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NYT: Creativity lacking in San Francisco’s high-rise boom

Friday, November 16, 2012

Count architect Frank Gehry among those unimpressed with the quality of the high-rise building boom going on South of Market. “It’s business without heart,” he tells the New York Times in a piece that tags San Francisco as having become architecturally stodgy. “People [in San Francisco] work hard to preserve old things without taking the risk to build something new,” Gehry says.

The NYT’s Alexei Barrionuevo is similarly uncharitable while comparing the architecture of San Francisco’s building boom to what’s transpired in New York. (The rendering is of the Richard Meier project at Market Street and Van Ness that’s been held up for five years.) An excerpt (after the jump):

But across the country, San Francisco offers an intriguing counterpoint: distinctive architecture is conspicuously lacking in the high-rise building boom.

Forty years after it was completed, the 850-foot Transamerica Pyramid remains the most recognizable high-rise tower built in the City by the Bay. Designed by the architect William Pereira, it took a lot of flak from locals during its planning and construction, with detractors sometimes referring to it as a phallic symbol, though their actual wording was more blunt.

Nevertheless, it became a fixture of the city’s skyline. Today it stands mostly alone in a city more interested in conserving its old Victorian-style homes than in making a statement with new development. It is a puzzling phenomenon in a part of the country often seen as an engine of American innovation.


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