New York has one, Chicago has one, and now the Chronicle’s John King alerts us that San Francisco might see a Trump-brand tower in its future. No one is taking bets on the conservative presidential candidate’s name emblazoned on a highrise located in one the most progressive cities on the planet, but King is stirring the pot to call attention to a land auction hosted by Transbay Joint Powers Authority on September 2. On the docket: a parcel of land on the 500 block of Howard Street, where zoning allows for an 800-foot tower. Five development teams will bid against each other. According to King, “[I]dentities are being kept secret until the live auction to, in the words of bureaucrats, 'preserve the integrity of the competition.'” Will Trump be one? The Chron’s critic is wagering a guess, suggesting that with minimum bid at $160 million, the live auction could set off a bidding war that would help pay for the Transbay Transit Center. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the center expected to serve eleven different transportation systems and feature a rooftop park. The tower on the offer would join others in San Francisco's Transbay district by Studio Gang, OMA, SOM, and Foster and Partners. Gang’s undulating 40-story tower recently came under fire for its soaring height, which community activists protested would cast a shadow over the public Rincon Park on the Embarcadero waterfront. King’s argument, however, is not that Trump will soon be mixing it up in the town of Milk and Moscone (or the new SF: Twitter and Uber) but that design is pushed off the table for the sake of raising cash. In 2007, the city held a design competition for the transit center and neighboring tower. This auction comes with no design strings attached. “Standards are slipping,” he wrote and continued: “If the check clears, good enough. Let the city’s Planning Department sort through messy questions about how the tower looks or whether the developer will try to push for extra space.”
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[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA) It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli's Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city's Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building's undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center's first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] "This is a dramatic change in material, but the philosophical change is not enormous," said Fred Clarke of the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, who said the terminal would still feel light, not heavy. Chronicle critic John King warned that the move "could make the transit center less of a sinuous, snaking form—and more of a drab block—as it spans First and Fremont streets." On Pelli's side, Clarke argued that the wrapping would still be transparent. Of course he admitted: "Architects who do this kind of building must be very, very pragmatic."
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! 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 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