Though it was announced in September that structural renovations estimated to cost over $100 million were approved to shore up San Francisco’s Millennium Tower, the 58-story building continues to sink and lean without a clear construction schedule in place. The Handel Architects-designed tower has been mired in controversy ever since it was completed ten years ago, and its infamy has only increased since its engineering oversights were made public. Indigenous arts collective Postcommodity has developed a response to the growing notoriety of Millenium tower through a sound installation at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). Titled The Point of Final Collapse, the installation translates the gradual movement of the tower into ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) audio by using computational algorithms, which will “transform the sonification of the sinking and tilting of the Millennium Tower into therapeutic sounds designed to encourage relaxation by extending the power of the city’s scenic beauty,” according to the artists. Long Range Acoustic Devices will be installed in SFAI’s historic Chestnut Street Campus tower to “broadcast” the ASMR audio in a four-minute duration each day at 5:00 p.m., aimed in the direction of Millennium Tower and Downtown San Francisco in general Postcommodity created The Point of Final Collapse to “engage the perspectives of a broad public by providing a call to prayer for relief from the economic stresses and dangers of a city in the throes of radical social, cultural, architectural, and economic transformation.” The artists, in other words, see the failure of Millennium Tower as a metaphor for the instability of San Francisco’s current economic and social symptoms, and hope that their piece will help offer a literal wakeup call. The Point of Final Collapse is the final product of Postcommodity’s residency at SFAI, following the group’s win of the 2019 award from The Harker Fund of The San Francisco Foundation. The installation will open to the public on November 15.
Posts tagged with "San Francisco":
Mission Rock, a new 28-acre waterfront development in San Francisco that's co-owned in a public-private partnership with the San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, and the Port of San Francisco, is scheduled to break ground next year. Along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and MVRDV, the Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen Architects was selected to design a significant portion for the upcoming neighborhood. The design of Henning Larsen’s contribution, a 13-story office block with a “rock-like outline” tentatively named Building G, was inspired by the geologic rock formations in Eastern California and San Francisco’s steep hills and streets. According to the firm, “the building breaks down the scale of a large commercial block into a ‘neighborhood’ scale” on the ground floor, with public amenities including benches, niches, retail, and “touchable materials." Above the recreational terrace on the fifth floor that wraps around the tower (described by the firm as the “mesa”), the general massing of the 300,000-square-foot building is broken up by volumes of 20-, 40- and 60-foot widths to mirror the dimensions of typical domestic buildings around San Francisco. These volumes are distinguished by green terraces and are arranged to both mitigate dominant winds from the bay as well as produce varying appearances from the street level. “We think of this as a big fat rock instead of a tall one,” said Louis Becker, a partner at Henning Larsen in a statement. “The idea is not a glass building, but a mass that’s carved out.” Building G’s rooftop features wind-sheltered terraces sloping toward the southwest to frame views of the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park stadium, the San Francisco skyline, and the Bay Bridge.
On October 15, the San Francisco Transportation Agency approved the Better Market Street Project, a bold plan to transform two miles of the city’s legendary Market Street into a pedestrian-only zone. The $604 million proposal will add fully-protected bike and transit-only lanes as well as a streetcar loop. To improve pedestrian safety and user experience, the street’s sidewalks will be widened, its uneven brickwork will be replaced with concrete pavers, and several benches and tables will be installed throughout. “A half-million people walk on Market Street each day,” commented Jodie Medeiros, the executive director of the nonprofit group Walk San Francisco, “yet it’s one of our city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes.” In response, the most significant aspect of the Better Market Street Project is its ban on personal cars altogether, an idea that sounded radical when it was first proposed ten years ago. The plan does, however, include over 200 yellow commercial loading zones on nearby side streets to accommodate local businesses, and personal cars will be allowed to pass through select intersections. As the city’s busiest thoroughfare, the proposal to transform Market Street was not taken lightly. “After a lengthy public planning process that included hundreds of outreach meetings and conversations with stakeholders,” San Francisco mayor London Breed wrote in a letter to the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency board, “the city has developed a design that will support safety goals, improve transit and transform Market Street for our next generation.” Now that the Better Market Street Project is approved, a design will be chosen by the city and construction for its first phase can begin as early as next year.
Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has released the first look at the design for its contribution to the new master-planned Mission Rock neighborhood in San Francisco. Called The Canyon, the craggy tower was created in collaboration with the local Perry Architects and inspired by the natural rock formations found throughout California. The 23-story, 380,000-square-foot tower references both San Francisco’s urban grid and its hilly natural landscape, bringing down craggy forms to the flat waterfront, and will feature a variety of offices, residences, and an abundance of open terraces. The Canyon is part of a four-building development being jointly planned by MVRDV along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and Henning Larsen. Each firm was brought on early in the so far 12-year planning and design process to collaboratively devise an overall scheme for the 28-acre site (previously being used for parking), as well as individual buildings that are intended to fit together yet remain each studio's own. SCAPE is also creating a five-acre park for Mission Rock. The neighborhood is being developed by Tishman Speyer in collaboration with the San Francisco Giants, whose ballpark will be set in dialogue with the new towers akin to the approach taken by the Rams and the Colorado Rockies elsewhere. The Canyon is designed to be an entry point to Mission Rock and the “fracture” in its design makes it so that the northeast block acts as a separate building with its own entrance while remaining connected to the other amenities in the tower. The intent, according to MVRDV co-founder Nathalie de Vries was to create a “dynamic design with a great vibe.” Mission Rock is scheduled to break ground in 2020. MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel will be leading the morning keynote, "The Skin is the Message," at Facades+ LA on November 14.
San Francisco’s Mission District was a very different place when radio station KQED first began operating within its fortress-like headquarters on the corner of Mariposa and Bryant in 1992. What was once a quiet, working-class neighborhood became one of the most desirable in the city, now distinguished by Michelin star-rated restaurants and multi-million-dollar townhouses. KQED has made drastic changes within the last 27 years as well. “This used to be an organization that created content and broadcast it out,” said John Boland, president of KQED. “Now there’s much more interaction. We think of ourselves as a community convenor as well as a program producer.” In response, KQED recently reimagined how its building might interact with its context with the help of local firm EHDD Architecture, with a renovation that is, essentially, a new building on the same site. Because KQED recently paid off the mortgage of its headquarters, a thorough reconstruction on the same site was determined to be cheaper than relocating. The blank white facades will be replaced by a glassy corner entrance flanked by generously sized office windows to the tune of $91 million. Within the entrance lobby will be an amphitheater-like staircase and a 26-foot-tall media wall, all of which will be accessible to the public. “We want to peel up the facade and invite people in,” said Rebecca Sharkey, a principal at EHDD Architecture. “KQED told us from the start they want to make themselves more visible to the community and open up about what public media does.” The working interior will receive a significant transformation as well, including technical studios updated for the 21st century, a larger newsroom, a skylit atrium on the second floor and a rooftop terrace above the corner entrance which will offer views of the Mission District and beyond. The only elements of the original building that will stay in place are the elevator banks, parking structure and television studio, which will be retrofitted to accommodate public events. “The idea,” Sharkey explained, “is to keep the things that we can while scraping away the rest of what’s there and reconfiguring it.” Construction is planned to start next July, at which point all 425 employees currently working within the headquarters will be relocated in Downtown San Francisco, and is expected to take two years to complete.
