100 Folsom Street Rendering

Jeanne Gang’s designs for a proposed 40-story tower and mid-rise project to rise on the northwest corner of Folsom and Spear Street have been unveiled.

A “reinterpretation of the city’s fabled bay windows,” the 400-foot tower would be “clad in masonry tiles, with stacks of 45-degree-angle bays and balconies snaking back and forth” and include 250 market-rate condos.  An adjacent eight-story building would provide 139 units of below market rate “affordable” housing as part of the development.

The Transbay Block 1 site, however, is currently only zoned for building up to 300 feet in height and San Francisco’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will need to successfully approve a spot up-zoning for Tishman Speyer to proceed with the development as proposed.

85 thoughts on “Jeanne Gang’s Design For 400-Foot Transbay District Tower Unveiled”
  1. Meh, pretty uninspired. Nothing new here, and other such comments to follow that I think will actually be pretty accurate. For this city it’s interesting I guess

    1. What is so-called interesting architecture in SF? I have lived here almost 20-years and while I agree there are some pretty buildings here, I would classify very few as “interesting,” and even less as unique. Most of the architecture found in SF can be seen in other cities, and often done better. SF is a beautiful city because of its natural setting, but it is not a city of great architecture.

      As for this building, I think the undulating texture is eye-catching and a playful twist on the now tired idea of copying the Victorian bay windows.

      1. SFMOMA. Jewish Museum addition. Transamerica Pyramid for that matter (dated and cliche now, but quite unusual and in fact controversial at the time). The federal courthouse (quite ugly IMHO, but nevertheless “interesting”). The de Young. California Academy of Science. Heck, City Hall – quite interesting (and spectacular) for its period – it outshines many states’ capitol buildings. Hallidie Building, Conservatory, 140 New Montgomery (PacBell Buidling), etc.

        I suppose it depends on how you define “interesting”. If you mean great buidlings that are nicely proportioned and have some great styling, then I think we have plenty. If you mean cutting-edge (leaky, hard to maintain) Geary or Gaudi, then no. But I’m quite happy living in a world of the former.

          1. Someone on Socketsite should take on the task of updating the SF Architecture page on Wikipedia.

    2. “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.” – Daniel Burnham

  2. O wow. I will agree with Sam that theres nothing new here, there are many skyscrapers around the world that look very similar, however, this is new and interesting for San Francisco. This tower will definitely be eye catching, it reminds me of waves. Personally speaking, a tower this unique should be taller but I feel that 400 ft is appropriate for this section of the city. Now lets just hope it becomes a reality.

  3. Anyone else concerned that a 400 ft building covered in Tiles is dangerous thing in Earthquake Country?

    1. No. Are you under the impression that architects and engineers are not taking seismic considerations into account when they design and detail buildings? How are tiles more dangerous than all the glass that is glued onto the facades of most new SF office towers?

    2. Isn’t every building’s facade of “tiles?” Do you think 555 California was 3D printed out of granite?

    3. Has the ever been a highrise collapse in the history of SF after numerous poweful earthquakes, including the infamous 1906 quake? No. In fact, the tall buildings are the ones that survive the best. As for the “tiles,” every building as a facade, and every modern building is designed with a facade that stays intact, even during very powerful earthquakes.

    4. Only once have I worked in a Bay Area building where tiles started falling off within 10 years of construction. Once was more than enough – and that was without seismic activity. Architects and Engineers can certainly get this wrong.

  4. Really?! “Uninspired”? How cynical are you people? It might look a little like Geary’s 8 Spruce in NYC, but I would hardly call either of them “uninspired”. We get an amazing proposal and our own design community says “meh”. What else looks like this building? If this gets a cold reception from architects I’m scared to see how the NIMBYs will react.

      1. I agree. I think it is kind of neat. Certainly better than another glass box.

        I guess anything other than senseless jutting angles and swoops is disparaged as “blah.”

    1. I agree with you; This is much more creative than the average SF skyscraper. It is a nice blend of modern with more traditional influences. I actually think that community will like this building (which is probably why so many are criticizing it).

