San Francisco Federal Building: Rendering (Image Source: natural-works.com)
“If they’d had a choice, city planners wouldn’t have allowed either the slab or the imposing design, because the complex sits across Seventh Street from the U.S. Court of Appeals building, a Beaux-Arts landmark from 1905. But city zoning doesn’t apply to federal projects.” (TOWERING EXPECTATIONS)
TOWERING EXPECTATIONS: S.F.’s new federal building [SFGate]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by amused

    It’s a remarkable building. I love the juxtaposition with the Beaux Arts Court of Appeals building. With this and the De Young, there’s emerging hope for San Francisco embracing an expanded architectural palette.

  2. Posted by Dude

    Totally agreed with amused. I was down here over the weekend and was amazed at how quickly this building has come together (not to overlook the SOMA Grand next door, which is also taking shape). Both great additions to the area. Love it or hate it, the fact is that this building will command attention.

  3. Posted by anonymous

    “If they’d had a choice, city planners wouldn’t have allowed either the slab or the imposing design, because the complex sits across Seventh Street from the U.S. Court of Appeals building, a Beaux-Arts landmark from 1905. But city zoning doesn’t apply to federal projects.”
    This is a bunch of BS and a cop out. The Marriott looks like a jukebox that E.T. couldn’t unload on eBay, so he dropped it in downtown SF. Somehow that eyesore got blessed by the city planners. Is Marriott a “federal project”???? The city planners in this city are a bunch of waiting-to-be-bought-suck-ups like everyone else at city hall.

  4. Posted by Can't think of cool name

    I have to agree with the two previous posts. Regardless if you like it or hate it or fall some where in between, it at least shows promise of variety in building design for the city. All is not lost if something like this design can be built in a city that seems to have the perception of going for a “safe” design…

  5. Posted by Morgan

    Just curious, what context is this building addressing? Where has the architect shown any indication of taking into account the other buildings of the civic center. Just because it is new, “different” , and fashionable does not make it good. There ARE good modern architects working in San Francisco, and we don’t need another L.A. architect plopping down another “Venice Studio” project in a city with a more established fabric of architecture like San Francisco. (The Venice group of architects, Gehry and the rest, were designing projects reflecting that part of L.A., which at the time was very creative and individualistic) But, what do I know, some people here like press-on bricks. Mayne is so SCI-ARC 1994.

  6. Posted by curmudgeon

    In defense of the planners (anonymous 8:31), Jukebox Marriott was a redevelopment project, which allowed it to circumvent alot of direct planning control. Redevelopment has more than a few buildings to answer for in this city….
    I’m all for interesting, but the thing I really hate about the federal building is the long slab that completely blocks out views from the north or south. It is such an aggressive, f#$% you statement that is going to be with us forever. I think it is the height of hubris. Mayne may have won the Pritzger, but he is far from my favorite architect based on what I’ve seen.

  7. Posted by Anonymous

    I doubt they are trying to say “f” you – such a cynic. Views schmiews, any tall building is going to block some views. I love it. Can’t wait to see the interior.

  8. Posted by etslee

    Love it! It’s bold and doesn’t just recede into the background (like everything good about SF). Can’t wait to check out the skygarden.

  9. Posted by Anonymous

    Try to stop and imagine this building in 50 years. Do you REALLY think it will shine and be all bright and trendy then? Do you really think this building will be maintained so that the top will always look the way it does now? Lately, everyone is so afraid to be a critic of an architect of fashion which Mayne is, but I would ask that you take a trip to Los Angeles and see his towers which were built in the middle 90′s on 3rd and Beverly. They are very similar in design and they do not look so hot after 10 years of smog and weather.

  10. Posted by Joe

    Love it. It is really unfortunate that there arent more properties which can be developed without the POV of Joe Average San Franciscan – who tends to be terrified of anything new.
    Hopefully this building, along with the deYoung can change some opinions. San Francisco doesnt need to forever reference the past.

  11. Posted by Henry

    When the Federal Government looks more progressive than a local government, you know something’s wrong in City Hall.
    (especially one that self-proclaims its progressiveness)
    San Francisco = Most Conservative City in the US. And not just in architecture.

  12. Posted by stefan

    I cannot stand it now, but maybe that changes with time. We have so much beautiful natural features in SF, why cannot the architecture reflect that?

