Unlike many cities, San Francisco’s most iconic structure is not a building but a bridge. While the Golden Gate looms large in popular culture, it casts a shadow over some of the hilly city’s more iconic buildings. Likewise, although bay windows may rival the bridge’s iconic status, the city’s eclectic mix of Queen Anne and Victorian homes with modern architecture is less often remarked upon as noteworthy in and of itself. Yet, designing and building with heritage in mind is just one of many challenges that the city’s architects rise to in any design (steep hills and a meandering waterfront representing other prominent hurdles).
As Silicon Valley has grown, making property prices skyrocket, architects are increasingly pressed to address rising inequality and the affordable housing crisis. At the same time, they have responded to the growth of wealth and business by designing campuses, offices, masterplans and the like. The urban issues that San Francisco faces are both daunting and complex, but the high caliber of local firms makes the city well suited to rise to the occasion.
With so many architecture firms to choose from, it’s challenging for clients to identify the industry leaders that will be an ideal fit for their project needs. Fortunately, Architizer is able to provide guidance on the top design firms in San Francisco based on more than a decade of data and industry knowledge.
How are these architecture firms ranked?
The following ranking has been created according to key statistics that demonstrate each firm’s level of architectural excellence. The following metrics have been accumulated to establish each architecture firm’s ranking, in order of priority:
- The number of A+Awards won (2013 to 2022)
- The number of A+Awards finalists (2013 to 2022)
- The number of projects selected as “Project of the Day” (2009 to 2022)
- The number of projects selected as “Featured Project” (2009 to 2022)
- The number of projects uploaded to Architizer (2009 to 2022)
Each of these metrics is explained in more detail at the foot of this article. This ranking list will be updated annually, taking into account new achievements of San Francisco architecture firms throughout the year.
Without further ado, here are the 18 best architecture firms in San Francisco:
18. Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture
“What makes my work more creative is infusing a client’s ideas with my knowledge of space-making. The collaboration with the client creates a more dynamic solution.” – Sarah Willmer, Founder & Principal, Studio Sarah Willmer
Studio Sarah Willmer Architecture is an award-winning nationally and internationally published architecture and interiors firm based in San Francisco. The primary premise of the studio is a strong belief that collaboration with the client creates a more dynamic and unique design solution for each project. The principles of simplicity, of spaciousness and light, of synthesis and function are realized in each project. Three principals guide the design process with each client: the building’s structure as a primary expression of space, the control and infusion of natural light, and an environmentally sensitive and elegant material palette.
Some of Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- Atlassian II Offices , San Francisco, CA, United States
- Skagit River House, Skagit County, WA, United States
- Two-Way House, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Sonoma Retreat, Healdsburg, CA, United States
- Precita Park, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Studio Sarah Willmer, Architecture achieve 18th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
17. Architectural Resources Group, Inc
Bruce D. Judd, FAIA and Stephen J. Farneth, FAIA, LEED AP, launched Architectural Resources Group in 1980 with the belief that historic buildings played an important and continuing role in our cities and our lives.From small beginnings in a living room with a desk and a coffee pot, ARG has grown to a 50-person firm with a national presence and is responsible for reinvigorating some of California’s iconic buildings and sites. Headquartered in San Francisco, ARG has offices in Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon. In 2006, the American Institute of Architects California Council awarded ARG as Firm of the Year, the highest honor AIACC bestows on an architecture firm. We have always been interested in designing meaningful places for people.
Some of Architectural Resources Group, Inc’s most prominent projects include:
- Kistler Vineyards Barn, Sonoma County, CA, United States
- Los Angeles Union Station Metro Bike Hub, Los Angeles, CA, United States
- The Lodge at the Presidio, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Pier 70 Waterfront Plan, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Steven S. Koblik Education & Visitor Center, San Marino
The following statistics helped Architectural Resources Group, Inc achieve 17th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
16. Studio BANAA
Studio BANAA is a San Francisco-based architecture practice focused on creating thoughtful and inventive urban infill and adaptive reuse projects for real estate developers, local businesses, and community organizations.
Driven by both creativity and functionality, our approach to design is uniquely tailored to each particular user and site. Information-gathering through user and community feedback, site and environmental analysis, market research, feasibility studies, and general exploration is what we believe forms the basis of a successful design. Armed with our newfound knowledge and heads full of fresh ideas, we are able to produce cohesive design solutions with a deeper understanding of your project’s needs.
The buildings we design prove that creativity, financial returns, and doing the right thing for the community and the environment are not mutually exclusive. We design creative housing solutions and bold commercial spaces that serve the community, increase density, and maximize existing resources.