Located in the Jackson Square area of San Francisco's financial district, the third location of the coworking conglomerate Canopy rents out private offices. Developers Amir Mortazavi and Steve Mohebi paired up with local, Swiss designer Yves Béhar to divvy up 10,000 square feet inside of a centuries-old building into five stories of 32 private offices—each accommodates one to ten tenants. Sourcing the building—located just across the street from the fourth tallest building in the city 555 California Street (largest by floor area)—which historically houses some of the most notable financial and tech companies including Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft—Mortazavi and Mohebi saw the need for private spaces among growing companies. Featuring two stories of full-floor private offices and two floors of 2,000 square foot communal offices, a subdued material palette sprinkled with low maintenance plant life by Léon and George gives a light airy aura—something that is soft and not too brazen for the tired eyes of the financial services industry. Overall, the parred down aesthetic (no stuffed mallards to be found here) comprises the original exposed bricks with rough-textured rugs in a sea of Herman Miller office furniture. Meanwhile, bespoke Blue Calcite marble and aluminum conference and communal tables by M-PROJECTS and local artisans, placed in prominent positions, aesthetically tie together each nook and cranny. Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Tensions stoked by the increasing wealth inequality of San Francisco have become the subject of a heated (and well documented online) legal debate over the last several months. After it was announced this April that opponents to the city’s largest homeless shelter, the Embarcadero Navigation Center, were determined to undermine the project through a lawsuit they had crowdfunded for, the overseeing San Francisco Superior Court judge decided not to issue a halt to its construction. The project in question, a 200-bed homeless shelter, is already underway on 2.3 acres in The Embarcadero, the strip of land along the city’s eastern shoreline facing Berkeley, and it is projected that it will be finished by the end of this year. The center's construction first caught the attention of the non-profit group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), which argued that the construction of homeless housing in that location would cause “irreparable harm” to the residents of nearby condominiums (one SEFA attorney cited an act of assault against a Watermark resident on August 11th of this year to prove their claim). They then filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Planning Commission, the state of California, and the city’s Homelessness and Supportive Housing division. Despite their efforts, Judge Ethan P. Schulman claimed that their charges were unfounded and dismissed their case last Monday. The judge found that the construction and operation of the building would not cause harm to the wealthier residents of the neighborhood, as SEFA’s attorneys claimed it would, but instead would provide the homeless community with a safe environment to call their own. In response to several other issues SEFA have taken against the project, Deputy City Attorney James Emery stated that “the project is temporary” and “should the courts ultimately determine the project is unlawful, the site can be restored to its prior use.” Though the future of the homeless shelter remains unclear, the judge’s recent decision makes its completion much more likely than it has been in several months. However, with the sixth-highest income inequality of any U.S. city, tensions between housing shortages and increasing homelessness rates in San Francisco will likely inspire similar litigation as other homeless shelters are considered in its future. Additionally, SEFA may still get there day in court; although the motion to stop construction on the center was denied, the judge has scheduled a follow-up hearing for September 23.
On the heels of its tenth anniversary, downtown San Francisco’s controversial Millennium Tower may soon turn things around. After it was announced in 2016 that the 645-foot-tall tower had sunk 17 inches into the ground and tilted 18 inches west, the city threatened to block access to the building until a swift and cost-efficient solution was found. Last year, the city announced a $100 million solution to retroactively construct proper bedrock-supported piles to stabilize the residential tower. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, that plan was endorsed late last month by a four-person panel hired by the city, after deliberating that they “[saw] no reason to withhold approval of the building permit." The structural engineering firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger proposed that the building’s original structural system, a “10-foot-thick concrete foundation bonded by nearly 1000 reinforced concrete piles driven close to 90 feet into a layer of soft clay,” could safely be replaced by a set of piles long enough to reach the bedrock underneath. At 250 feet tall, two feet wide, and over 140,000 pounds each, the 52 new steel-and-concrete piles will provide significantly more structural stability than their predecessors. Simpson Gumptertz & Heger concluded that the improvements will not come quickly; it's estimated that each pile will take "three to four days to drill into place,” and the process would be made more difficult with the addition of a “reinforced concrete inner pile installed within each steel shaft.” However, when considering the city’s history of catastrophic earthquakes, the revised structural plan will no doubt serve to put its residents and neighbors at ease. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection warned that if plans were not made to improve the structural conditions of Millennium Tower, the building could sink and tilt at an exponential rate, while adding that it could “increase forces and deformations on the foundation, which may in the future trigger mandatory repair provisions of the San Francisco existing building code.” The solution will likely set a precedent for other towers being built in the area and elsewhere. Niall McCarthy, an attorney representing a group of homeowners, told the Guardian that “this litigation exposed a lot of problems in the development of this particular building,” and that “it will be a roadmap for other downtown developments for what to avoid.” Though its original structural system—dropping piles into soft, loamy soil instead of attaching it to bedrock—is fairly common in the city, it should have been anticipated that Millennium Tower’s significant weight and height would have necessitated more substantial footing.
