The SocketSite Scoop: San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal DesignsAugust 6, 2007
Yes, all three proposals include wind turbines on top of their towers; will aim to achieve either Gold or Platinum LEED certification; and plan to rise between 1,100 and 1,350 feet in the air. Other than that, all three aim to redefine “the center of San Francisco” in very different ways.
Pictures and a few details now, highlights to follow.
From Pelli Clark Pelli Architects/Hines:
Proposed Tower Height: 1,200′
Proposed Tower Use: Commercial (1.6 million square feet; “potential for residential”)
Proposed LEED Certification: Gold (possibly Platinum)
From Richard Rogers Partnership/Forest City Enterprises/MacFarlane Partners:
Proposed Tower Height: 1,155′ (skyview roof); 1,287′ (top of turbine)
Proposed Tower Use: Mixed (600K sq.ft. commercial; 200+ hotel rooms; 200-300 condos)
Proposed LEED Certification: Platinum (tower) / Gold (terminal)
From Skidmore Owings and Merrill/Rockefeller Group Development Corporation:
Proposed Tower Height: 1,200′ (occupied floor); 1,375′ (top of parapet)
Proposed Tower Use: Mixed (31 floors office; 42 floors residential; 8 floors hotel)
Proposed LEED Certification: Platinum
And a few more renderings:
Inside the Pelli Clark Pelli design (bus terminal level):
The Richard Rogers design at dusk:
The Skidmore Owings and Merrill proposed tower plaza and terminal entrance:
Note: Design models for all three proposals will be on display to the public Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 from 8 am to 6 pm in the North Light Court at San Francisco City Hall.
∙ Transbay Design Competition: The Revised Schedule And Unveiling [SocketSite]
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
Why did Rogers have to use the color red? (Is it some reference to the Golden Gate Bridge?) Take away the red and the Richard Rogers tower is very attractive.
That’s a BIG building…is San Francisco really going to get that crowded???
And if so, real estate prices, in my opinion, won’t go down anytime soon.
Wow. Going to have to think on this, but any of them will make me go Wow. I would like to see how these will look next door to the Millenium towers that is absent in all the pictures.
The density around the Millennium Tower just looks ridiculous from the 3rd photo…
I do not like that Rogers tower at all. And from what I can see of his Transit Center, he missed a lot of opportunity there. Maybe it would be nicer from an interior view, but from this view it doesn’t seem to be doing much. Both of the other tower designs seem much more elegant to me and both transit centers look interesting…it looks like they both have a green roof aspect that could be very cool for the neighborhood.
On second thought, I like the first one because of the park. An elevated park with designated entrances = SF’s only park with no homeless!!
Love the Pelli Clark Pelli and the SOM proposals. The Richard Rogers proposal not so much – it makes me feel itchy.
From watching the presentation in person it appears all 3 buildings are 1,500 ft or taller. It’s not a bus station. Fred
If one of these gets built, you will have to have your lights on in the daytime at Millennium. The light quality in this area will become as dark as some of the canyons in New York and Chicago.
Cool Towers, hope the Rogers one gets picked and goes up.
The Richard Rogers vision is awesome! I really like both the shape and the color choice. And yes, it will be that dense because there is no other way to pay for the new terminal.
I really like the Peli design. Clean and elegant. I also like the park and terminal appearance (at least from these few photos). I am surprised there are not more comments yet from other folks. Come on people, lets hear some opinions!
my vote is for SOM
I don’t like the Richard Rogers building much.
You can scale off 50 Fremont, which is about 600′ tall. The Rogers scheme looks like about 1000′ tall (in 1 of the sketches), the others about 1500′. Rogers seems to be rotating the building to match the north of Market grid – strange choice.
I know it is early in the game, but the Pelli scheme looks like a winner to me, Rogers is a dog, and the SOM design is a bit unreadable, but probably OK. SOM wins easily on the actual terminal eye candy.
It is all just archiporn anyway. This is the city that know’s “how not to”. Wait until Chris starts lobbying for workforce office space in the project!
The pelli design seems to be the most elegant and thoughtful in regards to the human scale. None of the three are really pushing the envelope though. With the technology that is used today in this sort of schematic stage, I would expect a much more edgy and sophisticated design. At least an interesting structural system or something. I’m sure the populous of SF will freak out. hopefully we won’t demean the process into a state of tepid mediocrity like NYC did with the WTC.
Wow, I’m going to miss walking under the old one with all the homeless on the way to my building which appears to be omitted by some of these photos.
I don’t like any of these renderings, personally.
Meh… I hate the Rogers design. The red “steel” around the structure looks like scaffolding. It will never look like a finished building.
Do they have the funding to build any of these projects. With all the money drying up on Wall Street I am curious if this whole poject is still really possible?
The red makes the bulding look like sutro tower!!
Pelli. Hands down. The other two lack presence. They look generic, like they could be anywhere else in the word. Pelli’s design feels like San Francisco. I really hope it wins.
is that an electricity-generating windmill on top of the Richard Rogers building?
[Editor’s Note: Yes. Two hidden turbines in the crown of the SOM design and four atop the Pelli as well.]
Oh, and all that glass — no wonder Socketsite is calling it the Tansbay Terminal. You can lie out and not get headlights from the wind 🙂
Rogers: Plus points for different color (red), but serious negative points for an exoskeleton that looks only nominally more interesting than the yellow crane finishing the Barclays bldg in that photo! Helloooo, Rogers, we’re not Hong Kong!
Pelli: So B.O.R.I.N.G. Ooooh – tapered tower. Looks like a bigger St. Regis.
SOM: I doubt it would be as luminous and light as the rendering. Infinity did the same thing (luminous white structure in rendering but it turned out to be GREEN. ick)
It will be interesting to see if one of these towers really gets built. The days of cheap money are over, and developers are going to have to do more than fog a mirror to get funds for a project such as this. What is the ratio of private/public funding for this project?
I like the new name….”Tansbay Terminal” 🙂
1st choice: Skidmore
I hope these end up being 1,500 feet or taller.
I think any of these will complement the Millennium Tower as much as they dwarf it. If these concepts come to fruition, I really don’t see any downside from where we are now.
The Pelli design looks like a 21st Century knock- off of the Transamerica Pyramid. Is the Rogers design calling all birds, and trying to be an homage to the Sutro Tower?
The Pelli design looks like a 21st Century knock- off of the Transamerica Pyramid. Is the Rogers design calling all birds, and trying to be an homage to the Sutro Tower?
Funniest criticism yet! But what about the SOM design? You gotta give that design some love too!
The Rogers deign lacks elegance or any particular originality, and there’s no way it will get approved. My vote would be for Skidmore for the way it sort of echoes the Transamerica building.
I love the Cesar Pelli design but good god, the _exact same_ tower exists in Hong Kong as part of the international finance center. And guess who the architect is? Yep, Cesar Pelli.
If we’re going to build a massive tower that redefines the skyline, shouldn’t we at least approve of something unique?
For your comparison:
Two IFC, Pic 1
Two IFC, Pic 2
The Pelli is the only one of the three proposals that will have only office space – the other two have mixed use with a hotel and residential. I don’t get it. They’re building a huge park – and it’s enormous – for the “locals”. I don’t get it. I vote SOM if only for the huge digital art entryway.
I understand that all of the competing parking initiatives are going to collide in this building, requiring the developer to turn it into a 75 story bus parking garage.
Because the buses can’t turn around in such a tight space, the entire building is going to be a gigantic “Bus Stacker”, like a car stacker for buses. Now does the red exoskeleton make sense? Because that’s what it FRIGGIN’ LOOKS LIKE! What the hell were they thinking…
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Pelli design!! It represents what the neighborhood could be with a little more open space.
TO a lesser degree, the first design was cool.
I didn’t have any interest in the second design presented (sorry, not sure who that was).
What a DISAPPOINTMENT!!!
The TBJPA, after years of planning and over a year of encouraging some of the most successful architect/development teams to create a “career” defining plan, end up with a glorified “BUS STATION”. Barely a mention of the Cal train extension and absolutely not one mention, by any of the presenters of High Speed Rail.
Do they really think that the citizens of San Francisco are going to encourage an expense of $1 Billion to $1.4 Billion to construct a bus station for the Muni, Samtrans and AC Transit?
Why would passengers of the Muni get off at this new terminal, when the Muni could make any number of stops, along Mission Street at the existing and possibly future new office buildings?
The only public transit users are those Cal-Train riders that will save several blocks to make their commute. $1 Billion!!!
It would make much more sense to invest in a subway on Geary and/or the Van Ness Corridors.
The concept of the Pelli Citi Park was interesting.
But, what a shame that this project could not have been the defining moment to bring San Francisco, the Bay Area and California into the 21st Century with High Speed Rail to the Airport, San Jose, Sacramento and Los Angeles.
I have a questions which is not related to the Transbay Terminal, but it is related to all the high rise condos. I have been living in a conventional wood frame house where doing any modifications to the rooms are easy, because there are sheetrocks on the ceiling and walls, wood on the floor. However, in a high rise you have sheetrocks on partition walls with steel studs, but what about the floors and the ceilings? I am sure that the hardwood planks (or carpet) is installed right above the concrete floor, but are there sheetrocks attached directly on the ceiling concrete, or is there any spacing in-between the sheetrocks and the concrete floor above you? For example, is it possible to add an electric outlet on the ceiling for motorized shades. I appreciate if any one out there would shed some light. Thanks
The Pelli design is the most “San Francisco” of the trio: elegant, substantial, confident. Both its tower and plaza designs are head and shoulders above the other two.
