SF's Pyramid Defies Expectations

Forty years ago, an unusual proposal for a pyramid-shaped skyscraper caused outrage across San Francisco. Today, it is recognized as a worthy addition to the skyline. John King looks at the building's transformation from eyesore to icon.

King cites the numerous complaints about the towers design when it was proposed 40 years ago:

"Progressive Architecture rolled out a string of adjectives: "insensitive, inappropriate, incongruous." Newsweek bemoaned a tower that would be "wrong in any city" but "particularly wrong in ... easily wounded San Francisco."

None of the slings dislodged the support of the player who mattered most, Mayor Alioto. Not only did he back Transamerica because of the jobs that would be created, he very publicly touted the unorthodox design."

Full Story: Pyramid's steep path from civic eyesore to icon



Transamerica Pyramid and Empire State Building

We can see the limits of King's vision - and the limits of modernist architecture - by comparing two icons: New York's Empire State building, which was designed in the 1920s, when principles of traditional urbanism and architecture were still influential, and San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid, designed at a time when modernist urbanism and architecture had taken over completely.

The illustration below shows a view of the Empire State from across the street. It obviously fits into the surrounding urban fabric and creates a place that is interesting and attractive to pedestrians.

more at http://preservenet.blogspot.com/2010/01/transamerica-pyramid-and-empire-...

This one needed pictures, so I put it on my blog. It is something I have been wanting to write about for a while, and John King's characteristically myopic article provided the occasion.

Charles Siegel

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