Olafur Eliasson’s latest installation, Seeing spheres, 2019, is the Danish-Icelandic artist’s first permanent public piece on the West Coast. Each of the five ultra-polished steel balls stands over 15-feet tall and now populate the corner of San Francisco’s bayside basketball arena, the Chase Center. According to Studio Olafur Eliasson, the artwork was realized using a fabrication process known as hydroforming, which is a cost-effective way to shape metals using highly pressurized fluid. The design team unveiled through the company’s Instagram account that Netherlands-based Central Industry Group (CIG) helped them turn what were once polyhedral pieces of steel with many planar faces into smooth spheres. Viewers can watch as the individual structures are dipped into high-pressure water below and then lifted to reveal a perfectly round shape.
Revealed to the public this week, the finished spheres now sit arranged in a circle within the 25,000-square-foot triangular plaza of the Chase Center—home of the Golden State Warriors. Flat mirrors carved into the inward-facing side of each structure allow visitors to see their reflection, as well as the other spheres, from various angles. Whether viewing up close or from the center of the installation, the pieces appear and disappear, layer on top of one another, and distort the surrounding landscape. The circular, oversized frames are also rimmed with LED lights that glow at night. “Seeing spheres is a public space that contains you and contains multitudes,” said Eliasson in a comment on Instagram. “We often think of public space as empty, negative space in the city, viewed from a car or crossed on the way to somewhere else. Seeing spheres offers a place to pause, where you see yourself from outside, as a participant in society.” This isn’t Eliasson’s first foray into spheres. Known for a longtime career of crafting super shapely, light-filled artwork, most of it somewhat trippy, his most recent projects featuring spherical forms include In real life, 2019 and Renaissance echoes, 2019, both currently on view at his Tate Modern retrospective in London, as well as Rainbow bridge, 2017, shown at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York, among many others.View this post on Instagram
The questions raised by global warming, climate change, sea-level rise, and the resulting migration crisis are not to be taken lightly. They offer us myriad dramas in the form of disappearing cities, changing neighborhoods, dwindling resources, and existential anxiety about living near water. The Los Angeles Times recently took on some of these tough questions in a special report titled “California Against the Sea.” Illustrated with sweeping photography (not shown here) of the state’s Pacific shore, the extensive feature examines the disappearing California coast, potential fixes, and the consequences those fixes might bring. As much as two-thirds of the beaches in California could be gone by the end of the century. In California alone, it is estimated that $150 billion in property could be at risk of flooding. Several points became clear from reading the LA Times reporting, done by Rosanna Xia. One is that the problems created when parts of the coast become uninhabitable are not easily solved by design or technology. Physical interventions, like seawalls—which can cost up to $200,000 per house—often make the problem worse by encouraging erosion and sand build-up around the structure; short-term solutions, like adding sand to beaches, are expensive, and there is only so much sand in the world. Environmentalists and many others favor “managed retreat,” or carefully and systematically moving away from the coast, but this option faces deep resistance from some landowners. The report shows that the crisis is a real estate drama above all else. Entrenched interests are often opposed to solutions to environmental issues if those solutions threaten people’s property. Especially in California, a strong tradition of homeownership is at odds with what many consider sensible public management of the coastline. These conflicts are already playing out on a small scale. In Pacifica, a small city just south of San Francisco, the beach is already eroding, despite efforts begun in the 1970s to install seawalls, piles of rocks, and special concrete to preserve the shoreline. Although some homes have already been removed from the coast, not all residents are willing to accept managed retreat. “‘Managed retreat’ is a code word for giving up—on our homes and the town itself,” Mark Stechbart, who is concerned about the future value of his Pacifica home, told the Times. “This is not just some intellectual exercise. These are real people and a real town at stake.” “The public has rights to the beach, but I apparently don’t have rights to my house,” Suzanne Drake, another homeowner said in the report. “I’m