WouldBeHighriseOccupant: In most of the high rise concrete floor/ceiling buildings, the floor is directly on concrete, but the ceiling has framing creating 2-5 inches of space where they run wiring, sprinklers, and other needs.
As for these designs, Pelli has my vote. I still wish I could see the renderings with the Millennium next to them.
High speed rail is probably a dead duck for the time being … though I’m sure they’ll build the stalls for it, just in case it actually comes to fruition. There’s an argument against term limits somewhere within the story of the CA High-speed Rail initiative – who is going to carry the torch for this project for 20 years to see it get done? Hmm…
Since I already took the leap to not-so-related information about the new designs, I have to prompt you all to watch this video about traffic congestion and what they’ve done in Copenhagen, Paris, and London to make their downtowns much more livable for the residents and functional for bicyclists and public transit. Here’s a shortcut link I made: http://tinyurl.com/yw9fgt
The documentary is called “Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock.”
pelli is the only interesting design in my opinion. all these new units in downtown are going to drive real estate prices down. with 20K new untits coming to SF over the next 10 years, potential buyers will be in luck with this glut. The population in SF has not gone up since the 60s.
Wow! That was a powerful presentation. Highlights: The Pelli design 5.5 acres of park in the middle of downtown is impressive + needed. Walk around the park: 1.5 miles. Encloses the buses and filters the exhaust. LEED Gold, potential for platinum. All commercial was a let down though. Mixed use makes much more sense for long term potential.
The SOM building: LEED platinum. Intelligent mixed use planning. Design was sexy as hell. Just needs a 5.5 acre park to go with it.
The Richard Rogers building… not so much. Quite possibly the most hideous design ever. Better off with the existing structure. It looks like the radio tower from Twin Peaks mated with the filter from an air purifier. But maybe my tastes are just not ready for vision like that.
However, like Fred I was disappointed that none of the architects had the bollocks to mention the potential for high speed rail. It seems the vision for California’s future is in someone else’s eye.
Rodgers stated 1100’+ (whatever that means), SOM stated 1200′ highest floor, 1375′ to the top, and Pelli didn’t say.
[Editor’s Note Pelli would stand at 1200′ as designed.]
I went to the presentation tonight. Here are some thoughts:
Rogers: Bad presentation. Bad building. Unimpressive on both fronts. I think the tower design would look better in China than here. Is the exo-skeleton red to relate to the GG Bridge? They didn’t mention that. The top is quite hideous – busy and ugly. A clear loser. Next.
SOM: Exactly what I expected from them. Very slick, very tasteful, very well-presented. Tower structure has some echoes of the Eiffel Tower at the base and is nicely done, but a little busier in the mid-section. The top hides wind turbines, but seems attractive. Nice transit building with a Grand Central Station grandeur to it. I like the open space adjacent to it for concerts. It’s not a revolutionary building, but it’s nice. It reminds me of a Calatrava design, but without the genius.
Pelli: Very odd presentation. They spent almost all of their time talking about the park and almost no time about the tower. And the park has some odd ideas. A funicular ride? Through a grove of redwoods? Ummm…how long does it take to grow a giant redwood, anyway? (They’re still not that big at SFO after many years.) And they showed something about a fountain that is timed to coordinate with the arrival of the buses below? What? While I applaud the idea of a big, new urban park, I’m not sure that it will look very good at street level. They showed some images of a new, exciting Natoma Street, but I’m not sure I buy it. In addition, the new Renzo Piano-designed Science Museum will have a park on the roof. Do we need two buildings like that? The tower itself seems a bit bland – and a tad phallic. But they didn’t discuss it much, so it’s hard to know what color or texture it will have.
Overall: It was interesting to see some big names show up, but I can’t say that I was terribly impressed. Nothing took my breath away. No tower seemed iconic. Nothing seemed brilliant. And that’s too bad. I really felt the lack of a Gehry or Calatrava. You had a room full of architecture buffs and I didn’t feel like any of the designs created electricity there. No wild applause or standing ovations. I guess that I vote for the SOM design, but wish there was something that made my pulse race. Look at the planned Calatrava Spire in Chicago. That’s the iconic sort of building that we deserve. Will any of these buildings replace the Pyramid as the symbol of San Francisco? I think not.
I would say it comes down to choosing between the Pelli and SOM designs. The RRogers one is just fugly.
Are you serious that there is no longer going to be Caltrain or High Speed Rail at the Transbay Terminal? What is the point then? Frederick, it is funny that you would also be sad at this news as you had posted in the past that it was unfair of people to call this project a bus station. I am going to probably be unpopular for saying this, but San Francisco comes very very late to the skyscraper contest that is going on between Dubai, Hong Kong, China, and Chicago & NYC. Is this really where we need our resources in this city going? I would rather have a REAL Transbay Terminal with Commuter Rail, High Speed Rail, Bart, and MUNI all connected in one place. I could care less whether we have another tower of expensive condos though I think these are all interesting.
Why is it some cities find tall towers “So Important” while others do not. Nobody in London or Paris is breathless in anticipation for a taller tower, nor are they in L.A., Seattle or New York City. It seems to me that this dilemma of whose is “bigger or longer” is left to cities who are trying to proove something like San Francisco (in the shadow of L.A.), Chicago (In the shadow of NYC) or Taipei (In the shadow of Hong Kong). Bring the trains back into the terminal please and consider the possibility that San Francisco is so unique, it does not need a “landmark” for people to remember it by. (We have more landmarks already than most cities wish they had)
I know I’m in the minority here, but for some reason I kind of LIKE that Rogers building. It has this sort of insectile exoskeleton thing going on.
And it clearly would fit more in SE Asia than the US… but perhaps that’s not a bad thing, given SF’s large Asian heritage? It is sort of a blend of Sutro Tower and Taipei 101
It does need a little reworking to “smooth” it a little, but it is by far the most interesting of the BUILDINGS. Think of how much people hated the Eiffel Tower, or the Transamerica Pyramid!
But you all are right, it has the potential to be one big UGLY building too.
I agree with many: the Pelli park looks very cool, the building very boring. (although it would be somewhat unique in SF that doesn’t have too many glass towers yet)
The SOM building looks like the frontrunner to me. not too “out there” but has a little visual interest.
perhaps blend the SOM building with the Pelli park?
I’m excited! I love towers! (I’m giggling like a school girl!)
Actually, I’ve looked closer at other renderings of the SOM proposal.
the renderings in this thread are too “see-throughy” for me… I can’t tell what the actual skin of the building will look like.
On the pics above, it looks very “glassy”, but in other renderings, you see large curvy lines all over the place (you can see them on the second picture above).
anybody know of a pic that shows JUST the SOM tower in more detail?
(here’s a pic of people sitting in a park next to the SOM building… see all those thick curvy lines… too busy?)
The Richard Rogers design is a perfect addition to San Francisco.
I wonder if the architects used this as inspiration?
Buildings need to be about cities and become responsible contextual citizens. They need not dominate the skyline.
I think that the Pelli design makes this case the best, it is not overbearing. It appears slender and elegant while Rodgers looks like a giant erector set gone wrong! I really cannot believe my eyes!
I would have expected better of SOM. Their terminal design is not what is required, and their Tower seems unrefined. The poor quality of the renderings adds to this.
Obviously all of the teams put forth great efforts, and in my opinion the fruits of those efforts are best reflected in the Pelli design.
The Pelli design is fabulous – very elegant! If this design doesn’t win, I’m leaving the city.
Frederick and others,
In a very former life, I was a sales rep to Southern Pacific Railroad when it ran Caltrain, so I knew the executives. I took the train so I was always interested in it.
The conventional thinking was that the Caltrain extension to downtown would never be built. It will always be talked about as a convenience, but with it, Muni would go out of business. Muni makes a lot of money taking full fare from Caltrain passengers (all of whom pay) to pack them in a very few buses and carry them about a mile for two hours during each commute time. The fact is that without those easy-money fares, Muni is essentially bankrupt.
With the T line costing all that money to take passengers, almost none of whom pay the fares, to exactly the same place as any bus could have run, Muni needs the Caltrain passengers more than ever. The T-line was a stake in the heart of any downtown Caltrain extension, and with it, the hopes for high speed rail to downtown SF. Without Caltrain sharing the cost, HS rail to downtown is not going to happen in any of our lifetimes.
Those presentations just reflected the political reality.
“Buildings need to be about cities and become responsible contextual citizens. They need not dominate the skyline.”
This kind of thinking is pervasive in our city and is the reason why we have so many bland towers.
Having towers with unique identities creates a skyline filled with a bit of chaos. That chaos makes it fun to look at.
Most importantly though, a building of this size should have a muscular design that stands out.
As to Jordon’s comment. I agree.
I work in Embarcadero Center and frequently talk to my friends about where they work. Their always naming buildings or addresses of buildings and I rarely know where they are, even though they say they are all downtown or in the financial district. Most of our buildings are not landmarks and are not memorable. It would be great to change that.
