephen hasn’t always focused on social-oriented spaces. Early in his career he worked on multifamily and high-rises, but he was “disillusioned with the pace.” He was in his late 20s and wanted to see quicker results and have a more hands-on experience.
He lived in Barcelona during the buildup to the 1992 Olympics and worked with Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura designing Cagnes-sur-Mer mixed-use complex in France and the Institutio de Mediteraneo in Barcelona. He’s worked with Grinstein/Daniels and spent a year in Miami rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes. He’s also designed a co-generation power plant in Sacramento. But his true passion is designing creative, social spaces.
While at Grinstein/Daniels, Stephen started to design restaurants, which he thought “was the coolest thing. Restaurants have such a social aspect.”
He went on to create SFJones Architects in Los Angeles and designed Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. He’s also worked with David LeFevre. While designing restaurants, he learned not only how restaurants work, but also how they make sense financially and how to work within a budget.
He has a knack for it. His most recent projects include Urth Caffee in the City of Orange, American Tea Room in Downtown Los Angeles and three Simmzy's restaurants in Southern California (above is the location in Burbank). He’s currently working on Merriman’s, a new restaurant in Honolulu featuring chef Peter Merriman.
While Stephen said each of his designs differs by project, he’s noticed a similarity in materials and expressions. He focuses on creating a flow of space “as optimal as possible” where servers can get around quickly and there are “no bad seats in the place and the environment is stimulating.”
Much of Stephen’s inspiration for design comes from his active lifestyle. Every morning Stephen rows. It helps him clear his head, think about the day ahead and allows him to “come to work fully inspired fresh off the water.” He lives a very active lifestyle, cycles a lot and often rides his bike to work.
“The ideas I have are because of the lifestyle I live. I feel creative and think through these things. I’m not grinding it out,” Stephen said.
He said he loves what he does and enjoys creating spaces where people can come together. He wanted to be an architect since seventh grade and has always had a passion for architecture.
“I hope when people think of my work, they think of the good times when they were at a certain bar...or worked in an office park,” Stephen said.