Written by Neil Ginty, Architect

What goes into the design at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)? How do concessionaires best navigate for a successful project completion? We tackled these questions and more in a panel discussion for the American Institute of Architects San Francisco (AIASF) chapter’s Fresh Brew series this summer. Moderator William Duff was joined by panelists Jonathan Tsurui, Retail Practice Leader, WDA; Franco Marinaro, Design Manager for Project Management Support Services at SFO, WSP; and our client Iva Chen, Director of Business Development & Marketing, Lady Luck Gourmet (Goldilocks Filipino Cuisine).

Complete with its own building inspection department (BICE) and Design Review Committee (DRC), SFO could be considered a small city within itself. The discussion centered around meeting the standards of these groups and overcoming the challenges of working at SFO, a building with all the complexities of any normal food hall but superimposed on an airport infrastructure that needs to be secure yet still maintain a smooth flow of people, luggage and vehicles. The panelists explained how to best navigate these obstacles toward successful resolutions using Filipino restaurant, Goldilocks, as a case study for the discussion.

With over ten years of experience designing retail and restaurant spaces at SFO, Jonathan Tsurui revealed how the success of his projects was built on relationships with people at the airport. “SFO is kind of different,” he said. “Everyone’s focused on being successful. If you get in and talk about the issues, you find people are all pushing to get to that final solution.”

Introducing an iconic Filipino institution to American travelers was an exciting prospect for Iva Chen who designed Goldilocks’ new quick serve restaurant at SFO. “We thought it was a great opportunity to give exposure to what is a well-known Filipino brand,” she said. “It is a well-established brand; they have Mondrian style tiles with big primary colors but SFO’s Bay Area Natural theme was in the back of my mind when designing. We tried to freshen up what Filipino cuisine should look like and marry that with the Bay Area Natural theme.”




  • Focus on what is unique to the Bay Area and tie those elements into your design.
  • Collaborate with the airport’s Design Review Committee to find solutions that embrace the context of the base building and are cohesive with the airport’s overall design vision.
  • Leverage the experience of your design team, consultants and the SFO staff and stakeholders. Their knowledge and experience of the airport is invaluable.
  • Find a strong General Contractor with established relationships at SFO and involve them at the beginning of the project.



Curious how architects and designers are creating new airport experiences in the age of a global pandemic? To find out, join us on September 16 for the Arch + the City panel discussion, Flight Path: Designing New Airport Experiences. William Duff will join speakers Ryan Fetter, Gensler and Katy Mercer, Woods Bagot in conversation. We hope to see you there!



William Duff Architects: William Duff, AIA, LEED AP; Jonathan Tsurui; Sarah Mergy; Wendy Osaki; Brenna Daugherty

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