Workbook: Seeing Clearly in San Francisco

Marmol Radziner’s design for the new Oliver Peoples store in San Francisco takes its cues from the city itself. Image Drew Altizer/courtesy Marmol Radziner.

Save for some immutable specifics—how eyeglasses are stored and displayed, how customers try them on and see themselves in them—Ron Radziner, of Marmol Radziner, had the chance to let his creativity range as he and his firm designed the new Oliver Peoples store in San Francisco. As he puts it, “It’s more about how you express the concept of the brand and the feeling.”

Touring other locations, Radziner was struck by the clearly modern and clean feel of the existing shops, but the company sought another wrinkle in the design: They wanted Radziner to reflect a sense of place. What that meant, says Radziner, “was up to us to decide.”

With the city as his jumping off point, he hit on the idea the sea. “We tried to speak to the beach, ships, maybe waves,” says Radziner. The wood, actually redwood lath that has been bleached to gray tones, wrapping around most of the store’s perimeter has a windswept quality and contrasts nicely with the ash cabinets.

Lighting was also important for the architect. “In San Francisco, because light is always an issue, there’s always a desire to make sure things feel warm and bright,” he says. “We wanted to focus the light on the eyeglasses and displays and let the wood glow a little bit. We didn’t want any dark corners.”

Of the end result, Radziner says, “It’s still modern in its sensibility. If we did another store together, we wouldn’t do this again. Oliver Peoples is a small enough brand that they can be specific enough to their location and do something that speaks to their local community.”

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