  5. I think this is great – not everyone’s cup of tea, but certainly NOT just another glass box. (Futurist, are you noting that I’m not damning this design? 🙂

    I agree it’s similar to 8 Spruce in NYC; I hope the real-world implementation here is better; up close (and I mean a few blocks, not a few feet) there’s a real jarring dissonance between 8 Spruce’s angled walls and vertical-plane windows. The windows should have been set in the same planes as the angled walls.

    1. Unique or “first” or whatever, 8 spruce is kind of fugly. This building looks cool. You’re right, the planes are strange on 8 spruce. It looks like a wadded up curtain.

  6. The way her team was able to introduce balconies in such a discreet way is very clever. I’m curious where they are hiding the parking and how many units will get a deeded space?

  7. “meh” and “uninspired” and “nothing new” – clearly those posts were meant to be sarcastic, right? I get it that a lot of people think that if one criticizes then one appears to be smarter or more informed. This place really looks great. Very cool. If we are going to manhattanize this part of town (well, half-scale), let’s do it with buildings that are interesting like this one.

    1. i think they’re from basic, jealous architects. this is a really cool looking building and everyone knows it.

    1. I noted a similarlity to the B of A Building too (sorry – showing my age). Fortunately this will be more slender; 555 Cal isn’t aging well (IMHO) and seems like such a behemoth on the skyline.

      1. Derivative of what? Unlike Aqua and 8 Spruce, this is highly geometric and mathematical. Just because it reminds you of something else doesn’t make it derivative. Many original things can be said in the same language.

  8. Wow, talk about a new wall on the waterfront @ 400ft so close to the waterfront..this is going to cause a huge uproar with the voters who voted yes on prop B.

      1. Right – that was my thought – revenge of the Planning Department! “OK, you get your 85′ max along the waterfront… and 400′ a block inland!”

        Frankly I personally wish this were a couple blocks more inland, to improve the overall “stepped back” effect… but after the goons passed Prop B, I’ll keep my mouth shut and hope this gets approved!

        1. It is very close to the waterfront though. But yes it’s not directly on the waterfront like 75 Howard would be.

          1. No closer than 338 Spear / Tower II at The Infinty, which is 450 ft high, FTR. As far as any notion of a ‘wall,’ blocking anyone’s views, there isn’t much behind this (western soma) who could claim a grievance (hence, Prob B is N/A at this location).

    1. Not under the jurisdiction of prop B. And the more they chop it, the more affordable housing units they take away.

      1. Still, the will of the voters is no wall on the waterfront as evidenced by Prop B passing by a large margin. This looks like a modern day Fontana Towers. I would not be surprised if the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors gets backlash from voters if they pass the height increase.

        1. that was the “will” of a majority of 20% of the voters, something like 13% of total voters. this doesnt represent the city.

          1. Prop B received 71,421 votes. Only 11% of registered voters had the ‘will’ to vote against it.

            As a reminder of how more than 70k votes can represent SF, the official vote count from the November 2011 election for the top office holders:
            59,663 ED LEE, Mayor
            76,043 GEORGE GASCÓN, District Attorney
            70,204 ROSS MIRKARIMI, Sheriff

      2. NIMBYs have already passed two ballot measures shutting down taller buildings on the waterfront. What makes you think they won’t pass a third? It only takes about 10,000 signatures to qualify a ballot measure and then you can pass it with 50K to 60K votes. Losing affordable housing doesn’t seem to have much sway, since voters rejected the $11 million that 8 Washington would have provided.

        Continuously provoking the NIMBYs just results in more and more onerous ballot measures being proposed. Maybe the next ballot measure will expand Prop B’s definition to include all parcels within 10 blocks of the waterfront.

  9. Great! Love it. Twisting, spiraling towers are in style, so there are several similar examples, such as the “Marilyn Monroe” towers in Ontario. But for San Francisco, the city that gave us the Marriott and Intercontinental Hotel buildings, this is a Great Leap Forward.

  10. this is in MBY and i like it! also like the fact that i have the power to affect your emotions….but don’t be scared most of us a nice folks.

  11. I love it. For those immersed in the world of architecture, I am sure you can find similar buildings in the world, but there is nothing in SF that looks anything like this, including none of the new proposals, and I think it’s a very attractive building. Hope the 400 feet gets approved.

