Home #Hwoodtimes Stephen Francis Jones’ Designs Suggests Thinking Little is the Next Big Thing

Stephen Francis Jones’ Designs Suggests Thinking Little is the Next Big Thing

You’ve heard of tiny houses – but tiny restaurants? Well, that’s not too far off one of the many innovative new design concepts from Stephen Francis Jones and his team at SFJones Architects.

One of Jones’ newest high-profile projects is the beer garden at The Fields LA, which will be located on the northwest plaza of the new Banc of California Stadium, adjacent to the legendary Los Angeles Coliseum. Employing a repurposed shipping container as a small kitchen pod, the beer garden/patio with a wooden deck will provide a shady spot for food and drink in an atmosphere that is equal parts hip and humble. “Shipping containers have a cool factor that make the project attractive and unique,” Jones explains.  They’re going against the cliché that “bigger is better.”


His other recent projects run the gamut: restoring the classic Ashley residence (built 1908) in Coronado; developing the Foundry and Lux business campus at Oyster Cove; rebuilding homes destroyed by fire in Santa Rosa; and creating new spaces for clients ranging from medical collectives to legendary restauranteurs. Whatever the project, Jones brings thirty years of experience and success, making him well-prepared for the challenges of the future.

Indeed, using shipping containers as a cross between a traditional brick-and-mortar structure and a mobile food truck is at the core of other Jones projects, like CenterCal’s new development, the Pavilions at Veranda in Concord, which has retained Jones’ firm to design six 800 square foot food kiosks as part of the amenities for a big shopping center.   Not too long ago, Jones remembers, malls were anchored by big chain retails store. “Now developers are asking, what do I do with these spaces now that the anchor stores have gone away? The place making projects I am working on help to reshape those spaces into destinations for locals, drawing them to activities and amenities that are unique and replace the big box – not just restaurants, but events spaces, skating rinks, outdoor bowling – things that give people a reason to go to a retail center besides shopping.”

His assignments are all reflections of the ways in which Jones is evolving his business from mere architecture and design to “placemaking” – using thoughtful and efficient design concepts to make businesses, offices, and homes more sustainable, livable, and unique. As the business and commercial world reimagine where and when we do business, Stephen Francis Jones and his design team continue to think outside of the box, to imagine spaces that unify as well as define us.

Common open spaces, integration with the natural landscape, and user-friendly amenities are just as important to Jones’ projects as basic form and function.

Using structures such as mobile shipping containers gives developers the opportunity to recruit local “mom-and-pop” food businesses with an alternative to food trucks, while not requiring a long-term obligation to a permanent space. They are also almost ubiquitously hip – and very functional. “The containers are mostly just kitchen, so it’s really the outdoor seating and experience that the public encounters,” explains Jones. “With communal tables, proper lighting and shade, this is exactly the kind of thing that works very effectively in warm-weather cities.” Lower entry costs to the businesses means more streams of revenue for the developers, who are also able to quickly convert or transition the container if necessary: if a business fails, it’s easy to move in a new tenant, and if more development needs to occur, it isn’t too much of a burden to simply move the container to a new desirable location.

Besides which, restaurants that share common space, open spaces, and easy access can give neighborhoods character, and provide opportunities for unique branding that emphasizes local flavor and strengthens community building. “When the restauranteurs are part of the same community as many of their customers, these freshly designed social spaces become cool destinations, places to hang out, a far cry from the generic food court,” says Jones.

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. That’s the kind of process that has informed some of Jones’ more elaborate projects, such as Foundry and Lux, the work campus located at Brittania Cove at Oyster Point in South San Francisco.

Another new project has him partnering with a group of orthopedic professionals in the process of relocating to El Segundo. “They wanted to reinvent and rebrand themselves,” Jones says of the group, “and they wanted their facility to be more than just a place for people to come for treatment, like a traditional doctor’s building or medical center.”

Working with his team, Jones has designed a complex with graphics that incorporate the active physical environment – representations of figures hiking, biking, playing tennis – that shows the doctors’ passion for their work and dedication to the well-being of the client.