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August 07, 2022


Peter Garrison

“Craning” to see the future down Park Rd:

Walk south down the middle Park Rd during a Farmers’ Market.
Stop in front of Ace Hardware. Still looking south note the loss of sky, the lack of mountain views and the shadows.

Now, turn north towards The Gap and the sky is wide, the mountains give a sense of place and the sun shines on what a visitor once called our “nicely human sized town.”


The American Society of Civil Engineers has a nice piece on this project on their website. Here's a teaser and the link:

During the 1930s New Deal era, the United States’ Works Progress Administration (later renamed the Work Projects Administration) built hundreds of post offices across the country. One of those was built in downtown Burlingame, California, a small community just south of the San Francisco International Airport, which opened in 1927. The town’s historic post office (its sixth downtown post office building, according to the Burlingame Historical Society) was designed by architect Ulysses Floyd Rible in a Spanish eclectic style with art deco elements and constructed from 1941 to 1942.

Architecture and preservation firm Page & Turnbull conducted an evaluation of the property and completed a historic report. According to H. Ruth Todd, FAIA, AICP, LEED AP, a Page & Turnbull principal, architectural historians at the firm studied the building’s essential features, and architects then mapped those features in plan and elevation with color coding and hierarchy references to indicate where designers could easily introduce changes to the building and where changes would either not be a good idea or needed careful consideration.

As a result of that process, an L-shaped portion of the building — one leg constituting the main lobby for visitors and the other leg constituting a “postmaster’s wing” of administrative space — was prioritized to remain.

Ted Korth, a principal with KSH Architects, the firm designing the project, explains that the massing and rectangular character of the post office building informed the design of the new addition. The new building also had to fit in with the human scale of Lorton Avenue. He says the architects had to consider: How best can one design a big building that fits in with the context that’s there?

The answer was to develop the first two floors in a way that defined a two-story base, along Lorton, and introduced several different materials to define the separate building volumes.

----Ed: We shall see about that--------

The full length of the historic lobby will be retained, as will its seven bays of fenestration. A new terrace — one of several planned in the new project — will be sited along the lobby wing. Doors installed in the existing window bays will connect the lobby space to the terrace, which will connect to the planned park. (The existing eagle sculptures will be relocated.)

But the big challenge was what to do with the old post office building while those two stories of underground parking were being excavated.

Jim Salata, the owner and president of San Jose, California-based Garden City Construction, recalls that developers on their first meeting had the “wild idea” to install piers underneath the post office building and keep it suspended in place in midair as the two-story garage was constructed. He cautioned against it. The project would have been very difficult to excavate, and the piers would have required removal. “It’s a narrow building,” he says. “You hit a pier, it’s going to fall down.”

He proposed a more audacious idea: moving the post office portion that is being retained off its podium and then moving it back. “They thought I was crazy.”

---From there, it goes into more engineering and construction detail--all of which is very cool. Check it out:


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