Prometheus Headquarters at Brickline

Just steps from a regional transit hub and a thriving downtown, Brickline anticipates the continued trend of city dwellers migrating to urban villages just outside of major cities. With easy connections and plenty of choice, walkable suburbs offer the lifestyle that many have come to expect. But as mixed-use, transit-oriented developments pop up all over the country, many have been criticized for lacking character and a distinct sense of place. A spate of articles, including Anna Kodé’s “America the Bland,” explore the issue. Bricklineoffers an antidote to “it-can-go-anywhere” development. Through materiality and site specificity, Brickline—which includes a mix of housing, offices, and retail—reads as endemic to the City of San Mateo, with its walkable streets, distinct storefronts, ample open space, and blend of historic and modern architecture.

Paying homage to San Mateo’s distinct sense of place and strong community was important to Prometheus Real Estate Group, a family-owned company dedicated to creating homes and neighborhoods that feel authentic and foster a sense of belonging. The company—which recently opened its new headquarters onsite—was founded upon the vision to transform apartment living by attending to every inch of detail, from site selection to interiors. This culture of excellence has enabled Prometheus to give back their time and, on average, over thirty percent of their cash flow (through their foundation, the Helen Diller Foundation) to support positive change, locally and beyond. For example, they adopt a non-profit in every city in which they operate, including sponsoring, for example, City of Dreams, whose mission it is to help the youth living in San Francisco’s underserved communities build brighter futures through mentorship and youth development.

Spanning a city block, Brickline is organized in discrete pieces to break down its massing and take cues from the existing streetscape. A combination of brick, wood, and ribbed metal panels differentiate the five-story residences while cream-colored brick and punched windows distinguish the four-story offices, relating in scale and texture to adjacent brick and terracotta clad buildings. Fluted glazed terracotta panels, wood cladding, and a pronounced roof overhang lend additional warmth and variation to the facades. Ground floor retail adds to the city’s offerings while creating buzz along the street.

Prometheus wanted their new headquarters to echo the richly layered, community-rich experience of their apartment offerings, while celebrating the company’s Northern California roots. In response, no detail was spared, revealing a design process more common in that of a custom residential project. Bespoke and familial, elegant yet casual, Prometheus’ new workplace feels like a comfortable and welcoming home—one that embraces the mild climate and the natural beauty of Northern California. With 28,750 square feet, it is located on the third and fourth floors of Brickline. Ample terraces and a rooftop deck with views of San Mateo Station and the Santa Cruz Mountains pull the workplace outside.

Careful consideration was given to every aspect of Prometheus’ new workplace, beginning with how people approach and navigate through the building. Set back from the bustling street corner, an intimate, terracotta-clad portal marks the entrance and leads to a formal lobby. From here, an elevator brings people to a foyer, providing direct access to their individual workspaces or the option to join colleagues in one of the various communal spaces.

Kitchens, conference rooms, and other meeting areas encircle a central stair, encouraging people to socialize and move about the building. The stair, capped with a glass and louvered roof, extends from the third floor to the roof while pulling natural light deep into the workplace. Patterned wool wall coverings create a textured atmosphere along this well traversed, sunlit vertical path.

A light, airy, and finely appointed Living Room on the fourth floor is the center of gravity for the Prometheus community. Inspired by California’s iconic residential modernism, the Living Room—along with all communal areas—is characterized by openness, multifunctionality, indoor/outdoor flows, and views of nature. Textiles, wood accents, and metals were specified to evoke a coastal California look and feel. A large kitchen with a double island anchors the Living Room, creating a large gathering area that brings people together for shared meals, events, and meetings. Movable furniture, a retractable projector, operable wall panels and automatic shading help the space flex for different purposes. Bead board cabinets, quartz countertops, and handmade Italian ceramic fixtures with a white crackle glaze elevates the domestic charm of this all hands space.

Hand-crafted details, bespoke furniture, indoor plantings, art, and veiled technology create a refined yet relaxed aesthetic throughout. The Founders’ Den, a nod to the office of the Prometheus founder, features a marble top table with a red leather base, custom rug, and grass cloth wallpaper that quietly textures the naturally lit space. Built-in cabinetry encloses a large screen—like all screens in Prometheus’ workplace, it is tactfully concealed—to invoke the tranquility of home. Walnut millwork and a shiplap ceiling distinguish the Study, an informal social space accommodating three or four people. A large Conference Room transforms easily while maintaining acoustical isolation; custom white oak storefront doors subdivide or open up the space, while leather and felt accent panels seamlessly cover or conceal screens. Personal touches, such as copper pulls, further soften the space.

Individual workspaces for Prometheus’ talented and tightly knit team are organized into small neighborhoods, allowing for focused work. The goal was to pull the residential atmosphere of the communal spaces to the workstations, prioritizing functionality over an excess of sofas. A red cedar slatted ceiling and wool felt panels help mitigate noise while delineating the individual workspace neighborhoods. High-quality commercial-grade carpeting with a refined herringbone pattern achieves a sophisticated and inviting aesthetic reminiscent of a living room or a hospitality setting. Light fixtures integrate acoustic felt products with a nuanced heathered finish and white stitching. Custom millwork enhances the storefront glass walls of private offices, creating refined yet warm workspaces. Thoughtful design moves, like a walnut banquette where employees socialize or spend a quiet moment alone, provide transitions between collaborative areas and focus zones.

While the project was underway, the design team met regularly with manufacturers and visited the San Francisco Design Center to source materials, finishes, furniture, and textiles, a process more typical for hospitality or residential projects. Every detail was thoughtfully considered and hand-selected to offer the comfort and individuality of one’s own domain, or the feeling of “being home at work”—fitting for a company that uses residential real estate to advance the greater good.

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