Some of Studio BANAA’s most prominent projects include:
- Voyager Craft Coffee – The Original, Santa Clara, CA, United States
- 55th Street Live-Work, Oakland, CA, United States
- Zenrez Office, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Rapid Displays Office, Union City, CA, United States
- BCA Office, San Jose, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Studio BANAA achieve 16th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
15. Mark Cavagnero Associates
Mark Cavagnero Associates is a San Francisco-based architecture firm focused on cultural, commercial, education, and civic projects. Since its establishment in 1988, the firm has completed a wide range of architectural and master planning projects, including large and small scale institutional, non-profit, commercial, and residential projects. The firm provides a full range of services, from programming, master planning, site planning and conceptual design, through construction documents and administration.
Some of Mark Cavagnero Associates’s most prominent projects include:
- East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Richmond, CA, United States
- SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco, CA, United States
- The Terrace, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, United States
- SFO Consolidated Administration Campus, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Confidential Investment Firm, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Mark Cavagnero Associates achieve 15th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
FUTUREFORMS is an award-winning interdisciplinary art and design studio practicing out of San Francisco, CA Since 2005, founders Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno have collaborated on a range of projects exploring the intersections of art and design with public space, performance, advanced fabrication technologies, robotics, and responsive building systems. Recent projects have included fine art objects, furniture and lighting fixtures, art pavilions and sculptural shade canopies, as well as large scale urban art installations. From 2002-2018 the studio was called Future Cities Lab.
Some of FUTUREFORMS’s most prominent projects include:
- Hydraspan, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Lightweave, Washington, DC, United States
- Constellations, Pensacola, FL, United States
- Murmur Wall, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Lightswarm, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped FUTUREFORMS achieve 14th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
13. Studio O+A
At Studio O+A, our work process combines creativity and flexibility with the technical expertise to realize appropriate solutions for our client. Because our professionals are trained and experienced in all aspects of corporate planning and design, we exercise a degree of control that carries projects from concept to finish with consistency and economy.
Some of Studio O+A’s most prominent projects include:
- Facebook HQ, 1601, California Avenue, Palo Alto, CA, United States
- AOL Headquarters, Palo Alto, CA, United States
- The Pretend Store, Charleston, SC, United States
- Cambridge Associates, San Francisco, CA, United States
- McDonald’s Headquarters, Chicago, IL, United States
The following statistics helped Studio O+A achieve 13th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
12. JENSEN Architects
At JENSEN Architects we are passionate about creating buildings and environments that enrich the experiences of organizations and individuals. Guided by a responsibility to achieve the most using the fewest resources and to engage a broader cultural perspective, we develop solutions that embody each client’s values and larger purpose.
Our wide-ranging portfolio—encompassing arts, education, residential, workplace and retail—is underpinned by an abiding interest in how we live and work today, and the pleasure we take in collectively solving design challenges through research, unconventional thinking, and a focus on craft.
Some of JENSEN Architects’s most prominent projects include:
- SFMOMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden, 151, 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA, United States
- KBP West Offices, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Ann Hamilton Tower, Geyserville, CA, United States
- OMCA Event Space
- Walden Studios, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped JENSEN Architects achieve 12th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
11. Feldman Architecture
Feldman Architecture is an innovative residential and commercial studio known for creating buildings that sit lightly on the earth: beautiful, healthful, and soulful spaces that enhance our clients’ lives, our communities, and the environment.
Some of Feldman Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- House Ocho, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, United States
- Slot House, Los Altos Hills, CA, United States
- Sunrise, Healdsburg, CA, United States
- Surf House, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
- Atherton Pavilions, Atherton, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Feldman Architecture achieve 11th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects is a progressive San Francisco-based office that has been globally recognized for projects ranging in scale from institutions to private homes, as well as interior and object design. Founded in 2004, OPA is an idea-driven office committed to finding design solutions that both expand the possibilities inherent in architecture and resonate within their particular context. While every project originates as a response to specific requirements of site, program and client, it evolves as an exploration of its own internal potential rather than reflecting a predetermined architectural style. In all the work, there is an emphasis on shaping and choreographing spatial experiences through the consideration of movement, perception and formal logic.
Some of OPA’s most prominent projects include:
- Gallery House
- Dune, Pajaro, CA, United States
- Vortex, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Nuclear Thresholds, Chicago, IL, United States
- Hidden House, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped OPA achieve 10th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
9. Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors
We believe that masterful design is unique, relevant and timeless. We really like iconic architecture that is conceptually interesting and also reveals an attention to detail, materiality, and authenticity. We admire boldness balanced with simplicity, innovation balanced with functionality, and power balanced with precision. We see ourselves as well-traveled creators with a conviction that a talented and experienced team that conscientiously listens is a valuable ally. We are professionally motivated to connect the aspects of artistic ambition, problem solving, environmental responsibility and style within demanding requirements.
