San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower Opens, Underwhelms

Of the city’s newest, tallest building John King writes, “[it’s] as if the creators were so busy being tasteful they forgot that big buildings can be fun."
January 13, 2018, 1pm PST | Katharine Jose
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The new Salesforce Tower is pictured on the left.
Sundry Photography

This week, the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco “quietly opened for business,” and John King, architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, is only very mildly impressed. 

“The 1,070-foot shaft, with its tapered form of metal and glass, is a well-tailored behemoth. Immense but understated. Overwhelming yet refined. A study in thick-walled minimalism that seems to hover more than soar.

All of which makes for a nuanced tower, conscientious and self-assured even as it reorients the skyline and redefines San Francisco’s visual image. But there’s also an air of detachment, as if the creators were so busy being tasteful they forgot that big buildings can be fun.”

In its many years under construction, the Salesforce Tower easily surpassed the height of San Francisco's now-second-tallest building, the TransAmerica Pyramid. That building was controversial in its own time but, as King previously wrote, has an iconic quality that is arguably lacking in the city's newest skyscraper.

One of a new crop of very tall buildings on the West Coast, naming rights to the Salesforce Tower—originally known as the Transbay Tower—were bought by a cloud-computing company that is a major employer in San Francisco and agreed to lease 36 of the available 61 floors.

The symbolism of a tech company looming over the entire city is not lost on observers, King has reported. And buildings of increasing heights have long been used to establish dominance in San Francisco, David Streitfeld recently wrote in The New York Times, adding of the Salesforce building, “The tower is not beautiful but is impossible to ignore.”

King reports similarly tempered comments from one of the principle architects, Cesar Pelli, who said of the tower that its was meant to be “very tall, very big, but still polite.’”

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Published on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 in San Francisco Chronicle
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