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July 8, 2011 9:00 AM CDT

Fixin’ Up the Ritz

The San Francisco Ritz Carlton Condominiums and Residences undergoes a restoration


The San Francisco Ritz Carlton Condominiums and Residences.

The San Francisco Ritz Carlton Condominiums and Residences.
Built in 1890, the Chronicle “DeYoung” Building was the first Skyscraper in San Francisco and, at the time, the tallest building in the West. In the 1950s, the building was modernized during the Minimalist period of Architecture. The entry bay was completely shorn off, and the second story and upward was clad in metal panels. With the complete restoration to its original architectural facade in mind, Ritz Carlton purchased the building for its San Francisco Third and Market Street Condominiums and Residence project.

A Solution

With the guidance of Frank Bracken and Maurice Lafayette, the team at Architectural Facades Unlimited (AFU) recreated the 14-story entry bay detail of the building, which had been shorn off for the metal panels installed in the’ 50s. The bay window sections, missing brick, lintels, moldings and sandstone details were recreated to match the existing brick, sandstone color and texture. All patterns, rubber-molds, color matching, attachment embedments and glass fiber reinforced concrete fabrication (GFRC) were created at the Architectural Facades plant in Gilroy, Calif.

This project was extremely intricate, and the craftsmanship involved had to be impeccable. Constant communication had to exist for measuring and construction changes. AFU, Charles Bloszies Architects, Page & Turnbull, and the associate architects for the historic preservation, and Four Star Erectors worked together to create a successful project.

Glass Fiber Reinforced Cement is composed of glass fiber reinforced cement for both interior and exterior applications. It weighs about 8 pounds per square foot at 3/4-inch thickness. GFRC is a great choice for projects in which weight; flexibility of design, color and surface texture; and climate extremes are important. With PSI of 5,000 GFRC is perfect choice for high-traffic areas.


As a result of their work, Architectural Facades Unlimited was awarded the 2009 Award for Excellence in GFRC Fabrication by the Architectural Precast Association for the Ritz Carlton Condominiums and Residences Project.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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