The fourth floor of the historic War Memorial Veterans Building is the new home of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera. Before completion of the space, San Francisco Opera’s staff operations were scattered across the city. The tenant improvement created a location that consolidated all employees of the San Francisco Opera into a single campus consisting of office spaces, a costume shop, a performance space, an education/rehearsal studio, two public exhibition galleries, and an additional 10,000-square-foot space for fitting rooms and costume storage. Due to the multiple-use purposes with the building, Webcor had to construct the spaces in a manner that would acoustically isolate each performance space from its neighbor, allowing full performances to occur across the hall from the administrative offices as well as above the Herbst Theatre located on the floor below without interruption.
There are very few opera companies in the United States who hold their own in-house costume studios. The Norby Anderson Costume Studio accommodates up to 40 people working continuously in its space, complete with dye vats, sewing machines, and more, and houses the SF Opera Costume Shop’s extensive collection of over 300,000 costume pieces. The heart of the complex, the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, boasts a high-tech, modular 299-seat, 4,500 square foot venue that accommodates not only live performances, but also film screenings, lectures, business meetings, receptions, and more.
Working with the city and preservation architects, Webcor was able to preserve much of the historical fabric that comprised the building when it opened in 1932. New design elements of glass and steel are deferential to the existing Beaux Arts detailing, and by contrast celebrate the historic architectural splendor. This process involved the discovery of characteristic items including four beautiful scagliola columns that had been covered up decades previously. The building is designated as a National Historic Landmark and California Historic Resource.