  13. Posted by Anonymous

    Try to remember that critics may not be anti modern, anti change, or closed minded, as I loved 2606 Jackson. The point has been missed that this design is not as “current” as San Francisco may think. A little knowledge of Mayne’s work will allow you to see that this is the same thing he was doing in L.A. in the late 80′s and 90′s. There are Bay Area designers doing more original and imaginative work, but most of it gets built outside of our city. I think the building is already dated. Why must all of our new buildings be from old men who are no longer cutting-edge, are not from San Francisco, and are just repeating what they were doing 20 years ago in other cities?

  14. Posted by Kathleen

    The federal building is exciting. I wish we had one residential building that come close to its wow factor.

  15. Posted by Delancey St Resident

    What’s it like inside the building looking out through that metal mesh? Seems like a recipe for year-round seasonal affective disorder. Can’t see the mesh cladding ever happening for a residential, medical, or hotel building.

  16. Posted by Fed

    Federal agencies start moving in next week. I myself will be relocating there from our offices in the financial district in a few weeks. I don’t know about the tower because I haven’t been inside since it was finished, but the annex is dreadful- it feels like a prison inside (the architect says he doesn’t know what happened in there). Most people are wondering whether the environmental engineering is really going to work. I hope this building does not turn out to be a nightmare to work in because there is already a lot of dread/anxiety about relocating to 7th & Mission- at least for those of us not already in that area.

  17. Posted by Dave

    This building is just so… big. It commands your view from every direction. Coming into SF on the freeway from the south, you can see it from a long way away (I want to say miles, but I can’t remember if you can actually see it that far or not.) It’s going to indefinitely dominate and define the weatern part of the downtown skyline. It’s just so big that it grabs your attention from everywhere.
    I haven’t decided if I like it or not yet, but I share the concerns of previous posters. I’m afraid it won’t age well and will become a dingy and dated high-rise (like so many other federal buildings in other cities.)

  18. Posted by Joe

    I agree 100% with the poster who said that SF is the most conservative city in the US. Re: the person who lamented that the architect couldnt have been a local – have you seen some of the crap heller manus puts out? San Francisco hasn’t produced a memorable architect since willis polk – nor will it until it stops legislating mediocrity.

  19. Posted by Anonymous

    Whether it is new or old, shiny or dull, beautiful or ugly, good location, bad location, the people of SF will never be happy. Just like the career protestors.

  20. Posted by Anonymous

    What is this slab you speak of? Is this referring to the whole building, or a portion of the building? Looking at the picture, I’m not sure what part the “slab” is. I don’t see any big pieces of granite or anything like that…

  21. Posted by Anonymous

    Ask your architect friends if they think this design is already dated. Buildings are not meant to be driven by, they are places where people live and work. This is not like a billboard that we can change when the style becomes dated. I don’t think many of you have been inside some of the office space, but it is “Sub-optimal”. As for the comment about no good architects in the Bay Area, that is not worth a response.

  22. Posted by curmudgeon

    Re: the “slab”. That refers to the whole main building… The building is (I believe) longer than it is tall, and it is also very narrow (see the rendering above). So, rather than a “tower” it is a “slab”.
    To me, that’s the main problem from an urban design context. South of Market blocks are already very long..and this project essentially builds a very big wall for almost the entire length of the block. If it were a shorter “background” building you wouldn’t even notice that, but it is tall enough that the project feels oppressive when I view it from the freeway, or from Mission or Market.
    Don’t quote me, but I can’t think of a building in San Francisco that is this LONG, while also being relatively tall. Most tall buildings are relatively narrow, punctuating the sky. The proportions of this project just feel deliberately awkward to me.
    I know that the building is supposed to have all these wonderful green attributes, and the slabbiness of the building is meant to allow for solar gain and air circulation. However, I find the approach more than a bit fascistic when it does not not recognize that the building also needs to interact with its neighbors (both animate and inanimate). I have hopes for the plaza, but otherwise I find this a singularly UNfriendly building.
    I also second the above comment
    “Try to remember that critics may not be anti modern, anti change, or closed minded”.

  23. Posted by Anonymous

    After laughing my ass off at the comment that SF is the Most Conservative City in the US (my fingers are howling from simply typing it)…I’m looking for some examples of “Progressive” architecture. Someone, please, provide some URLs that I can feast my eyes on?
    Perhaps I’ll learn that Salt Lake City or Nashville are the contenders for the Most Progressive City in the US.

  24. Posted by curmudgeon

    Chicago Chicago Chicago (anonymous at 6:47).

  25. Posted by jwb

    There is another slab-like structure that blights the cityscape. The Rosa Parks senior apartments, between Webster and Buchanan and Golden Gate and Turk, is a slender building with a block-long north face. This is a SFHA property, and the very bright lights are on in the building at all times, making it particularly blightful at night.

