Stephen Francis Jones is already known around the world as a master of architecture and design. Whether you are talking about Wolfgang Puck’s signature restaurant Spago in Beverly Hills, farm-to-table landmark MB Post in Manhattan Beach, the flagship location for La Brea Bakery, the Lucky Strike Bowling chain, Japan’s Mister Donut franchise, or the Java House chain in Africa, Jones’ designs are more than just places to eat – they are highly crafted social spaces where relationships are formed, collegial and familial bonds are reinforced, and communities are built.
And that’s the impetus behind Jones’ most recent efforts – including the unique Foundry & Lux complex at Britannia Cove at Oyster Point, located in South San Francisco. Approached by HCP Inc, one of the nation’s largest real estate firm specializing in healthcare and medical technology, Jones created Foundry & Lux as a central amenities facility to service the cutting-edge, high-tech firms that will populate the Britannia Cove campus. Bringing to life a concept inspired by the word “Saturday,” Foundry & Lux is a unique social and commercial space that includes places to satisfy the mind, body, and soul. With places to eat, exercise, and relax, including spaces for yoga and a zen garden, Foundry & Lux is to the rest of the complex what Saturday is to the rest of the week.
Foundry & Lux is just one of Jones’ ongoing projects that reflects his evolving understanding of how a well-designed space and facility can do more than just offer commercial developers a place to set up shop. Inspired by new entrepreneurial colonies like Britannia Cove, where like-minded professionals find ways to share resources and work across disciplines, Jones is thrilled at the new challenges presented to his firm with every project. How can a new space serve management, staff, customer, and community alike? How can the values and vision of a working group be reflected in the offices, dining areas, and public spaces where people gather to brainstorm, develop, and create? As the world evolves towards new models that reimagine where and when we do business, the vision of Stephen Francis Jones and his design team continue to think outside of the box to imagine spaces that unify as well as define us.
STEPHEN FRANCIS JONES
The feel of a modern restaurant, venue, or public space is important – does it feel like home? Nature? Imagine a place where it feels like – Saturday.
A uniquely talented architect and designer of such a space must showcase their ability to evolve existing structures and designs, thoughtfully and seamlessly marrying the fresh with the familiar. That’s the profile of Stephen Francis Jones, who has been designing restaurants, hotels and spas all around the world, from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills, to the retro chain Lucky Strike Lanes, to the wildly successful MB Post in Manhattan Beach, to Java House franchises in Kenya.
But experience has taught Jones that challenges do not emerge only in new projects, where blank canvases, new developments, and empty tenant spaces can mean the freedom of endless possibilities for a designer. In fact, the most significant challenges demand that his approach towards design itself evolve and adapt to the ever-changing ways in which public and work environments come together in conceptualizing new dining and entertainment facilities.
That’s the core idea behind Jones’ evolving design strategy, called “Saturday,” the driving vision behind his latest project, Foundry & Lux, located at the new office complex Britannia Cove at Oyster Point, located in South San Francisco. A shared “campus”-like community of 880,000 square feet, designed to house some of the world’s most innovative and influential science and biotechnology firms in seven buildings, the Jones-designed common space, which occupies about 27,000 square feet, centrally located in the ground floor of one of the buildings, will be one of the main perks for the companies and individuals who will work there, filled with artisanal restaurants, recreational and fitness activities, and personal services. “Foundry & Lux, this central amenities facility,” Jones explains, “is to the rest of the complex what Saturday is to the other days of the week.”
When the business and tech leaders, HCP Life, behind the project were considering ways in which to lure top corporations to their new facility, they envisioned something that resembled what Google and other companies have done in creating workspaces that cater to workers’ out-of-office interests, lifestyle choices, and tastes. In fact, they were bowling at a Lucky Strike bowling alley, saying that this was the kind of space they needed – some place that was fun, casual, and impeccably designed – so they decided to find the guy who had designed Lucky Strike – Stephen Francis Jones.
“Typically with a new client or restaurant concept, I create a story that goes with the project,” Jones remembers, “I often sell clients on that story, which might be about the history of the space, or the story of the concept.” But in this case, Jones was a bit stumped – the complex’ site was an otherwise unremarkable former port in an industrial portion of the Bay’s southern coastline, what was once farmland before being converted to a staging yard for the steel that made the Golden Gate Bridge a century ago.
Instead, Jones hooked onto the Saturday concept, building on an instinct he had been harnessing about the future of architectural design in a world of shifting life-work dynamics. Reading the “Saturday” supplement of the Los Angeles Times one weekend morning as he waited for his daughter’s youth volleyball game to start, the light bulb went off – could there be a design equivalent? “I realized that I was really designing social spaces,” Jones explains and that the activities in social spaces could be those activities you do on a Saturday.”
One of the hallmarks of Jones firm is its strong working relationships with fabricators, artisans, and other designers who share the same vision: of spaces that are functional, sustainable, and inspiring, suited to the demands the individual client, the users of the space, and the local community. “I just thought about all of those people I work with and my group of clients, and imagined them sharing a common social space. This guy’s into craft beer; this one does gourmet salads; this one likes the gym, this one goes to a yoga studio. Saturday is the stuff you do on Saturday – eat, play, live.”
It became clear that this was more than just a new design concept: this was a full-fledged endeavor that needed to be managed and grown over time, not just “built” and left to use. “I wasn’t only thinking about being the architect,” Jones explains. “I wanted to work with my client to create a fun amenities program and design to that program, and then take it a step further, which is executing it. Eventually, we hope to put together a team of operators – like the concierge at a hotel – to take care of the people at the office park. We’ll be able to respond to the needs of the businesses as they evolve, whether that is Wednesday afternoon oil changes, a place to drop off your dry cleaning, places to eat, or a bowling alley.”