Last night really had nothing to do with high speed rail and was never meant to. Phase one has never included more than a “place” for HSR trains to arrive, which is what these teams included. Expecting them to talk more about a project they aren’t involved with is a little odd. Nothing said last night should be construed as either positive or negative for HSR.
tipster, what a bizarre post! 🙂
The Caltrain extension will happen. Projects of that size don’t falter because of funding problems when the right political will exists – the Caltrain extension is more of a certainty than BART to SJ. For your comment on Muni…what? Muni collects less than 20% of its budget through fares. Muni sells more than 100,000 Fastpasses each month. Even if Caltrain passengers account for 10% of total fares (a complete stretch of gargantuan proportions), that amounts to 2% of Muni’s budget. Do you really think Muni is going to go “bankrupt” through a loss of 2% of its budget?
Echoing Brutus’s comment …. extending Caltrain to the new Transbay Transit Center is Part 2 of this huge project and will likely happen. However, many other pieces need to fall into place first – funding, engines that don’t spew out CO2, figuring out where to send Caltrains underground in Mission Bay, South Beach, or SoMa at a point where the water table isn’t a problem (flooded, new Caltrain tunnels would be bad), and how to route the trains underground to the Center – four rails up 2nd Street or two rails up 2nd and two other rails up Main Street, or some other setup. Anyway – Caltrain extension is likely to happen in Part II of this project.
High speed rail, on the other hand, is sitting on pins and needles about this year’s state budget. In all likelihood, they won’t get anywhere near the $100 million they requested to continue with their engineering work and other studies. Last number I heard was around $40 million, but it could just as easily be Zero this fiscal year when all is said and done. In 2008, voters will get to choose whether or not we want to be liable for a $10 billion bond issue to get high-speed rail kicked off – supposedly that will cover Los Angeles to San Francisco, but I’m not holding my breath.
Did I mention already that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects design?!? 🙂
It seems many people like the Peli design. Hopefully, people keep an open mind because these pictures are taken at very different angles. While the Peli design looks great, it could just be a matter of the particular vantage point in the picture. At first I didn’t like the Rogers design either just from looking at the first picture. The second picture of the Rogers design give a better glimpse of its impact on the skyline and how it might mesh with the GG Bridge. Looks great!
You all realize the enormity of all of this correct? Just four years ago “activists” were committing hary-kary over a 450′ building on spear street. This little town is not Chicago, and its development politics use obstruction as a measure of success.
I think this is the first time I’ve actually been awed by anything proposed in SF and kudos to all the architects involved.
My vote goes to SOM all the way. What a fantastic tower! I loved the park idea from pelli’s design, but the tower is a snoozer. Rogers design is a little too hong kong for SF. Makes me think of calling it devil tower.
The Pelli design stands out for me as someone who lives in the neighborhood, who wants to have public space that folks can use to informally interact with each other (meet our neighbors), and who will not likely use the transit pieces of the Transbay Transit Center on only rare occasions. 5.5 acres of park space had me swooning as someone who lives about 4 blocks away – as opposed to today’s Transbay Terminal which I have walked past but never inside or utilitzed in any capacity.
The sell-off of the development rights to the tower is supposed to help fund the terminal and transit portions of the project. They’re all connected. And Brutus is right, the presentation was about the Transbay Terminal TOWER, not the transit.
I totally agree with Sean on the IFC similarities to the Pelli proposal… totally a rehash. Nice, but a rehash.
“Nobody in London or Paris is breathless in anticipation for a taller tower, nor are they in L.A., Seattle or New York City”
Really? Have you seen the towers being built and proposed in London and Paris? NY? Does the new 1776 foot WTC tower count? LA and Seattle both already have taller towers than SF. Am I missing something?
Pardon my ignorance but why San Francisco needs such tall buildings? Why do we even need a new transbay terminal? This is going to cost the city lots of money and no one will use it.
Another thing about Pelli’s design. As configured, it has 1.6 MSF of office space and not a drop of residential.
If I am not mistaken, Prop M limits the amount of new office space that can be constructed to 800k sq ft a year. Bad screw up by the pelli team and not very in tune with SF.
Remember when the SF skyline was beautiful and cohesive with height requirements? Looking at these designs, they reflect ego, not beauty, and it saddens me deeply.
It seems it is all glamour over substance. Towers, ballparks, convention centers etc. What about clean safe streets, fixing Muni, and affordable housing? These towers are fun, but I would rather live in a city that would be serious about fixing problems, not putting up a 1200 foot band aid. Who is the developer of this project and where are they getting all of this money? It better not be from my taxes!
the Pelli tower is too bland and phallic for my tastes. I like the SOM tower the best and wish we could mix and match it with the Pelli park.
Joe – there are ways around Prop M. They could essentially get the “rights” to 800k for two years. There have been several years since prop M where more than 800k was built – usually after a few years of much LESS than 800k built.
That said – I don’t think a 1.6 million sqft office tower was a good play politically for them.
anontaxpayer – you aren’t paying for this tower. The developer is paying for the terminal – and in exchange – gets to build the tower.
You have to have money to maintain and fix the other things … thus the height of the building above 1000 feet … that’s funding for the other things we need.
I second ArchiFan’s comments about how beautifully the Pelli structure and terminal will fit into both the skyline and the area – and how necessary this is for a lasting design. I’m not sure if you guys were aware, but SF already has an iconic building, that, like it or not, one just shouldn’t compete with. The handsome obelisk of Pelli’s proposal is the ideal solution for me. Its small footprint and great height will serve to enhance the skyline and the future skyscrapers that will surround it.
Also, since there have been comments about how the Pelli tower too closely matches his earlier 2 IFC in Hong Kong (nothing wrong with that IMO – that’s one gorgeous skyscraper, and a great portent of things to come if his proposal is chosen), I thought I’d direct your attention to the very similiar proposal SOM has for the Shanghai Center here: http://www.som.com/content.cfm/shanghai_center Let’s face it, there just isn’t that great a possiblity of something new and individual in highrise construction these days. Timelessness should be the primary concern.
Thank god the city is moving out of the Victorian era and realizes that the 21st century is upon us. But maybe there should be some kind of walled enclave for residents who prefer that time stands still, like M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’. Residents of the village could call skyscrapers “that of which we do not speak.”
I like the Pelli design, and wish it was finished today instead of 7 years from now. But anything would be better than the existing cesspool that is currently known as the transbay terminal.
I am confused. Are people saying that Caltrain will be extended into the new Transbay Terminal FOR SURE? I know that as of now, the high speed trains are a dead idea because funding was cut this year in Sacramento.
Brutus, without distracting from the main thread (though we ARE talking about the building that was supposed to be the downtown rail terminal), it is true that fares only account for a fraction of muni funding. But the remainder is based in part on ridership. Take away 10% of the ridership and that other 80% evaporates with it.
According to your argument, muni could stop accepting all passengers, shut down the fleet and only lose 20% of its funding, which would be more than offset by the fact that there would be no operational expenses. Woo hoo! Keep the other 80% coming in!! Of course, the other 80% of the money would get shut down too.
If 20% is 1.50, Muni gets $7.50 per passenger from all sources. With 60 people packed onto a bus for 10 minutes, that’s $2700 per hour. You begin to see the problem for muni of discontinuing that service. It subsidizes the other lines and keeps muni’s clout high because the ridership numbers help give Muni clout.
I discussed the downtown rail extension with Southern Pacific Executives in the mid eighties. They all said it wouldn’t happen in their lifetimes. 20 years later, no progress. And they aren’t even talking about it in the designs. Not a good sign.
tipster, please take a look at the ridership stats from Muni – it’s true that some high-volume lines stop at Caltrain, but that’s one of the lower volume stops on those lines. There has never been any explicit or implicit negativity towards a Caltrain extension from Muni.
Southern Pacific executives said that because they had no interest in making it happen – and at the time the peninsula line was in danger of dissappearing. It’s not anymore. Times change. Ridership on Caltrain is several times what it was then – and it’s a publicly owned service now.
Caltrain extension is not for sure because they don’t have all of the money in the bank yet, for starters, for phase II that includes this big piece. They (Transbay JPA) have the funds right now for moving forward with a temporary bus terminal at Folsom and Beale (with other bordering streets being Main and Howard), demolishing the existing Transbay terminal, and getting this Phase I of the project rolling.
Public transit will get a boost IF (big IF) downtown congestion charges (tolls) come into being similar to London – the goal is to motivate more folks driving into the City all alone in their “Bowling Alone” (a book reference, check it out) cars today to switch to public transit (BART, Caltrain, bus, whatever). San Francisco learns this week if it is going to get a 20% or greater piece of $1 billion in funds from the US Dept. of Transportation to help pay for projects to reduce congestion downtown. Keeping my fingers crossed we win.
Nothing is FOR SURE. Funding for Caltrain has not been completely allocated – but neither has all funding for the Central Subway, yet that would be considered for sure by most. There are two hurdles for a major transit project – financial and political. The financing sounds like the hard part, but it’s really not – if a project is supported politically, it will get done. Like anything else political, things take time – sometimes years – to gain support and tip in favor of being done.
HSR has suffered a setback this year in that the Guv has not showered it with support. That doesn’t mean it’s dead, but it probably means it has slowed. Caltrain has suffered no such setback.
Once Caltrain is extended the line that is going to look even more ridiculous than it already does is Bart to Milbrae
It is possible that other commuter lines could be added over the Dumbarton train tressel in the future as well as trains all the way to Monterey (before we even talk about HSR)
“I’m not sure if you guys were aware, but SF already has an iconic building, that, like it or not, one just shouldn’t compete with”
I am struggling to understand your logic here. Why can’t the city have more than one iconic building? Who says we have only one iconic building anyways? Don’t City Hall, the Coit Tower, the Fairmount Hotel, 555 California, the Ferry Building or the Flood Building count?