  26. Posted by Anonymous

    If you owned a condominium across the street, would you want to look at this building? Really!?

  27. Posted by Henry

    Yes. Feast your eyes on Chicago and cry Anon 6:47. San Francisco can’t hold a candle to a so-called flyover city.
    San Francisco is full of poseur progressives. Just calling yourself a progressive doesn’t make you one.
    Right, Herr Peskin?

  28. Posted by joe

    Pick a city.. I was just in minneapolis – the new Guthrie theatre and the walker art museum put progressive san francisco architecture to shame. Is someone really referring to Chicago – which virtually gave birth to the highrise – as flyover country? That is ridiculous.
    I dont understand how anyone can look around in this pinched little town and think that there is ANY worthwhile amount of good modern architecture. Look at the DeYoung; people fought it tooth and nail. Why bother as an architect proposing something provocative in SF when it is just going to languish in endless hearings for years while every urban hillbilly gets their say?

  29. Posted by Anonymous

    Too bad this building wasn’t twice as tall. It’s on 7th St and Mission – not the most prominent location in SF. If the Ferry Building or Grace Cathedral (for example) were torn down and replaced with this “slab”, I might have a problem. But for the neighborhood of 7th and Mission, this is one of the best things that can happen.

  30. Posted by Brandy

    Hey Anonymous 6:47,
    Here’s the URL’s that you requested from (taken from Joe 10:37). Forgive the folks in this “pinched little town”. Sometimes they prefer to overlook what folks ask for.
    Guthrie Theatre
    Walker Art Center
    Being just north of high tech mecca, one would think the folks here would know more HTML than they do. One may have to go to fly-over-country for that as well.

  31. Posted by Dan

    Brandy, your links are reversed.

  32. Posted by Anonymous

    Please don’t hate on my neighborhood 12:16. Why don’t you want the best for all parts of SF? Not just the so-called prominent locations. Pretty snobbish. Good thing I like the building though.

  33. Posted by Anonymous

    I wasn’t “hating” on your neighborhood, I simply said that it wasn’t the most prominent location in SF. It isn’t. And for that matter, neither is my neighborhood, the Sunset. Let’s not kid ourselves. My point was that these sub-prominent areas in SF could use something bold, unique, and distinct like the new federal building.

  34. Posted by Rossi

    I love it – affectionately referred to by my friends as “The Bat Cave.” I am worried that it may be dated, but in amazement I’ve watched it rise from my view in Potrero. It completely dominates the western third of the skyline.

  35. Posted by Davey

    Has all the charm of the Federal Building on Golden Gate Ave – why didn’t they just save a ton of money and build an exact replica of it on 7th Street?

  36. Posted by Anonymous

    It looks better than the proposal for the Fox Plaza addition. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig…
    http://www.grubb-ellis.com/services/iig/PDF/ArchstoneFoxPlazaFlyer.pdf

  37. Posted by John LAX

    Thom Mayne, the man that brought L.A. its own death star. In 50 years it might fit in well with a Blade Runner scenario.

  38. Posted by jon

    “rossi” must live on a different Potrero Hill than I do. From my vantage point the building is one dark, dirty-looking gray rectangle with four square holes punched through in a vertical line (reminds me of a window screen that hasn’t been washed for a while). The final product looks very different than the idealized rendering above. I can also see the old federal building — the new building makes the old one look interesting.

  39. Posted by Anon

    The building is a “slab” so that most interior spaces are close to the exterior and can use natual ventilation and light. The aesthetics are derived from innovative systems that are intended to reduce the energy use of the building, but it goes much furhter than just expressing the systems, which is why it’s a great building.
    Will it look dated? Of course it will! Every building looks dated after about 20-30 years. We forget that in the 40s and 50s the buildings we now lovingly preserve, including the old classical courts building across the street, the Ferry Building, and Victorians, were deemed too hard to maintain, tired, oppresive, unhealthy and yes “dated”, and considered for demolition. I predict that in the next couple of years the jukebox Marriott and all of the silly post- modern buildings of the 80′s will suddenly become fashionable, just like mid-century modern buildings are now.

  40. Posted by Janet

    The funny thing is it’s terribly dark in the Annex, but there’s a terrible glare problem in the Tower. The mesh only screens a small percentage of the glare. They’re having to install some kind of reflective screen on the windows. Employees in the Tower are wearing sunglasses. Employees in the Annex will be bringing floodlights from home. Being a Federal employee is an adventure in craziness, but this building really takes the cake.

  41. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    And which city agency allowed the neighbor to the west to build that ugly building to the west of the federal building? man is this city incapable of “design” at a large scale……

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