Presidio Officers' Club

San Francisco, California

In collaboration with the Presidio Trust of San Francisco, RAA designed exhibits for the Presidio Officers’ Club that interpret some of the city’s oldest structures, built by Spanish colonial settlers in the late 18th century, and tell the story of the military and social heritage of this important national site.

RAA’s interpretive approach was inspired by archaeology projects conducted at the site over the past 15 years. Additionally, our approach centered around the idea that uncovering the Presidio story — like its archaeology — is an ongoing endeavor. Therefore, objects, images, oral histories, and linear and interactive media immerse visitors in this history, while leaving open questions about that story that remain unanswered.

Each layer, representing four distinct eras of building history, is brought to life by gobo silhouettes of people who once inhabited the room. A multichannel soundscape provides a more poetic storytelling experience by animating the space with sounds that reflect the changing use of the space over time.

In the Heritage Gallery, emotional connections are forged with visitors through vivid storytelling and theatrical immersion. Graphics in the shape of books, with pages that can be turned, emphasize storytelling aspects of the exhibits, while other elements, such as a timeline keyed to national and international events and a large map that can be changed as more areas of the Presidio are restored or uncovered, evoke the notion of “layers.”

A suite of interactive and linear media programs complement exhibit elements such as graphic panels and casework. The most dramatic of these are the Media Headers — three large-scale, staggered projection screens suspended above the historical exhibits; an ever-changing panoply of landscapes, places, and faces fills the upper levels of the gallery, expressing not only the physical beauty of the place but also the wealth of its cultural fabric.


Perkins + Will


12,000 sq/ft

  • Applied Arts, Interactive Media Award: Educational / Reference  

  • Creativity International Print & Packaging Design Awards, Silver  

  • Graphis, Design Annual 2015 Award: Print; Exhibit, Silver  

  • Industrial Designers Society of America, International Design Excellence Award, Finalist: Environments  

© 2014, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.