110 The Embarcadero: Rendering (Image Source:
John King has the design scoop on 110 The Embarcadero, a proposed glass and vine covered office building by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (design) and Hines (developer):

“The proposed 10-story building would rise from a sliver of land next to the Audiffred Building, a three-story brick landmark from 1889 that houses Boulevard Restaurant. Unlike the Audiffred – a French-flavored confection and downtown’s oldest waterfront structure – the look next door would be all clear glass and straight lines.”

“Planters contained by a trellis-like mesh would be attached between each floor, and each planter would hold a mix of vines so something is in bloom each month of the year. The vines would be trained to snake around cables that would form a sort of taut net around the glass box, with vertical cables spaced every 5 feet and horizontal ones stretched waist-high across each floor.”

Assuming Planning Commission approval this spring, the building could be up, open and growing leaves by the end of 2009.
A beautiful green building for Embarcadero [SFGate]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by plug1

    didnt they try that with clothing in the 80s? i believe it was called “hyper color”.
    good usage of the word “Babylon”. the late, great Herb Caen would concur.

  2. Posted by Invented

    Great building for the site; please nix the vines, moss and any other exterior-growing crud. Not here.
    Otherwise I’m happy to wake on a winter Monday morning to learn of a sharp\, urban design for an important location as this.

  3. Posted by Mole Man

    Integrating growing plants into the facade looks great and is very practical if done right. The problem with this specific idea is that flowering vines are mostly pestilent invader species. It would make more sense to have various kinds of local crag loving plants including flowers and grasses but not vines so much. At least they are trying, and this building will almost certainly stand out against all the other recent curtain walled structures.

  4. Posted by zzzzzzz

    I’m glad to see this site is finally getting developed. It’s an incredibly high-profile location in a block filled with an interesting mix of architectural styles. I agree with King, though, that they should find a way to lop a floor or two off the top so it doesn’t completely overwhelm the Audiffred building.

  5. Posted by SFLand Arch

    So these vines are going to fry against the glass when the sun is out or be killed by the lack of sun on the north side. How do you access them to maintain them and please tell me which species are going to bloom all year round in San Francisco. It sounds like the public relations people are designing the landscape. Great idea but you better put balconies in to maintain them.
    As for the claim that they are pestilent invaders, where are they going to invade.

  6. Posted by Joe

    Find me any article by John King where he doesnt suggest that a floor or two be lopped off.
    Go back through his “think pieces” and read the infinity review – prior to its approval he wrote a piece about how it should be cut in half, and cut to one tower.
    The man is overwhelmed by anything a foot off the ground.

  7. Posted by location

    That is a lovely drawing. Too bad it won’t actually look anything like this when it is built.

  8. Posted by noearch

    This promises to be an elegant, simple building designed by a talented firm. I agree that the vines should go; they are very minor and add nothing to the architecture.
    I’m beginning to think that John King works for the Planning Department. why does every new building have to defer to the adjacent buildings? Chopping off a few floors from the Pelli building will neither enhance or “respect” the Audiffred Building.
    Leave the new building alone. Besides the Audi building is neither very San Francisco or special. It’s just charming, old and vaguely french. so what?

  9. Posted by Invented

    “Find me any article by John King where he doesnt suggest that a floor or two be lopped off.
    Go back through his “think pieces” and read the infinity review – prior to its approval he wrote a piece about how it should be cut in half, and cut to one tower.
    The man is overwhelmed by anything a foot off the ground.”
    Joe, this is because he lives out nr Orinda or one of those endless burbs Pleasant- ville, valley, ton, type place –where 3 stories is whopping and skyscraping.
    That we have an architecture critic in a major American city who probably lives on a SUV packed cul-de-sac in the burbs.
    Says it all.

  10. Posted by Brutus

    Great stuff.
    Leave the vines in place – who cares if they don’t end up working out? Isn’t everyone on this site always complaining about nothing new being tried in San Francisco? Isn’t everyone always complaining about everyone else dictating how buildings should look? Let them try something new.

  11. Posted by zzzzzzz

    I wonder if there’s some way to test different vine species to see which ones will do best in this location on this kind of building surface. That’s what was done with the Academy of Sciences – they tested different native species on the roof of the old building to see which ones would be the best choices for the new museum.

  12. Posted by dest

    Everyone bitches and moans about boring architecture on this site and then when we finally get a building with an interesting twist everyone shoots it down. Leave the vines!!!

  13. Posted by Mark

    Simply brilliant design concept – will enhance and accentuate the Audiffred building in front of it

  14. Posted by anonSF

    Great idea, but I guarantee the vines will die and it’ll be another glass box (though nicer than some of the other junk that gets built).
    BTW–I heard this was going to be a small number of condos. Is that true?

  15. Posted by shenzoshinzen

    You may think I’m weird but I have a fantasy of a modern 60 story building with vines and foliage growing up it downtown. I think it would look spectacular and also help offset carbon emissions naturally through the plants circulatory systems. Perhaps a little hippyish? Yes, but it would definitely draw attention.

  16. Posted by Brutus

    BTW–I heard this was going to be a small number of condos. Is that true?
    No. It will be 100% leaseable office floors 2-10, with nothing decided for bottom floor – though retail/restaurant is likely.

  17. Posted by arch

    This rendering looks great with clear glass. But in reality, it is virtually impossible to use clear glass with the california (title 24) energy requirements. So, what color will be selected for the glass?

  18. Posted by louis

    Look at the new quai brainly museum in downtown paris that was just opened and has this exterior planting on vertical walls. it is designed by jean nouvel. that is where this idea was lifted from, directly, and lightened up to a commercial level.
    the question on this project is whether this height can survive on the embarcadero, given the battles of the port projects exceeding a lowly 40 foot height.

  19. Posted by ex SF-er

    I agree with others
    They’re finally trying something different
    I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a glass building covered with flowering vines
    Go for it!
    FWIW: I love the new Quai Branly… but some of the natives aren’t so happy with it!

  20. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    With all these glass on the north side, do they concern if the Audiffred building were to rebuild they will lose all the light and view?

  21. Posted by planner

    the quality of insight, critical thinking, and understanding of the planning and legislative process from the commenters on this blog is stupifyingly simplistic: taller = always better; towers = always good in all locations; spot zoning = no problem; neighborhood context = who gives a rats ass; etc.
    you know, there’s a reason certain height limits are legislated for certain places, based on the appropriate heights for areas based on various principles and criteria of city form, topographical relationships, land use considerations, etc.
    this building proposal requires a legislative height reclassification (i.e. spot rezoning) from the Board of Supervisors to build to 110′. The entire block is zoned 84′. There is no logical planning or city form rationale for singling out this one, and only this one, single small mid-block property for a higher height (and only marginally higher, I might add) than all the adjacent parcels on the block, or conversely, has it been demonstrated that a height of 84′ is completely inappropriate and that 110′ is of course the ideal height for that block.

  22. Posted by Joe

    So the former YMCA now harbour court hotel is zoned for 84′? Seems like it exceeds that zoning slightly. But dont let that stop your intellectually superior ennui. SF has all kinds of NIMBYs

  23. Posted by noearch

    I’d rather talk about John Kings myopic vision of what constitutes a good high-rise. His suburban infused commentaries are simple unfounded..and what kind of credentials does he have to be an architecture critic anyway?

  24. Posted by Kathleen

    May I have the window washing contract?

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