If your focus is strictly on tall towers, again, why can’t we have more than one iconic tower? Other big cities have multiple famous towers(as we do to a lesser extent now), why can’t we?
This sort of conservatism (bordering on reactionary) is what I hope the new Transbay tower helps finally bury.
I’m quite in favor of san francisco’s recent growth initiative. That said, 1,000 feet is way too tall for two reasons. (1) looks out of place with surrounding areas, and (2) we have earthquakes (in case anybody has forgotten). Talk to a structural engineer and they will agree that 1,000 feet is too tall for SF given the quakes.
What happened to Piano and Calatrava? I thought both were supposed to compete in the T(r)ansbay terminal design.
Rogers: I’m really not crazy about the Taipei/Hong Kong skyline, and I certainly don’t want to see that building here. Maybe they could build a lava lamp inside the trusses instead? 🙂
SOM: It’s different in that safe sort of way. There’s very little detail, and the rendering is suspiciously vague. The street level looks nice, but overall it does seem like a Calatrava ripoff.
Pelli: Nice, but not signature in my mind. Maybe if there were more emphasis on the curves of building corners?
I’m excited about getting the development party started (and Schwarzie, get serious about high-speed rail funding!), but there’s nothing here that gets me hot and bothered. As far as the public space is concerned, I know it’s preliminary and all, but I hope they create an option to, and not a duplicate of, Yerba Buena.
[Editor’s Note: Renzo Piano is working on another San Francisco tower project. And in terms of Foster and Calatrava: Transbay Terminal Design Update: And Then There Were Three.]
Tom, I guess they don’t have these “earthquakes” you speak of in Taiwan (Oh wait! Yes they do!), yet Taiwan has a 1400′ tower. I’ve never met (or heard of) any structural engineer who would say something like “1000′ is too tall for SF given quakes.” That’s simple fear-mongering and I hope that most in the City don’t fall for it.
Here are some Caltrain ridership stats for you:
When reading these, remember that Muni has more than 750,000 riders daily.
Tom I think you are wrong
Structural engineers would tell you to not live in a great percentage of the concrete apartment buildings with parking on the first floor and other buildings built through the 1970’s
My focus was in fact on tall towers rather than buildings. Believe me that I’m far from conservative in my architectural tastes (Hadid and H&deM are my favorites practices currently), but in this specific instance, with San Francisco’s specific skyline and geography, something slender and reserved makes the most sense.
To get an idea of what a downtown full of “iconic” towers will result in one needs only to look at Dubai or Shanghai and the resulting disparate jumble. The size of our city, the existing buildings, and the constraints of what can be built in the future, all add up in my eyes to making the Pelli proposal the most logical.
That said, would I really mind if SOM gets chosen? I think the latticework façade will be a bit dated even before it’s finished, but overall it’s still a fabulous proposal and I would be more than happy with it gracing the skyline.
To get an idea of what a downtown full of “iconic” towers will result in one needs only to look at Dubai or Shanghai and the resulting disparite jumble. The size of our city, the existing buildings, and the constraints of what can be built in the future, all
But Mattian as far as I can tell we are taking about one new iconic structure centered in a new high rise area
I agree with you about Dubai and Shanhai both of which I’ve been to and disliked
i’m a little apprehensive about an elevated park. it’s six storey in the air. it’s a little convoluted to get to. i just hope pelli’s elevated park won’t be the new hallidie sunken plaza at the powell bart station. the plaza is barely used.
Thanks for your response.
First, I won’t be using Taiwan as a model for anything. And their ill-advised, 1,400 foot tower does nothing to affect my opinion. Talking to SF developers does. Leaving that aside, I usually fall back on common sense in situations like this. Do you really think that a 1,000+ foot tower makes sense in an earthquake zone?
And to reiterate, I’m probably as pro-growth as anyone reading this. I hadn’t previously read much about these plans and am shocked that a 1,000 foot+ tower is in the offing for SF.
Why is this earthquake issue continuously brought up? It shows the small mindedness of the people who live in SF. There are other cities on the Pacific Rim which have taller buildings in SF and which have an equal or greater risk of devestating EQ.
Seriously… Hong Kong? Tokyo? Kuala Lumpur? LA??
Tom, generally I leave speculation about what is structurally sound to, you know, structural engineers. As I said before, I’ve never heard of a structural engineer that has stated that a tower would not be safe or structurally sound in SF based solely on it being above 1000′. I’m sorry, statements like that just sound like fear-mongering – like people looking at a 747 and saying, “My God! That plane is huge! No way I’d ever fly on something that big! It must be less safe because of that size!”
I appreciate the stats and thoughtfulness of your posts.
Just one little minor error: Muni ridership appears to be 220K trips, not 750K trips http://www.sftep.com/files/MuniTEPBinder_06.pdf (see page 6-3 – graph at the bottom). So your original guesstimate of about 10% coming from caltrain was pretty close.
And that’s a very important ten percent because it is immensely profitable.
Muni isn’t going to scream about a competing transit service, but the Mayor is always going to understand that if he takes the caltrain riders off muni, muni’s problems get that much worse. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any mayor or any politician to publicly support something that makes muni’s problems even worse than they are now.
If you subtract $200 per hour (same link, page 6-6) from the 2700 those lines bring to muni, that’s 4 hours per day x 2500 x 200 days or 2 Mil. That’s how much those lines contribute each year to muni. Is that going to make or break muni? I agree with you that it won’t – it’s a drop in the bucket. But where will muni get the funds to replace that lost $2 mil? Nowhere, so the mayor and other politicians quietly ignore any proposals to get rid of that revenue and hand it to the joint powers board.
Appreciate your view. I am not a structural engineer, but I have spoken to some. In addition to concerns I have heard from them, for me, it’s more an issue of common sense / basic math. I was in the area in 1989 when we had a quake of 6.9 centered 70 miles south of here. In Oakland, we had a freeway structure, which to paraphrase someone on the Chron comment board, surely must have “been built to account for seismic forces.” More than 50 people died there when a huge section of freeway collapsed. Last week an entire bridge fell down in minnesota due to construction vibration (granted, bridges and elevated freeways are different from buildings). Now let’s say we have a quake comparable to 1906, generally estimated to have been around 8 on the Richter scale. As u know, in the logarithmic Richter measure, a quake of 8 is 10 times as large as a 7 (1989 Loma Prieta). And let’s just say that the quake is centered in or near SF instead of 70 miles to the south. That would result in a quake much greater than 10x what was felt in this area during Loma Prieta.
I was on the second floor in Berkeley in ’89 and, trust me, you do not want to be in any skyscraper in the scenario described above, a possibility that is far from remote.
Structural engineers do NOT say that it’s unwise to build xxxx ft tall towers in SF from a safety perspective. The only consideration for that question is the cost impact on the project.
also, HK is not prone to earthquakes. It’s on the pacific rim but it doesnt experience earthquakes, dont ask me why. nobody that lives there knows what an earthquake feels like.
Response to Joe:
The Pelli team mentioned that the tower could be a split of residential and commercial. They referenced another project they had developed that changed from being all office to being residential/office.
tipster, you read your data wrong. That graph shows 220,000,000 annual passengers, not 220,000 daily passengers. Weekday ridership is over 750,000:
Assuming every Caltrain passenger takes two trips on Muni – that’s about 2% of riders daily – a drop in the bucket.
From the website of the government of Hong Kong:
Earthquake risk in Hong Kong:
Several scientific studies carried out recently showed that in Hong Kong, the return period for an Intensity V (5) tremor would be 15 to 20 years and that for an Intensity VII (7) tremor would be 350 to 400 years.
Trend of felt tremors in recent years:
There is no evidence of an increase in the number of locally felt tremors in recent years. Since records began in 1979, there were altogether 53 felt tremors, 18 in the first ten years (1979¡V1988) and 19 in the subsequent ten years (1989¡V1998). In the last few years, three tremors were recorded in 1996, two in 1997, nil in 1998, eight in 1999, one in 2000, one in 2001, one in 2002, one in 2003, and four so far since 2004.
Last revision date: 27 Dec 2006
I love it when people post blatantly incorrect info as fact.
Tom, it is well known that the Cypress structure was NOT built to modern day seismic codes. That’s why similar structures here (and in Seattle) have been torn down, retrofitted, or are in the process of being retrofitted. Seismic codes from the 50’s look NOTHING like the seismic codes of today. Again, you’re resorting to fear-mongering.
And FYI – I would much rather be in the 50th floor of a highrise built today than I would the second floor of a 50-150 year old building.
The Cypress structure wasn’t built to modern codes? I guess it depends on how you define modern. I define modern as anything I’m riding on, living in, or driving over.
Not sure why you have to label what I’m saying “fear-mongering.” I have no interest in anyone being fearful. On the contrary, I enjoy a nice, calm, happy City. All I’m doing is stating facts. I understand many folks want to feel safe living in SF. I live in SF. People want to make it binary–it’s safe or it isn’t. And the reality is it’s gray. You’re not 100% safe and you’re far from 100% doomed. You have to make your choices.
Regarding these building codes you seem so confident in… These same codes of 2007 will be way outdated in 2057. I hope you won’t ever be explaining how the transbay terminal building of 2008-2012 wasn’t built up to modern codes.