a left-of-left Democrat, but these environmental zealots are next level.” It is fairly scary to think about how these issues will play out if the scale and seriousness of the crisis grow. According to the Times, in the last 100 years, sea levels rose 9 inches along the California coast, but are expected to go up by as much as 9 feet by the year 2100. If a town like Pacifica is experiencing this kind of disagreement and controversy when a handful of houses are involved, how will a city like Miami deal with entire neighborhoods negotiating how to relocate (or not)? Each person has their own beliefs and personal fortune at stake. This is unfortunately already happening in Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina, among other places. There are no straightforward design solutions. Lessons from the past say that human intervention can actually make things worse—not to mention that safeguarding the whole state of California would require upward of $22 billion, according to the Times. A simulated game in the special report has three outcomes: loss of beaches due to seawall construction; cost overruns; and success, by way of managed retreat and careful diplomacy that requires negotiating with individual homeowners. There are problems with the latter solution. Buyout programs have proven successful elsewhere, but not in places with coastal California market prices. Staten Island’s post–Hurricane Sandy program bought 300 homes for $120 million, which would buy about ten houses in Malibu. These are massive problems that are only going to get bigger. Can design do anything to help? Or if it is a question of real estate, can the markets be managed without tearing communities apart? If California is any indication, both of these possibilities appear unlikely.
After over a year of community review, a refined vision plan by CMG Landscape Architecture designed to upgrade and modernize San Francisco’s Civic Center district is moving forward. Backed by a supergroup design team that includes Kennerly Architecture + Planning, Gehl Studio, HR&A, and others, CMG’s proposal seeks to retool the multi-block plaza and pedestrian mall to better fulfill the original 1912 Beaux Arts plan proposed for the site by architect John Galen Howard, designer of the University of California, Berkeley. CMG’s vision is part of a larger effort spearheaded by the City of San Francisco called the Civic Center Public Realm Plan, a scheme that seeks to articulate a “unified vision for long-term improvements to the area’s public spaces and streets.” As it stands, the Civic Center area is anchored by three major public spaces that are each being reworked by the latest plan to promote universal accessibility, access to nature, and around-the-clock public use. CMG proposes to transform the namesake Civic Center Plaza flanking City Hall into a series of outdoor “garden rooms” that surround a central square. The four garden rooms will contain a pair of lawns and newly planted tree areas that celebrate and frame a pair of recently refurbished playgrounds. The space will be anchored by an interactive play fountain that can be turned off during the protests and gatherings that take over the space. On the opposite end of the axis that runs through the district, the United Nations Plaza will see significant changes, including the “adaptation” of an arresting but unloved Lawrence Halprin–designed monumental fountain. The connecting block along Fulton Street that links the two plaza areas will be upgraded as well, with new soccer fields installed in the space between the Asian Art Museum—where wHY is currently planning an ambitious expansion—and the San Francisco Public Library buildings. Willett Moss, founding partner at CMG, said, “Initially we thought the plan would be responsive to the district’s diverse demographics with a multitude of culturally specific amenities and experiences. However, through the process, we realized that the vast majority of people want essentially the same thing—a space that’s inclusive, accessible, and celebratory.” A final version of the community-led design will be unveiled later this year with final completion of the project expected by 2022.
SAN FRANCISCO DESIGN WEEK kicks off June 20 – 28 at the Design Hub at Pier 27, celebrating with the theme CommUNITY. Join the Opening Night Reception followed by a day of exclusive programming at the Hub. Experience interactive exhibits, product displays, installations and talks, including the 2019 Design Awards and CommUNITY Art Silent Auction. All week hosted events are held across the region at design studios, museums, restaurants, shops and pop-up venues. Highlights include hosted talks and workshops by design leaders such as Yves Behars’ fuseproject, a rare visit to Ken Fulk’s studio and St. Joseph’s Art Society, and Swiss designer Adrien Rovero’s show-stopping art installation.