The Magnolia Center: Senior & Local History Center

Location: South San Francisco (SSF), California
Design Services: Architecture
Project Type: CommunitySenior Center, Historic Rehab
Architects: Group 4/Architecture (Lead Designer: Robin Chiang)
Awards: Award for Excellence – AIA San Mateo County
Environmental Planning Award – California Park and Recreation Society (CPRS)
Honor Award – California Building Official (CALBO)


This public facility combines community social services with a local history museum. The original building was constructed in the 1920s as a primary school. It was condemned as a seismic hazard by the State and then purchased by the City of South San Francisco.


Most of the building had to be demolished. Although an important historic landmark budget constraints prevented reconstruction of the building to its original 1920s finishes inside and out. The designer, Robin Chiang, suggested a concept that proved to become popular and successful: Restore the exterior to its 1920s splendor with affordable lightweight (foam) materials and use a 1920s avant-garde style–called De Stijl–to create a new interior. By designing with that style in mind low-cost commercial finishes appeared historical. Blending the two 1920s styles was hailed by local history buffs for ingenuity and praised by the community for beauty and convenience. The 14,000 sf building was completed in 1988.



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