As well, building codes only have limited use. That’s not to say they’re useLESS. Engineers/code designers really don’t know what the standards should be. It’s only a guess. The world has very limited information on how structures react to large earthquakes in general, and extremely limited information on how structures react to an earthquake of, say, the magnitude of SF 1906. My point is that it’s simply laughable to locate one of the tallest structures in the country in earthquake-prone SF.
For Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Proposal. Actually the park is 4-stories above the ground. The other two levels are below the ground (The Train Platform and Train Mezzanine), but the Terminal has 6 stories. And not only that S.O.M. had taken out a chunk of where the Terminal is placed, and replaced a a small portion with a park, where as Pelli Clarke Pelli used the entire length to include the Terminal and have the roof used as a park with all sorts of activites, food, etc, with many ways in reaching the roof (elevators, funiculars,etc). If one wants to skip all levels throughout to reach the roof you can use funiculars, elevators placed outside the Terminal. The Terminal also consists of Retail and offices too, as well as a Bus waiting level on the ground floor , and an A/C Transit level below the roof. The tower will include Retail and offices.
I had actually worked on the TransBay Transit Center here at Pelli Clarke Pelli. The tower is actually 1,200 feet tall. The tower is not only Retail and Offices, but it also has potential for Residences too (perhaps in the higher levels).
“The Pelli design is the most ‘San Francisco’ of the trio:”
…which is good enough reason not to chose that one.
Ok Tom, we’ll have to agree to disagree if you believe a structure like the Colisseum is “modern” simply because it’s still here. I define “modern standards” to be what is known to be best NOW. A structure like the Cypress would NEVER be built today using the same codes. It has been shown all over the world that 1000′ highrises using current codes can be built in seismic zones.
Definition of fear-mongering:
Spreading discreditable, misrepresentative information designed to induce fear and apprehension.
I’m sorry, bringing up a poorly designed 1950’s era freeway that collapsed in an effort to discredit a 1200′ tower built in 2007 fits that definition to a T.
My vote goes for Pelli Clarke Pelli! It’s unfortunate that S.O.M. used the same system for the tower, for the Terminal as well. And not only that, but to wrap it around and make a semi-cirle is just ridiculous. Looks like S.O.M. ran out of time. Pelli Clarke Pelli seemed like they had spend a lot of their time on the TransBay project, and it looks fantastic!
The structure that S.O.M. used for their project for TransBay, looks waay to heavy and thick, especially in their tower, and the base of their tower. The city is congested enough, we need something sleak like Pelli Clarke Pelli’s.
Actually the obelisk structure of the TransBay Tower of Pelli Clarke Pelli has nice clean cuts that take place on the corners (running from the base to the top). So the corners dont meet at a point, but rather punched inward to give a sense of lightness and cleaness to the all four edges of the tower.
Unfortunately the Colisseum hasn’t survived either. Can’t say the same for its cross town relative and incredible survivor, the Pantheon. Maybe that’s the solution, scrap these three and build an SF Pantheon to the building codes of 126 AD.
i second Annie and wil_h – i love the Pelli Clark design. it’s lovely, sensible and innovative at the same time. As for Rogers…yawn. I love the red, but otherwise it’s just a bit overly-masculine and boring. looks like an erector set…
After viewing the exhibit at city hall, I had the following comments:
The SOM proposal is by far the best of the bunch. The scale and proportions of the tower and transit center are very elegant, and the monumental entry portal to the tower and transit center will be incredible, unlike any high rise I’ve seen on the west coast. The amount of open space in the scheme seems appropriate for the neighborhood, but the location of the landscaped plaza is a bit odd. If part of it was on grade, then it could function as a generous public entry to the station. However, it is currently located above the MUNI bus transfer station, which makes it feel very disconnected. In fact, Many of the problems with the scheme result from the design of the MUNI bus shelter, which appears to be a bit of an afterthought. This part of the project should be screened with retail spaces at street level and treated with the same level of care as the rest of the design, to make it a more cohesive part of the city.
The Rogers scheme, with the excepton of the wind turbine on the roof, is terrible. Far too macho for this city…
The Pelli tower is bland and uninspired, and the transit center is a mess. The roof deck looks a little too much like a suburban shopping mall, and the scale of it is too large to be a truly vital urban space. Each element of the project appears to have been created by a different designer.
How about views from the street? It’s all pretty when seen from above but what will any of the designs be about when we see them from the buildings and streets in the area?
I also do not understand the whole need for a roof park on some of these projects above the transbay terminal? Why not let the terminal be a terminal, and have and identity of its own? I myself am not convinced this whole project is really going to happen, but it is fun to imagine it will. Is the idea that the rich get to drive into the tower garage and then whooosh up to their 92nd floor unit, while the poor go into a below park level dark terminal to wait for the bus?
guys, guys, guys! I’m going to stop this “earthquake” debate right now! Seismic forces on a structure are a terribly convoluted and imprecise calculation of soil conditions, seismic zones, stiffness, period, and a dozen mathematical coefficients. Anything built at anytime can collapse if the conditions are right. Towers of this size are designed for WIND LOADS more than for seismic loads. The shear force of the wind at these heights poses a larger problem on almost every skyscraper built. In fact, I know of no skyscraper that has fallen over in an earthquake, but in 1977, the Citicorp tower in NYC was at risk of toppling over in a hurricane because of a design flaw (yes, that would have been about a 700′ building causing half of mid-town to domino with it. New Yorkers never knew that there was a plan to evacuate the city and workers had their office walls torn open at night to weld the structure and then put back together before they came into work the next morning, not even knowing). The idea that a structural engineer would say that it shouldn’t be done because of earthquakes is ridiculous.
I need another WEEK to read all the design-related comments on here! But go SOM! SWEET digital entry arch and beautiful lattice columns.
“Far too macho for this city…”
What. Towers can’t be macho? Our city has become so sissyfied that I think we need to inject some testosterone into our skyline.
I’m tired of pansy-assed buildings. We already have Victorians — it’s time we get some real beef up there.
“The Transit Center’s base isolation structural system will allow the facility to withstand a “2,500 year” earthquake”
From SOM site though I know in this era every man is an expert and all opinions are equally valid
Step back and consider the new Transbay Terminal Center will function, in part, as a community center and gathering place for informal interaction between people – residents and visitors alike. The elevated park of the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects design makes perfect sense for adding to the neighborhood beyond its function of acting as a transit center. Concerts in the park on top of Transbay Center – I want to go! 🙂
I do hope they pick a design that contributes to the neighborhood with public space in addition to the functional aspects that folks will use to travel around the Bay Area region. Otherwise, it may just be another building I walk by and ignore like today’s terminal.
LOL – Usually Named. Gone are the days where unpleasant things made a place pleasant. Come on the the Federal bulding doesnt match the Civic area, and after city hall and the defenstration building its the most interesting thing to look at when ignoring transients.
I hate the whole unoriginal tower tower tower thing. Maybe I don’t know – but couldnt we have come up with a tall tower with a smaller asymetrical buidling connected by a floating bridge, an arch? a slide? mini golden gates connectign various floors… SF’s whimsy? These look just like any other newer TOWER building.
LOL LOL LOL LOL rg – that is an absolutely hilarious story!
I’m thinking we make this into a movie. Picture this conversation between an Italian mob boss and a gangster (played by Brad Pitt):
Mob boss: So, ya sees, I gots this building, in Manhattan, and itsa ’bout to fall down. Can yous help me?
Pitt: Hmmm…yeah, I know a guy. But it’ll take four mil in unmarked bills on my doorstep tomorrow morning.
Mob boss: No problem! Done.
Pitt: We’ll go in, late at night, rip open the walls, weld everything up nice and neat, and be out by morning. No one will ever know.
Mob boss: Sounds genius. I’sa like it. Remember, this is our little secret.
Pitt: I don’t even remember what we were talking about…
I think we’ve hit a new level of meaningless and useless design critique. I’d hate to be the designer who has to respond to this claptrap:
[Removed by Editor]
[Editor’s Note: Please feel free to lead by example (in terms of a meaningful and useful critique). Regardless, thanks for plugging in.]
These images of the SOM building are great:
It is really too bad that the type and quality of all the renderings are so different, it makes it hard to compare.
If I was the city I would have given each competitor a model of the local city blocks and had them build the model on it. That way they can be more directly compared. The above pictures are cool, but would the other ones be just as cool if rendered by the same artist.
The more I look at the SOM drawings, the more they look like Calatrava-lite. The swooping white arcs. The ribs and the glass. It seems that SOM knew Calatrava was not going to be in the finals and went for a derivative look. Imagine having a Calatrava design and the SOM design in the finals – they would be similar. Yet the SOM design is lacking the panache, the boldness, and the sheer extravagance of Calatrava. The opening of the terminal facing the park seems like a missed opportunity. It just ends….why not have it swoop up to the sky with a flourish? But SOM is tasteful – not revolutionary.
a) need something “exhilating” like a “gehry or calatrava”. this is what the world needs less of – commercialized, neatly packaged and marketed, “disneyfied” architecture – I’ll serious move clear across town if gehry gets in, and won’t go within a block of a calatrava building (bridge would be good, though). yes, this doesn’t have the tenacity of a caltrava, but caltrava’s bulidings aren’t really structurally innovative, just extravagant. not saying this is, though.
b) height: OK, something needs to stand up to block one rincon out of the picture. that thing is atrocious, and anything that shields my view of it is welcome, granted that it isn’t uglier.
c) if it, whatever “it” is, has blue glass, i’m also moving to the other side of town.
d) someone seriously needs to fix muni before any other lines are going to get funding to come to town. Stopping global warming starts with a) green buildings, and b) for SF, fixing muni. no one will ride if it keeps taking +1 hr to cross town.
e) all said, the SOM is my favorite – but didn’t they also design the st. regis? ugh! I can’t wait till they value engineer it and it looks the same. These renderings are great, but who knows what the developer is going to do … they’ve already got the edge by paying for the transit, so i’m guessing they’ll be cutting corners on A) removing affordable housing from the residential portion and B) on the exterior of the tower,. Hopefully they can keep the project’s integrity since it is such a high profile building.