We are an award-winning multidisciplinary firm dedicated to design excellence. We were founded in 1992 by Architect Cass Calder Smith and are now comprised of four principals that include Barbara Vickroy, Taylor Lawson, and Tim Quayle.
Some of Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors’s most prominent projects include:
- Aptos Retreat, Aptos, CA, United States
- Mill Valley Residence, Marin County, CA, United States
- Family Home Palo Alto, Palo Alto, CA, United States
- Seadrift Residence, Stinson Beach, CA, United States
- Springs Residence, Clinton Street, East Hampton, NY, United States
The following statistics helped Cass Calder Smith Architecture + Interiors achieve 9th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
8. Aidlin Darling Design
With a shared interest in exploring design across a wide range of scales, programs and disciplines, partners Joshua Aidlin and David Darling started Aidlin Darling Design around a wood shop in 1998. With an emphasis on designing for all of the senses, they have cultivated a diverse and collaborative studio that acts as the creative hub for an extended network of builders, fabricators, artists, engineers, chefs and other collaborators. The firm’s work explores a closely held conviction that design can enlighten the human spirit by engaging all of the senses.
Some of Aidlin Darling Design’s most prominent projects include:
- Brecon Estate Winery, Paso Robles, CA, United States
- Glen Ellen Aerie, Glen Ellen, CA, United States
- Winged Retreat, Carmel Valley, CA, United States
- High Desert Retreat, Palm Springs, CA, United States
- Terrace House, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Aidlin Darling Design achieve 8th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
7. Anderson Anderson Architecture
Anderson Anderson Architecture is a respected, award-winning design firm with experience in a broad range of project types. Partners Mark Anderson and Peter Anderson started the firm as a design-build construction company in 1984. With a strong foundation in the practicalities of construction, we have since grown into a diversely experienced architecture firm collaborating with many other general contractors, manufacturers and construction professionals to provide clients with design excellence, high-quality execution and experienced representation of the client’s interests throughout the construction process. Maintaining a relatively small design staff assures close personal attention to the firm’s designs projects.
Some of Anderson Anderson Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- Harvard Yard Childcare Center, 2, Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA, United States
- Sebastopol Barn House, Sebastopol, CA, United States
- Phoenix House, Berkeley, CA, United States
- Black and White Block House, Menlo Park, CA, United States
- Anekona Project, HI, United States
The following statistics helped Anderson Anderson Architecture achieve 7th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
6. Rapt Studio
We’re into branding, design and the spaces that bring them together. We love connecting things. Sites, design and strategy—we think it’s better when they all come together. We’re a group of designers, builders, thinkers, and fans of culture who love creating inspiring spaces, digital places, and everything in between. In short, we help companies stand out and stand for something.
Some of Rapt Studio’s most prominent projects include:
- Blink Inc., Santa Clara, CA, United States
- HBO Seattle, Seattle, WA, United States
- General Catalyst, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Unity SF, San Francisco, CA, United States
- GitHub, San Francisco, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Rapt Studio achieve 6th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
5. S^A | Schwartz and Architecture
S^A | Schwartz and Architecture is a modern architecture and interior design studio established by Founder + Principal Neal J. Z. Schwartz, FAIA in 1997. Our expertise is in guiding clients through a highly interactive design process tailored to their personalities, budgets, and needs. Rather than imposing a pre-conceived aesthetic, we begin our work by thoughtfully analyzing the particular opportunities posed by any site and constraint. We remain involved at every stage of design and construction, and thrive working with fixed schedules and resources.
Recent recognition for the firm’s design work and ethos includes a national James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence in Restaurant Design, two Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, four AIA California Council Design Awards, a Boston Society of Architecture Design Award, and four AIA San Francisco Design Awards.
Some of S^A | Schwartz and Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- Crook | Cup | Bow | Twist, Marin City, CA, United States
- Box on the Rock, Sonoma, CA, United States
- Overlook Guest House, Los Gatos, CA, United States
- Shou Sugi Ban House, Los Gatos, CA, United States
- Lichen House, Glen Ellen, CA, United States
The following statistics helped S^A | Schwartz and Architecture achieve 5th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
4. Arterra Landscape Architects
Arterra is a full-service landscape architecture firm specializing in contemporary, sustainable design. We collaborate with our clients and their design team, providing imaginative solutions and clear communication.
The Arterra Team is a diverse and slightly quirky group of creative and nerdy individuals. We are dedicated to the art and the craft of our profession. We consider it an honor and a privilege to do the work we do — and we do it well.
