King is right in many respects, but as Ali G may say, also dis-respect’ng; ultimately, what one builds is driven, unfortunately by Wall Street and the financiers….trust me, we would die to build a Gehry/Meier/Starck designed gorgeous iconic building in SF with views that still sells for about $500k – $700k. If there is another way to do it, please let us know.”
JustQuotes: From The Mouth Of Reader Morgan (And John King) [SocketSite]
Introducing “Keeping It Real… Estate” [agicapital.com]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Whatever!

    Uh, you would have to start by having a good sense of aesthetic value. That way, you would hire an Architect that has talent. It’s not at all reasonable to suggest that good design costs significantly (if at all!) more. I’m sure that with the fee you paid your Architect you could have contracted with another (better but non-STAR) firm for the same range of fee but receiving a more cleverly designed building.
    The point being is that surely the developer has bad architectural taste and that’s the fundamental problem worldwide.

  2. Posted by anonfedup

    Give me BOFFI or POLIFORM please!
    I agree that you do not have to hire a starchitect to get better results in design. I just toured some projects in Chicago that are not only affordable, but the design (including interiors) was fantastic, and to top it off, these buildings were LEED “gold” projects. Building in Chicago is just as difficult as S.F., plus they have real weather to deal with, and yet what accounts for the high end finishes their projects offer custormers?
    BOFFI fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens, as well as POLIFORM cabinetry in a loft project across the street from the Merchandise Mart with prices starting in the mid $300,000’s!. I would rather have no maid service, yoga classes or coffee in the lobby, and give me high quality interiors, as well as deeded parking, and no press-on bricks or bad stucco work please. There is NO REASON buyers in San Francisco should not be expecting more from new product being sold. Land costs are higher in San Francisco it is true, but on a per sq. ft. basis, they are no higher than the “Gold Coast” in Chicago, or the better parts of Toronto and Vancouver, and I think those areas tend to build much better new residential condominium product. Enough with the excuses, take a week off and visit some other areas and see how they get it done, and then start building the same quality here!

  3. Posted by howard rourke

    As an architect, I honestly cannot blame the developers in this town for all the awful designs. Developers don’t look at elevations-they look at microsoft excel spreadsheets. Good architecture doesn’t need to have inflated cost.
    In my opinion, the awful designs being constructed throughout this city stem from the terrible design board this city employs. I have practiced in city’s throughout the united states and around the world-and have to say this city has THE WORST design review board (where’s the bay windows)?
    Next I blame the architects and designers behind the awful projects here in the city. Architecture has become “formulatic” to them. If you need examples, just take a look at the buildings of heller mcmanus. Architects and architecture seem to have lost the passion that the profession had many years ago. Architects cave to the untrained eye of the design review boards-instead of using passion to persuade the board to change their view. Examples of this passionless architecture can be seen 65 stories atop Rincon Hill, or the Ritz Carlton addition on 3rd and Market.
    And lastly, I blame the people for two reasons. One, they buy up the crap. I have read the blogs from this site for quite some time. It appears when something different hits the scene people lash out at the design (most recent is Craig Steeley’s bernal heights design I saw reffered to as a jabba walker from star wars).
    I don’t necessarily like the design on the federal building-but I do appreciate Thom breaking the mold of the stagnate designs this city has accrued.

  4. Posted by Andy

    I agree with you totally about the negative impact of the design boards in this city. Their impact is so negative (and the entitlement process so onerous and long) that developers often don’t want to pick a fight over design. Why? Because a fight over design costs them money due to delays in obtaining entitlements and costs for redesign. So what do they often do? Take the easy way out and design something that won’t create waves in the design board. As a city gets what it asks for.

  5. Posted by blahhh

    “And lastly, I blame the people for two reasons. One, they buy up the crap. I have read the blogs from this site for quite some time. It appears when something different hits the scene people lash out at the design (most recent is Craig Steeley’s bernal heights design I saw reffered to as a jabba walker from star wars).”
    Buyers have been in fact voting with their $$. In this new wave of condo developments, we are seeing quality products selling well over $2000 psf. Then there are new “luxury” things moving very slowly around $800 psf. San Francisco is changing, and change is good. Pure assembly line practices like Heller Manus will eventually turn into a middle guy who handles nothing more than local permit process and construction documents for other brilliant offices. The Infinity was a good example. I think people have been somewhat too hard on Somagrand. It may not add much architectural merit for the city, but it’s a nice start for that particular area of the city. The developer took on a gamble more or less. And there’s much to learn from this project.

  6. Posted by HomesRus

    Howard Rourke? The legend himself. I think the Urban Land Institute should take a breather from e-blasting developers about the latest wonkish econ text on housing trends and get a reading group together for the Fountainhead. A good drubbing of some classic American literature, and maybe we will start to see some developers rise up above the city (and the naysayers), on man lifts attached to their inspired and sublime buildings, and revel in greatness while the sun sets, much like Rourke did in the closing of the Fountainhead. We can dream…

  7. Posted by jeccat

    Funny… I always thought that Ayn Rand’s character was named Howard ROARK. Howard Rourke must be some other guy.

  8. Posted by Zig

    this is a false dichotomy. Average and middling would have been fine
    SOMA Grand could have simply picked a better color and been better

  9. Posted by Kev

    Come on, it’s not really fair to rail on King for calling for more interesting architecture in the city. I would venture a guess that most of the world did not know there was a city in Spain called Bilbao until that Guggenheim was built. Great design can not be undervalued. BTW…. I don’t think the “box on Howard” is great design.

  10. Posted by Miles

    At the very least, King’s articles and these discussions are waking buyers and developers up to notice that building design plays a bigger role in value than was previously thought. It’s true, the financial aspect of developing requires a maximization of the potential building envelope and the planning process favors bland and conforming over anything unusual so that’s how we got a lot of boxy bland new buildings in the last decade. With single family houses, the design element is already playing a large part in a property’s appeal so that it dramatically affects the bottom line – let’s hope that developers, the planning board, and buyers in larger condo buildings start recognizing that the design element has significant public aesthetic and more importantly financial consequences especially as we move into softer market conditions. And lastly – agreed, SOMA bland – more so than most.

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