I saw the presentation on SFGTV-26 and was most impressed by SOM’s proposal.
One thing I was immediately struck by was how similar the specs. of SOM’s proposed Transbay Tower are to those of SOM’s John Hancock Center in Chicago (1100′ tapered tower, mixed-use: 45 residential/45 office etc..)
While the Hancock Center would likely be seen as too ‘rugged’ a structure for San Francisco, SOM’s evoking elements of the Eiffel tower in its design seems to be a direct appeal to way many San Franciscans see their city.
Critic’s may say SOM’s proposal is a ‘too safe’ or merely a stylishly updated design of one of its past creations, but I believe its a brilliant proposal… realistic and designed to win.
SOM’s task of selling its tower design to SF’s parade of skeptics & nay-sayers will be made all that much easier by being able to point to the unquestioned success of its older cousin in Chicago. After 40 years, The Hancock Center is still considered to be a masterpiece of engineering with aesthetics that have stood up to time.
Furthermore, The Hancock has demonstrated the financial viability of the mixed-use, super-high rise and the ability of a such a project to transform its surroundings.
Most visitors to Chicago over the past 25 years might find it hard to believe that there was nothing ‘magnificent’ about N. Michigan Ave. when SOM built The Hancock Center. Hopefully we’ll see the same kind of magic take place at First & Mission.
… $20 SOM comes out on top September 20th.
Part of the Hancock’s brilliant design is that such a huge building sits back from the sidewalk quite a distance. I am suprised how close these towers are to the street. The Hancock has a ground level pedestrian area that has a large sunken courtyard with fountains and shops similar to Rockefeller Center.
Now, call me a negative type, but are they really going to be able to put together a funding package to build this tower at this point in this economy? I hope so but I doubt it. I like S.O.M.’s design and the Rogers tower also. If we can build one of these, then why can’t we fix Muni?
“If we can build one of these, then why can’t we fix Muni?”
We live in a mindlessly pro-union town. The SEIU has the BOS and mayor in its hip pocket. There’s no way MUNI can ever be fixed in this current environment.
“We live in a mindlessly pro-union town. The SEIU has the BOS and mayor in its hip pocket. There’s no way MUNI can ever be fixed in this current environment.”
That’s part of it, but until we dig more subway tunnels and add more subway lines, MUNI buses and trains will always have to run part of their route in traffic and will never achieve a satisfactory on-time rate.
“We live in a mindlessly pro-union town. The SEIU has the BOS and mayor in its hip pocket. There’s no way MUNI can ever be fixed in this current environment.”
There are a lot of things that need to change in SF if it’s ever going to be “affordable” (getting rid of rent control and softy b.s. attitudes toward homeless, for two), but getting rid of the unions, the last bastion of the middle class, is an atrocious idea. Unions gave us the weekend, so we can all sip chardonnay or One Gincon’s or whatever. Unions need to strengthen in this country (and city!) if we’re ever going to get our middle class back.
SOM makes a great urban move to energize the street: it stacks the bus terminal to reduce its length (and number of street crossed), and creates a light-filled entry hall right at the heart of the site.
Pelli’s park is six floors up in the air. It would be faster to walk to the Ferry Building.
If you watch the presentations of these towers on SFGTV you can see where we have ended up in architecture. Rogers is part of the current craze of starchitects who almost seems to not know what he is presenting. He starts off going on about how much he understands and loves SF, and then finally presents a structure that is designed “for San Francisco”, but looks more suitable for Taipei, yet still seems to have a lot of potential as a design to be developed. Pelli too reminds us that these starchitects almost have nothing to do with the design except for coming on their private jet to “do the presentation”, and showing a slide on their powerpoint presentations of a napkin sketch they made while having dinner at Le Cirque. The S.O.M. presentation seemed the most serious, and also the design that took into account the existing fabric of San Francisco. It is rather fun to watch the anxious young staff that actually worked on the designs bite their nails and look perplexed as the partners or named brand star principal of their firm bumbles through what is really their design, such is the state of modern architecture I guess. To be honest I don’t like any of the three, but hopefully whatever is chosen will get better as the design is developed. I am sorry we need to bring in outside starchitects to do our tallest tower when we have plenty of great local grown talent (though one could call SOM local). I guess I should not push the local talent idea too far since I am posting this far away from S.F. while working on a private residence project for my firm.
“but getting rid of the unions, the last bastion of the middle class, is an atrocious idea. Unions gave us the weekend, so we can all sip chardonnay or One Gincon’s or whatever. Unions need to strengthen in this country (and city!) if we’re ever going to get our middle class back.”
And there you now have an example of why we will never reform MUNI. Thanks for proving my point.
I’m surprised no one has called out what to me is obvious. All of these designs, and One Rincon Hill, are such extreme terroist targets. A nice straight shot from SFO, too.
Not to mention, I’m not at all convinced these could be structurally sound enough to withstand the big one that has a statistically probable chance of hitting in the next 50 years. That area is not rock, as I understand, unlike One Rincon.
What would it take to “convince” you that these buildings are structurally sound? Should they have simulated an earthquake during the presentation. As I said before, I tend to leave the questions of whether something is structurally sound to, you know, structural engineers.
Good point on the terrorist thing though – that’s why I suggest razing the entire city of San Francisco and having everyone move into hobbit holes. We need to be safe…
Do you work for a developer or the Mayor?
Neither. Why would you think that? Because I think fear of earthquakes and terrorism are not valid reasons to discount proposals?
My point is that each of these are monuments to man’s hubris. We live in a city near several major fault lines. Erecting towers the heights of these is just asking for a disaster. Why? Not because the designs aren’t sound, but because corruption of the permit groups and the their buddies in the constructions companies is certain to ensure that proper codes aren’t followed.
True story: a coworker of mine told me recently that his father, a structural engineer, said 40 years ago–that “all these bridges” he was working on were going to “fall down.” This man received death threats when trying to point out flaws in the concrete, supports, and other building materials that were shoddy or under constructed due to kickbacks and other corrupt behavior.
Look what happened in Minneapolis. Think corruption doesn’t happen here? Except that here, we can depend on large earthquakes very soon that will expose flaws in construction pretty quickly. And more than half the bridges in the Bay Area are built to the same shoddy standards as the one in Minneapolis. Catastrophe is virtually guaranteed now in the event of another major earthquake.
No way in hell would I live in a tall building in SF that wasn’t in the very least, built on solid rock. The transbay area is NOT rock, according to the liquefaction reports I see on the USGS site. I’m no engineer, but I see a lot of folks more concerned about looks than safety here, and I was wondering how, if at all that was ever going to be addressed.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against progress or modernism or even the neighborhood. I live a few blocks away in SoMA in a decently tall building. I just wonder if there’s any common sense in those designs, that’s all.
We know a lot more now than we did 40 years ago. And unless your “friend’s who’s dad is a structural engineer” is up to date on stuff, I’m just going to call it what it is — an anecdotal comment.
By the way, all buildings built today drive piers into bedrock.
In any case, feel free not to like what’s going on. Just get out of our way.
I pick option 4
None of the above.
It is unfortunate that none of the schemes was truly innovative; In my opinion,they are just recycled schemes or ideas, from other projects that never came to fruition.
Those are some bold accusations that you’re throwing around. Do you have any proof to back up claims that “corruption of the permit groups and the their buddies in the construction companies is certain to ensure that proper codes aren’t followed.”
If you do, I’d be calling the media right now.
It’s mind blowing that we live in such a state of fear of earthquakes and terrorism. Maybe we should all live in holes in the ground in the great plains.
To tall building opponents, if you don’t like the idea of living or working in a highrise, don’t! The rest of us will enjoy living, working, and walking in a downtown that is getting better every day of the 10+ years I’ve lived here.
The City is going to eventually have a ton of tall buiildings. Six big ones on Rincon hill alone. And that is just for now. There will be more and more, so the Transbay tower and One rincon will be blending into the background. I bet in 50 years from now there will be dozens of buildings bigger than ORH in San Francisco. Better get used to it or move to a suburbs!
Has anyone else been in a high rise during an earthquake? I used to live in Tokyo, and it’s NOT fun at all. The buildings sway a lot (a good thing) but it makes even smaller earthquakes feel enormous… It takes some getting used to.
All buildings today do NOT drive piers into bedrock. EXAMPLE: Some of the new projects in Mission Bay. The City of San Francisco predicts that if a 1906 sized earthquake were to strike today, about 1/4 of structures in the city would fail and be not safe for habitation.
Fine fine. Let me clarify. All *highrises* today have piers in bedrock. And I would assume these three buildings proposed would have that as well. So, this whole “not in bedrock” thing is a red herring.
And furthermore, for smaller buildings, if you have the right engineering done, you don’t need to be on bedrock either.
I was asked:
Do you have any proof to back up claims that “corruption of the permit groups and the their buddies in the construction companies is certain to ensure that proper codes aren’t followed.” If you do, I’d be calling the media right now.