We share ideas and inspiration in our beautiful, open studio space, where design ideas come to life. We are dedicated to doing sustainable work, and living sustainable lives. Our greatest achievement is creating a meaningful and sustainable landscape legacy.
Some of Arterra Landscape Architects’s most prominent projects include:
- View Finder, Carmel Valley, CA, United States
- Tilting Toward The Sky, CA, United States
- The Pavilion , San Jose, CA, United States
- Slot House, Los Altos Hills, CA, United States
- Sunrise, Healdsburg, CA, United States
The following statistics helped Arterra Landscape Architects achieve 4th place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
3. Mork Ulnes Architects
With offices in San Francisco and Oslo, Mork Ulnes Architects approaches projects with a combination of Scandinavian practicality and Northern California’s ‘can-do’ spirit of innovation.
Some of Mork Ulnes Architects’s most prominent projects include:
- MOOSE ROAD RESIDENCE, Ukiah, CA, United States
- Troll Hus, Placer County, CA, United States
- Triple Barn House, Sonoma, CA, United States
- Ridge House, Sonoma, CA, United States
- Skigard Hytte, Fåvang, Norway
The following statistics helped Mork Ulnes Architects achieve 3rd place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
2. Form4 Architecture
Form4 Architecture believes in returning a sense of humanity to Modernism through emotional meaning and poetic design. The San Francisco-based award‐winning firm measures success by our contributions to society through a 2nd Century Modernist approach that balances expressive design, rigor, empathy and sustainability to create captivating buildings and spaces that resonate with people and enhance their lives.
Some of Form4 Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- Corten Ribbon, Walnut Creek, CA, United States
- Falling Lotus Blossoms, EON IT Park, Pune, India
- Sanguine Lily, 1916 Centenary Chapel at Glasnevin Cemetery, Concept
- Folded Wings, Palo Alto, CA, United States
- Cloudscape, Concept
The following statistics helped Form4 Architecture achieve 2nd place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
1. IwamotoScott Architecture
IwamotoScott Architecture is an award winning architecture and design firm established by Lisa Iwamoto and Craig Scott. Based in San Francisco, California, the firm has gained national and international recognition for innovative design with projects around the country and overseas. Committed to pursuing architecture as a form of applied design research, IwamotoScott proceeds from the belief that each project can achieve a unique design synthesis. IwamotoScott’s client list includes arts organizations, educational institutions, media firms, commercial developers, and private clients. Our projects consist of work at all scales including urban design, buildings, interiors, full-scale fabrications, museum installations and exhibitions and theoretical proposals.
IwamotoScott has received over eighty design awards and honors.
Some of IwamotoScott Architecture’s most prominent projects include:
- Edgar Street Towers, Manhattan, New York, NY, United States
- City of The Future: Hydro-Net, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Heavybit Industries, San Francisco, CA, United States
- Goto House, Napa County, CA, United States
- Pinterest HQ2, IwamotoScott Architecture
The following statistics helped IwamotoScott Architecture achieve 1st place in the 18 Best Architecture Firms in San Francisco:
Why Should I Trust Architizer’s Ranking?
With more than 30,000 architecture firms and over 130,000 projects within its database, Architizer is proud to host the world’s largest online community of architects and building product manufacturers. Its celebrated A+Awards program is also the largest celebration of architecture and building products, with more than 400 jurors and hundreds of thousands of public votes helping to recognize the world’s best architecture each year.
Architizer also powers firm directories for a number of AIA (American Institute of Architects) Chapters nationwide, including the official directory of architecture firms for AIA New York.
A Guide to Project Awards
The blue “”+”” badge denotes that a project has won a prestigious A+Award as described above. Hovering over the badge reveals details of the award, including award category, year, and whether the project won the jury or popular choice award.
The orange Project of the Day and yellow Featured Project badges are awarded by Architizer’s Editorial team, and are selected based on a number of factors. The following factors increase a project’s likelihood of being featured or awarded Project of the Day status:
- Project completed within the last 3 years
- A well written, concise project description of at least 3 paragraphs
- Architectural design with a high level of both functional and aesthetic value
- High quality, in focus photographs
- At least 8 photographs of both the interior and exterior of the building
- Inclusion of architectural drawings and renderings
- Inclusion of construction photographs
There are 7 Projects of the Day each week and a further 31 Featured Projects. Each Project of the Day is published on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Stories, while each Featured Project is published on Facebook. Each Project of the Day also features in Architizer’s Weekly Projects Newsletter and shared with 170,000 subscribers.
We’re constantly look for the world’s best architects to join our community. If you would like to understand more about this ranking list and learn how your firm can achieve a presence on it, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.