Excerpt> Cityscapes by John King Rewards the Careful Observer

A shed for kayaks is one of 50 buildings highlighted in Cityscapes. (Courtesy John King/Heyday)

As the San Francisco Chronicle‘s urban design critic for the last decade, John King is one of the Bay Area’s most influential champions of good architecture. He chronicles the city’s projects, both large and small, with an eye to how they how they affect the city. (Most recently, he sounded the alarm about how the America’s Cup, with its proposed yacht dock, could change the waterfront for the worse.) His new book of short essays, Cityscapes (Heyday, 2011, $14.95), is based on his weekly column of the same name.

Instead of a coffee-table tome, King’s book is a very accessible, pocket-sized paperback. The 50 buildings—many unknown and unsung—are King’s homage to the unexpected architectural delights that reward the careful observer. “I also wanted to highlight the often-provocative ways in which buildings of different eras overlap,” King said. Here are two excerpts from the book, selected by King, that show the sweeping range of architecture in the city. Take it away, John!

King singles out Timothy Pfleuger's Roosevelt Middle School as a classic. (Courtesy John King/Heyday)

Roosevelt Middle School
460 Arguello Boulevard
Timothy Pflueger is revered in San Francisco for such Jazz Age showpieces as 450 Sutter Street and the City Club. Don’t look for Art Deco at his Roosevelt Middle School in the Inner Richmond, though. This is 1920s modernism with an industrial European bent, a three- story block that comes alive in the snap of copper-framed windows amid chiseled brickwork, or the battlement-like accents beneath a tower of propulsive thrust. Throughout his career, Pflueger understood instinctively that a city’s most resonant buildings are the ones that strike a visceral chord, no matter what their style might be. Miller and Pflueger, 3 stories, 1930

MKThink was responsible for this little gem of a structure. (Courtesy John King/Heyday)

Kayak House
Mission Creek Park
Infrastructure takes all forms in the twenty-first century, including such once-exotic tasks as keeping kayaks safe and dry, and this storage hut near the west end of Mission Creek is the most lyrical shed you’ll ever see. Imagine a graceful tent open at both ends, the long sides arcing up and in until the ribs slide past each other, tepee-like, one side cloaked in translucent blue plastic and the other in stained wooden slats. Nestled beneath the thrumming sweep of Interstate 280 near a mundane chunk of master-planned Mission Bay, blissfully dismissive of the drear and noise, there’s no big message here save one: Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. MKThink, 28 feet tall, 2008

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