Keep on believin’ there’s no corruption in the building trades and permit groups in SF. If you do, I’ve got some nice clean and non toxic land for you in Hunters’ Point. Or, more likely you are one of the corrupt. Wasn’t a major building contractor recently called out in the chron for shoddy substandard concrete on the Bay Bridge offramps?
And the corruption in SF’s permit group is legendary. Bribes, kickbacks, and payola GALORE. Just ask any homeowner who tries to get work done in the city. Just do a simple google query on SF building permit corruption.
Again, I don’t oppose progress or even tall buildings in general (having lived in Chicago and New York both for many years). But again I wouldn’t trust my LIFE and property on the lowball contractor who got the job through a corrupt bidding practice, receiving a kickback and paying off the BOS.
The tower is a private building, built and owned by a private group, not something public like the two items you mentioned. I never said there wasn’t corruption within the permitting process – I was questioning your claim that “proper codes” wouldn’t be followed in building a 1200’+ tower.
Richard Rogers; though literal I like the references to the GG and an Eichler tower – the top needs work though. SOM 2nd choice.
With all the hoopla—the towers rising and the parks greening….not much time was spent (in the presentations) talking about the functional areas for the terminal (the purpose of this project). AC Transit was mentioned, Caltrain was mentioned—but I don’t get the sense that this is the intermodal hub that this region deserves…the firms talked of EU and Asia experience dealing with international airports and train stations…is Transbay just a glorified NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal?
Option 4 for me too. None of the above. What a disappointment. If I absolutely had to pick one of the three I’d pick Rodgers, just because fewer people like it and some call it ugly. At least that’s something. The others are just so big and bland.
But with money getting so tight I doubt that the project as currently construed will actually go forward.
“But with money getting so tight I doubt that the project as currently construed will actually go forward.”
Thank you Salarywoman for finally telling people that this emperor has no clothes. There is no way with the market tanking and credit now almost unavailable that they are going to build this tower. Last time I checked, there was not a shortage of office space in this city OR of new high rise luxury condominiums.
What is up with the palm trees in the Skidmore Owings blah blah blah design? This is a disturbing trend that I’ve watched seep into San Francisco over the years. This is NOT L.A. Palms are tired. It’s been done. I’d rather see sculpture or wind turbines.
MoJonson, the palms are a sign that many new architects no longer understand San Francisco. These designs are recycled projects that were not selected for other cities. I agree with you that palm trees have nothing to do with San Francisco, the Bay Area coastal climate, or our regional identity. None of these towers pass in my opinion since they hardly begin to acknowledge the region they are going to be towering over. (Rogers design come close) The palm trees that are being dropped in front of many new developements in this city show that a lot of new residents who have moved to the city really must be wishing they lived in San Diego or Orange County instead. The fact that so many feel San Francsico “needs” this type of super-tower tells me that they have no real appreciation for the unique city they live in. We already had an identity, but by the time many of these new projects are done, what will be the difference between here and San Diego other than our weather is worse?
I love the palm trees personally. Maybe they were not san francisco, but they sure are now. They are becoming ubiquitous, from Fisherman’s Wharf down to Mission Bay, and all the way to Van Ness…and beyond.
I think the both the Pelli scheme (who would go to a gargantuan park that is almost 100 feet in the air?) Pelli even admits they haven’t quite figured out how people are going to get up there. And who would pay for this park when then city can’t even afford the terminal? The SOM scheme was too over the top for me and is trying to be too much. Suddenly its a park, art installation, museum etc. Does this proposal even fit the budget?
I think people are dismissing the Rogers scheme so quickly. Richard Rogers is the 2007 winner of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture – the professions highers honor. His latest airport – the Madrid Barajas Airport recently won the stirling prize – the UK’s top honor in architecture. Go check it out, its BEAUTIFUL. And it seems the terminal (though i feel was underrepresented in the presentation) takes many queues from this. I think its really bold to propose a terminal practically floating 70 feet in the air that creates a public realm underneath from everyone to see. As I got from the presentation, everything is open air! no doors or walls. People can just walk in a very bright space and marketplace.
The tower will be very active. Since he placed the elevators outside, there will be constant movement on the exterior 24/7. Imagine all this movement and the wind turbine visible? It will be specatular!
A bit late, but I guess its time to weigh in:
Pritzker-schmitzker — Richard Rogers’ mechanistic red-exposed-structure exoskeleton tower with its very weak plan-rotation move is already tired and dated seeming (as it would’ve been ten years ago!). Its hard to tell with his terminal portion, but from the images made available, it seems a bit too simplistic, if not downright anemic-looking next to that macho tower. He has done far better elsewhere.
Cesar Pelli’s tower is a nice enough dildo of a form, but ultimately, for such a prominent commission really seems to be no more than a one-liner. The renderings of his terminal are about as exciting as the average shopping center atrium in Singapore or anyplace else. And those “tree branch columns” within it are so cliched by now to be an embarrassment (there are at least a dozen such “unique” long-span structural designs built all over the place by now — been there done that). The ‘park-in-the-air’ on top is also simply not convincing as a great public urban space (more like suburban or exurban). In the end, this component is quite horrendous — with its overbearing axial symmetry, decked out in goofy repetitive rings of trees and those awfully heavy-handed repetitive undulating ‘flanks’ along the street– yuk. His recent dark green highrise on Mission looks brilliant compared to this.
SOM’s tower defintely offers the most sophistication, and even some welcome subtlety — particularly in comparison with the other two.
The terminal seems to suffer from some of the same overbearing symmetry as the other two — but so far it certainly seems more interesting than Rogers’ and clearly less banal than Pelli’s.
The sad fact is that design will probably have little to to do with the final building — it’ll be the total development package/team that wins. What’s sadder is how the horrible ordinariness of almost all of SF’s skyscrapers makes any of these look quite good. Maybe this state of affairs had the architects aiming lower in the first place.
To those regretting Calatrava’s absence: this critic for one is extremely relieved we’ll be spared yet another overly-literal and melodramatic ‘bird building’ or ‘corkscrew’ landing here, as has been dropped on other cities of late.
It was obviously way out of line to hope for something truly daring or innovative architect-wise or design-wise in this city…oh well.
Thank God. San Francisco is returning to the world of world-class architecture.
Pelli’s design wonderfully incorporates lush green space that pushes all the right buttons. However, the tower design (while elegant and resolved) is virtually a clone of his 2IFC building in Hong Kong.
The S.O.M. design is beautifully 21st century, innovative and stunning. If only it didn’t terminate in a banal truncated “crown” (illumination or no illumination).
Marvelous! San Francisco must become a bold city and make a bold statement to the world, if it expects to be respected and stand with the big guys, such as Chicago, New York, Shanghai, Dubai, L.A., Sao Paulo, etc. San Francisco has long been overdue for its time and now is it. When people come to a city, the first thing they see is its skyline, not its museums, theaters, parks, restaurants, but its skyline. Face it, this is what makes a city a place of recognition that being its downtown area and the height of its buildings. San Francisco had its day of height limits and squat buildings. Now is the time for San Francisco to get the recognition it deserves, which requires it to make a statement that will indeed be recognized worldwide. I hope San Francisco takes this chance on its destiny. All three desinges are wonderful and it would be a shame to forsake this gift of enginuity genius and progress.
Pelli design = 100% disappointing. An impenetrable modernist monolith with standard rectilinear frame? BOOoooo-ring. Simple selection of a circular plan does not an interesting building make.
Richard Rogers makes some very nice moves — his exposed truss towers turn function into form, celebrating structure in a way I very much approve of. The color of the exposed metal ties this tower to the Golden Gate Bridge, while unadulterated industrial aesthetic starts a dialog with Sutro Tower. And those enormous turbines at the top? Dead sexy.
…Not as sexy as the SOM submittal though. While designs coming from the largest, most corporate firm in the country are almost always uninspired pieces lacking fine details, they seem to have pulled this one together into a gorgeous and sustainable package.
The structural diagrid which supports this building is a very efficient use of steel. Such construction saves upwards of 1/3 the metal which would be required for a conventional rectilinear grid. This diagrid isn’t static, though — as the loads mellow near the top of the building, the steel’s rhythm calms to match, creating a beautifully lyrical forced perspective. So lyrical, I sincerely hope it is built.
An amendment to my comments above regarding Rogers scheme, after seeing much more of the project on that team’s website (linked to over at sf.curbed.com):
At SF Curbed they quote from Rogers’ project description regarding the design’s
“structural clarity, truth telling, visual honesty”. Well, like most “truths”, it’s more like a partial truth, or one side of the “truth”…
“Structural honesty” is a familiar premise in modern design in general, and it became the mantra for what has by now turned into a completely dated architectural ‘style’, that was perhaps interesting 30 or 40 years ago — e.g. see the Pompidou Center that Rogers himself designed with Renzo Piano in Paris, which informed the whole ‘British High Tech’ movement that followed, and that was informed itself by Britain’s own far more radical Archigram group.
The problem is that ‘honesty’ of expression as the end-all and be-all of architecture is simply not that interesting or relevant anymore, particularly in this complex, multivalent time we live in. Basically this is an overly-literal and heavy-handed, if not downright moralistic and boring, mode of architecture, and one that certainly doesn’t offer much subtlety, discovery or mystery in terms of experience. Moreover, this attitude generally prioritizes the object over and above the space made by the object — its basically old school macho modernism on steroids (as clearly exhibited in Rogers’ Tranny tower).
