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San Francisco Tower Takes On Many Meanings

Urban design critic John King’s aversion to LinkedIn’s new office space points to long-standing tensions in San Francisco.
April 7, 2016, 10am PDT | Elana Eden
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Melissa Clark

Designed by Gensler and Thomas Phifer, the LinkedIn office in San Francisco's South of Market district is either the city's "Black Swan" or a soulless overlord.

To some, the 26-story glass tower and its ground-floor public space convey elegance and grace. The pillar of dark glass reflects light in different ways throughout the day; at the lower level, the smoky tint lifts away to create a transparent entry.

But what Phifer bills as "muted," "soft," and "rich," San Francisco Chronicle critic John King calls "sullen," a "void," and a "black hole"—likening the dark structure to Darth Vader.

Phifer and developer Tishman Speyer are both New York-based, and LinkedIn is one of a few tech giants snapping up San Francisco's space—and, some would argue, its soul.

"The newcomer serves as a cautionary tale showing what can happen when out-of-town developers and architects have their own vision of what a city like San Francisco should be," King writes.

King's complaint isn't with 222's architectural achievement. It's that in his view, the design claims a neighborly attitude while making no attempt to work with its surroundings—an argument not unlike those made against tech companies themselves.

Even in the building's formally public area, King writes, "spectacle trumps civility… Impressive? Yes. Would you relax there with a book, or meet an old friend for a cup of coffee? Maybe not." 

It's all part, he says, of a "chic veil" that, when stripped away, reveals "nothing more than a container designed for tenants seeking large floorplates — a real estate pro forma that’s as big as the city would allow it to be."

More on the building at 222's website.

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Published on Thursday, March 31, 2016 in San Francisco Chronicle
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