Designing social spaces unites the numerous strategies and concepts of Jones’ two decades in the profession, a logical next step from designing restaurants which are, perhaps (besides houses of worship) the most singular public space where sharing, celebrating, relaxing, and connecting are fundamental. Foundry & Lux at Oyster Point and other recent projects have given Jones the opportunity to bring that same vision to the shared spaces of work communities. Another client is working with Jones to create a work-and-live amenities portion of a 50,000 square foot facility in El Segundo that will be made up of like-minded creatives, similar to “We Work.” Working on behalf of these entrepreneurial “colonies” has allowed Jones to evolve alongside his clients, more of whom are looking to streamline and diversify their appeal. “I’m doing the same thing with my office environment,” Jones says, discussing an ongoing expansion of his own office space. “There are a couple of firms who are going to share space in my office, creating a community of like-minded creatives. We aim to be the leaders in creating amenities facilities, and Oyster Point was really the catalyst for it.”
A cursory recollection of Jones’ most noted projects provides ample evidence of his ability to think creatively while still retaining the value and quality of well-established brands. When the La Brea Bakery debuted in a new home, Jones’ design elements, from the 35-foot display case to the lowercase “b” logo, helped usher in a successful re-brand. He and his graphic designer created an updated brand identity and prototype building design to reinvigorate the brand of Japanese chain Mister Donut. He designed new locations for the Del Frisco Grille in Irvine, Santa Monica, and Pasadena. He’s currently at work on his 6th and 7th locations for Greenleaf restaurant (in Glendale and Calabasas), which each new location requiring fine tuning in order to connect with the brand and speak to the unique demands of each location.
He’s also busy at work on creating a second location 360 Degrees Artisan Pizza in Africa, part of his continuing work for casual dining chains in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. While some challenges are practical—getting materials overseas and dealing with time zone differences and lengthy travel—others are more theoretical. Navigating through different perspectives on the importance of design can pose challenges, but the restaurant’s forward-thinking CEO understood the value of design and its ability to help set the chain apart from its competition. “I’m still applying the same basic elements that I developed for my clients here,” Jones explains. “It’s all about understanding the needs of the client and responding to them as they let you know what is and is not working.”
Jones is well-prepared for a successful global career. After studying architecture at the University of Florida, Jones got his Architectural Master’s degree at UCLA. He began his career in Boston, working with Jung/Brannen Associates designing high-rises. After his first year at UCLA, he studied in Italian hill towns in Tuscany. While living in Europe, he worked for a year in Barcelona during the exciting buildup to the 1992 Olympics. There, he worked with the internationally renowned firm, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, where he was the designer on the Cagnes-sur-Mer mixed-use complex in France, and the Institutio de Mediteraneo in Barcelona.
He began working for the famed L.A. firm Grinstein/Daniels while still at UCLA, and after completing his Master’s degree, Jones spent a year in Miami rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes and then returned to Los Angeles to work on the design of a co-generation power plant in Sacramento. Jones was given the opportunity to reinvigorate his passion for restaurant design when he was hired as the in-house architect at the Wolfgang Puck Food Company. In 1996, he left the Wolfgang Puck Food Company to start his own firm, SFJones Architects. Eager to continue his association with Jones, the famed chef and Barbara Lazaroff hired him to recreate Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s most celebrated restaurant, in its new Beverly Hills location. Jones continued to work on Puck’s fine and casual dining restaurants all over the world. He then went on to create the original design for Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, with locations to follow in Chicago, Toronto, Denver, St. Louis, Louisville, South Beach and Orange County. The fresh concept of a retro bowling alley/lounge became fiercely popular nationwide: Jones was hired to design Big Al’s, a bowling alley and sports bar in Vancouver, Washington, and Ashton Kutcher’s Dolce Group hired Jones to design Ten Pin Alley in Atlanta.
Jones’ client list now second to none when it comes to some of the most respected and successful eateries on the west coast and beyond. That list now includes Jones’ most recent gigs for clients like the Urth Caffe in the City of Orange; American Tea Room, which has opened in the arts district in Downtown Los Angeles; and three Simmzy’s restaurants in Burbank, Huntington Beach, and El Segundo. He is busy at work in the design phase of a new restaurant in Honolulu, HI called Merriman’s, featuring local star chef Peter Merriman.
But how does a designer supply to client demand for fresh, new ideas that will breathe vitality (and profits) into a business? Jones says the key is diversity in lifestyle. “Lifestyle translates to one’s design sense. I think a designer is always thinking about design in their environment and the more diversity you have in your life, the more ideas that present themselves to you.” As a married father of two (his wife, Stephanie Eyestone Jones, is owner of Eyestone Environmental, an urban planning firm), Jones lives a carefully integrated life. His mornings begin very early at the UCLA Aquatic Center, near his office in Marina Del Rey. An hour or more of rowing in a single scull gives him time and tranquility to think through his day. “Relating it to my daily regiment lifestyle,” explains Jones, “it’s a meditation period of my day—when I have my best ideas.”
In these types of projects—where an idea like “Saturday” might inspire a completely new design concept—what may appear to be limitations to novice designers are seen as opportunities by the more seasoned architect deeply refined and committed in his craft. The experience does not merely call for a challenge in design, but also calls for one in discovery. “My ambitions go beyond architecture,” Jones explains. “I like to live my life with the same passion that I bring to design. I want to do work that feeds the spirit, not the ego.”
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Stephen Francis Jones’ website is SFJones.com