  12. I like the look but this firm has proven they have no idea what they’re doing with respect to the actual structural and systemic performance of their buildings. That Aqua thing in Chicago is a total disaster, scorching hot in the summer and frozen in the winter, because it’s built like a radiator and without thermal breaks. Unlike above commentators, I would not give the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve carefully thought through SF’s geotechnical and climate issues.

    1. the geotechnical study and structural design is usually performed by separate respective consultants, though.

    1. I’m not so trusting of these things they call “motor coaches.” Is there a little magic horse running around inside the front lid?

  13. Nice. But SFers really love their bay windows. Nice compromise. Certainly a nice change from what’s out there right now.

  14. The comments about the Aqua Tower being a disaster are correct. The unit owners are having terrible problems with temperatures because of the balconies. Also, on the Aqua tower the balconies were originally going to have a beautiful looking glass and stainless steel railing system , but after freeze-thaw problems, they switched to ordinary aluminum pencil railings.

    She was the keynote speaker this year at the AIA convention in Chicago, but I remain censorious of her designs and this project. The balconies shown would be very expensive to build and I would not be surprised to see the builder omit them as a cost cutting measure. If this gets realized as shown in the images it would be rather nice however.

  15. I think this deisgn goes beyond a mere gimmick to some real elegance. A close-up shows how inspired the theme of undulating windows that line up and shift — horizontally and vertically. I’d expect that its entitlement process will be fraught with civic dissent, but NIMBY opposition is toothless as long as the majority of members on our Planning Commission, Board of Permit Appeal and Board of Supervisors have enough spinal fortitude.

    The case for this quality of architecture needs to be made early and indelibly to offset the seemingly-inexorable drive to the ballot. Ballots are no place for complex planning issues that have already been subject to extraordinary community input and process….yet we’ve gone there twice in three years, a soul-deadening precedent for all of San Francisco

  16. Interesting. I like it. Nice twist. Seems sort of an abrupt finish at the top (vs. some sort of tapered spire or…?). Can you architects weigh in on that?

    1. I stayed in a hotel in Akron which was a converted silo (Hilton? Holiday Inn?) so every room was shaped like a slice of pizza. Somehow the furnishings worked, and it was very cool to be in.

  17. That’s a lot of affordable housing units. From experience, it’s a nightmare sharing an HOA with that many “affordable” units.

    1. Why do they have to share an HOA? The Millennium Tower has 3 completely separate HOAs, including two which are in the same building.

  18. This is the most awesome piece of Stunt Architecture proposed in a long time. It even includes an allusion to bay windows. I hope Q’s worry is unfounded about value engineering untwisting the facade.

    Also please have operable windows.

  19. This may be like 8 Spruce St. in architecture, but that project incorporates a very successful public school within it. When will San Francisco get that inventive?

  20. A very nicely designed building – unlike 8 spruce street, it nods to local vernacular (Section 102 of the Zoning Code which allows overhangs of public property) and articulates urban history in a thoughtful, architecturally interesting way. Everyone gets an interesting balcony/terrace hybrid – more than one can say about the Arquitectonica and SCB copy paste jobs across the street.

  21. It’s a striking buiding but it meets the street level inelegantly and needs to be reconsidered; the 10 lowest floors should gradually transition to glass and the street level form should swirl. Love concept; our time is coming for good design.

  22. I really hope this gorgeous building is approved! I love the discreet little balconies (as opposed to Millennium Tower and upcoming 181 Fremont which don’t offer any) and I like how the building looks so different from a pure glass facade, and yet the units will still have giant windows, tons of light, and spectacular views. Lots of new housing for the city, too.

  23. I agree with PHGoat:…although the undulating facade is interesting and dynamic…in the end it is a 400′ rectangle…setbacks or tapering at the top would make the building more elegant

  24. Having looked at the location on google maps I feel that it would be most appropriate to raise the tower even more since there is a building in front of it that will block half of the tower if you look at it from the bay.

  25. stinks about the height limit. this one has some actual thought put into it. building it even taller would obscure some truly horrible and cheap architecture, starting with the likes of One Market Plaza.
    there seems to be something seriously wrong with a planning dept that recently approved equivalent or taller architecturally void projects like 45 lansing, 340 frement and 299 fremont.

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