For recent welcome antidotes to this kind of single-minded, purported “truthfulness” in architecture, see for instance (locally even) Herzog & DeMeuron’s DeYoung Museum or Morphosis’ Fed. Bldg.
With the above thoughts in mind, the SOM scheme definitely emerges as best of the Tranny Shacks, by an even longer shot.
All these designs are outdated. After a certain height, a tower is just a tower. Whether it has blue glass, black glass, an exoskelton or internal butresses, towers are designed according to the limitations of structural elements and physics. Unfortunately, these designers have serious conceptual limitations as well.
The designs are prtty uninteresting. By the time they’re built they’ll look staid. They all focus on an internal world where people don’t have to go onto the streets. The idea that a moderated, inside park is public space is ludicrous. This doesn’t help create a urban identity, it is a sales tactic by developers who want to convice people that they will be special by being in, by loving this place. Besides, if developers provide some small amount of “public” space, they get to use tax dollars – whether directly, in gifts or in the form of write offs – to guarantee a profit. Look at any new sports stadium for an example of how that works.
Several people are openly hostile to those sceptics who have experience and wisdom. The more polite critics defining them as lousy, stick-in-the-mud old fogeys – eegad! natives perhaps – who are against every new design. New is not always better. Anyone who’s been here for more than 15 years has seen architectural treasures destroyed because someone’s “great vision” was blind to building crafts and to the after effects of an overriding big plan. Look at the history of big designs for Market Street to see how well they’ve worked out.
Do we need a 1200′ tower? No. The idea that we should build towers to compete with an stunning natural geography is new and foolhardy. Such heights of hubris destroy the geography that makes this place desirable.
Buildings don’t make a city recognizable, they call attention to themselves. It’s the people who interact with each other every day that make a city recognizable. Towers don’t encourage interaction, they demand obesiance.
I actually think the opposite of the richard rogers tower. His design dogma has always been about honesty in the the building. Formal gestures are never gartuitous to inspire awe, but instead, he taps into the building elements and exposes these in order to be appreciated and therefore, the building’s true functions are revealed. The beauty and spectacle expressed in his buildings are drawn from its functions and not by any formal gimmckry.
For example, his inversion of what would normally be a center core building (by placing the cores on the outside instead of in) allows for the building to achieve a great deal of efficiency even when it is mixed use like this one. Cores could drop out on the outside and will only serve their designated areas. The activity of the glass elevators and the expterior circulation will animate the facade greatly 24/7 due to its mixed use program. The spectacle here is on the users of the the building and their movement, and top by a wind turbine that generates power as it is moving. It is a spectacle that is literal and visual and not derived from gratuitous formal moves. Its strength lies in its honesty – it does not try to be more than it is, but it its delight and spectacle is drawn by exposing the truth about itself. Physical Motion drives the concept which I think its so suited for a tower that supplements a transit center.
I’ve actually worked for Richard Rogers before and he’s actually the nicest man I’ve ever met. Genuinely friendly and treats his employees with utmost respect. He also attempts to meet the clients expectations and protects their interest economically. In this sight, he never makes buildings that are self referential but always makes it’s way into the conext. Everything is thought out to be non gratuitous. He strips his designs of any insubtsantial ornament but instead draws from the building’s functions and elements.
In contrast with SOM’s corporate structure that works their people to death and do not talk to their “minions” unless they need something.
Even though Richard Roger’s design seems to be coming in 3rd in the “popularity polls” for the prettiest, it is worth another look. John King’s editorial in Sunday’s SFGate makes some very good points; and looks at it more from the perspective of the street level user – how the majority of San Franciscan’s will experience this once it is built. With some modification to the tower top, and a lower height, this proposal most clearly looks at home in SF (though for a city remowned for it’s libertine ways, perhaps Pelli’s Dildo Tower is an option). Roger’s at least references the surroundings and on 2nd thought, even the wind turbine seems relevant; a nod to the Bay Area’s environmental values and ultimately, a point of difference between this tower and the others, which could just as easily be ‘at home’ in another world metropolis.
js – all three towers have wind turbines – Rogers is just more flashy on top. Why is a lower height needed?
Why do we think that bigger and taller is better. I think all the proposals are way to large. Architecture should blend in with the environment, not stand out like a sore thumb. It is all about ego and not good design.
I think the first picture looks alright so i’m going to use that. Its cool and it makes the citie look bigger and more important but I think it will change the way people look at the citie and think of it in their head. To me it doesn’t really say San Fransisco to me. It makes the Transamerica Building look small and not important and the Transamerica is one of my favorite buildings. To me it would have to look good with the Transamerica so people will still look at the Transamerica the same way. I just won’t be youst to seeing the citie that i know the same way with a building like that.
I like the SOM one best and the Cesar Pelli one second. Both have sleek, beautiful designs and engaging terminal centers. I really hope the Rogers one doesn’t win.
The Rogers design looks like a Lord of the Rings tower (complete with huge evil eye) but mixed with a cheap Miami condo high-rise with bad color choice.
I will be working across the street from which ever building gets built and have a few ‘local’ thoughts
1- the Rogers design will get dirty and not so attractive from street level with all the exterior structural elements. I personally think the Pompidou Center looks that way and Paris gets more rain than we do normally. All the exterior skeleton will be impossible to clean manually – rain will be the only solution
2- street level winds can be very important – if you have walked or biked around downtown you know that some areas turn into absolute wind tunnels. One that comes to mind is Sansome street heading north towards Broadway just past the fire station – part way up the block the headwind is ferocious and then it flips and you have a huge tail wind – bouncing off one of the large square buildings there. Another is the intersection at 3rd and Townsend – The Beacon forces the wind somehow through the intersection to really accelerate
3- homeless ‘hangouts’ – walking around the current transbay involves long stretches under the terminal or overpasses which are relatively weather protected and smell like the outdoor toilets that they truly are
Its hard to tell from the online renderings how these designs would address any of this but I am optimistic on all fronts – the current environment is truly drab
I finally got around to reading all these comments and the amount of misinformation is really staggering. As a close observer of this project, I’ll try to provide some background.
First of all, you can view all the history on the Transbay Joint Powers Authority website (www.transbaycenter.org).
As somebody noted, due to budget, the project is phased, however it is approved environmentally for the full project. The full project is rebuilding the existing seismically deficient bus terminal AND extending Caltrain to the new terminal. The total cost is about $3 billion, of which the TJPA has collected about $1.5 billion (not too bad). Since the value of the money diminishes over time, the TJPA staff recommended to its Board of Directors to phase the project and get the bus terminal built right away. That’s important because part of the financing for the terminal is coming from the sale of vacant Caltrans property on Folsom Street — and the state’s agreement to provide the proceeds of the land sales to the TJPA is dependent upon the bus terminal being in operation by 2016. Period. Since the state land is worth upwards of $500 million, there is a powerful incentive to get moving.
In response to another comment about figuring out the engineering on where the train portals will be, etc., that’s all being done right now under an existing contract with Parsons Transportation Group. That work is almost finished.
Finally a word on the functions of this terminal. While it is going to be a landmark for the city, it also needs to work for the buses and trains. The TJPA just completed a ridership study for the new terminal and that study predicts that within 25 years the eastbound transit demand out of San Francisco will exceed 37,000 trips in ONE HOUR. BART is unlikely to be able to carry more than 28,000 an hour, leaving the new bus terminal to move 8,000 in one hour (with the balance on ferries). 8,000 passengers in one hour is about triple what the current terminal does and is close to what a downtown BART station does in one direction in the peak hour.
So, in response to the comment that nobody will use it, that’s pretty unlikely. But not unexpected, since all the naysayers said nobody would use the Golden Gate Bridge 75 years ago and said the same thing about BART 40 years ago. Where are those people now? Humbled I hope.
Finally, we need to give credit where it is due, and it does not belong to the Mayor. He’s been mostly absent on this project until recently. Chris Daly sits on the TJPA Board, and he’s been a great champion, along with the East Bay representatives. It would be unfortunate if this terminal becomes Newsom’s legacy — because it really belongs to Chris.
The SOM Scheme is the one. it is San Francisco, it appears thoughtful, not a one liner, and not an “anywhere in the world” tower.
it feels like it fits the city
I don’t like the pelli: Hate bulging towers! plus it’s being a duplicate -non original architecture- of his other tower in Hong Kong.
Rogers? Just another Hong Kong style architecture. will it fly in SF? what’s with these people using HK stlye for SF ?
SOM’s work is original architecture from what I see. Will obviously get refined later on. SOM projects start by ideas rather than forms. In addition to them being the skyscraper architects. SOM gets my vote.
This reminds me of a similar story with the Lotte tower in Seoul, Korea (112 floors). The city rejected the original design because they refused to have their new city skyline main feature to be a replice of the eiffel tower. SOM was brought in and they have redesigned the tower with original ideas.
I like both the SOM and the Pelli entries. The SOM being a bit harder to envision in these renderings, I think the Pelli building would stand up to the test of time the best. I sure hope there is a way for any of these proposals to develope solar cells into the design of the buildings skin. Since the Pelli design is all glass, why not use the developing solar technologies to help light this selection.
Knowing SF, I venture to say that whichever building is selected, like so many others, it will turn into the lowest common denominator design while trying to satisfy everyone. Get ready for another stubby fat building again just cause we’re afraid of a little shade!
i m final year architecture student in India, i need more information about transport interchange center
please help me out for my thesis project
Comments are closed.