275 Valencia Lot

As proposed, the surface parking lot at 275 Valencia Street will be replaced with a 50-foot tall Annunciation Cathedral building topped by a dome rising to 68-feet and below which 58 off-street parking spaces will be provided for the church.

275 Valencia Rendering

San Francisco’s Planning Commission will review the proposal this week. Construction is expected to take roughly 18 months once ground is broken.

275 Valencia Aerial

UPDATE: With respect to a reader’s comment as to the evolution of this block, keep in mind the gray massing to the right of cathedral above represents 299 Valencia:

299 Valencia Rendering

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by DCR

    I don’t know…does anyone else think it is a little weird to recreate past architectural styles when the reason for why those styles were used (construction technology, labor costs, materials, etc) have passed on?

  2. Posted by Modernqueen

    No, it’s not a “little weird” to recreate a past architectural style. There are reasons way beyond modern changes in construction technology and materials.
    Appropriate style, symbolism and compatibility with existing architecture are among the valid reasons this client wishes to build in this particular style.
    I would suggest you be less judgmental and more open minded as to what motivates and moves a client in the first place. Not every new building needs to be cutting edge, trendy and “of the moment”.

  3. Posted by James

    For a very traditional religion, I think a traditional style is appropriate. It’s a modernist bias to assume that architecture should be driven mainly by technology and materials. Greek ecclesiastical architecture is as concerned with the symbolism of the shapes (the dome represents heaven, etc) and real continuity with the past.

  4. Posted by James

    Also worth noting, the Greek Festival is this weekend at this church; they should have some detailed displays of the plans, as they did last year.
    (NB. I’m not connected with this project at all but I live nearby)

  5. Posted by oh lordy lord

    This is wrong IMHO. To build a 2011 cathedral based on renaissance models. What is the Architecture firm? Im surprised planning is Ok with this. Architecture should NOT be driven by technology and materials, but replicating forms when there were limited construction capabilites is slightly, hm, backward?

  6. Posted by curmudgeon

    oh lordy lord….first of all planning does not get involved in dictating church designs (beyond ensuring that they are safe and meet zoning requirements). Part of our separation of church and state. And James hit the nail on the head, above…you may feel it’s backward, but it’s really up to the Church to decide what they want.
    There are several very ugly “modern”ish churches in San Francisco that could have used the heavier hand of planning. The one that springs to mind is that abortion at 24th and Valencia. But, as I said, Planning doesn’t have much role in dictating building style for churches.

  7. Posted by James

    re “slightly backward” — you could say that the traditional beliefs of the church are based on pre-renassance models, so traditional architecture is not inappropriate to the project. They still paint their icons in the style of the 1400s, after all. If you read a little bit about Orthodox theology you’ll see that they’re not concerned in keeping up with “the times”. If you’re not sympathetic to their theology that’s fine but this kind of building is quite suitable, precisely because it’s traditional.

  8. Posted by SFwatcher

    I have nothing against traditional churches. I love them. But, would like our generation to create something special which would be appreciated by future generations.

  9. Posted by BT

    I am now convinced San Francisco is full of busy-body idiots. The Planning Commission should interfere with a Greek Orthodox religious group replacing a used car lot with something that looks like what it will be: A Greek Orthodox church? In what dimension should that happen? What foolishness. This will be a lovely building in a pretty trashy part of the Mission and a 10,000% improvement over what’s there now. Anybody who wants to supplant their taste in srchitecture or in churches with what the parishioners want should just mind their own business.

  10. Posted by around1905

    Actually, I believe that the style of buildings constructed by the Greek Orthodox church dates back to late antiquity; its most representative example is the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul — dedicated in the year 360. This style of building is so old it predates even the profession of architecture by a thousand years. As James hinted, everything that we now call architecture is, for this faith, loaded with symbolism and meaning.
    In fact, we could all do with a bit more ‘meaning’ in our architecture and fewer empty forms and capricious expressions of novelty. I’m still reeling after the AIA home tours this weekend…

  11. Posted by hybrid

    I think it’s great. I think its really odd that “architecture of our time” is supposed to be more important than architecture that expresses the identity of a particular religious or ethnic community. The language you speak and the culture you grew up with are more important than the decade you were born in. Why isn’t the same true with architecture? Because some people think architecture is about what is fashionable, that is, architecture as consumer object (which it always is to a certain extent), rather than architecture that communicates something about who we are.

  12. Posted by ex SF-er

    the reason for why those styles were used (construction technology, labor costs, materials, etc) have passed on?
    I’ll express my ignorance here. what does this mean?
    Does it mean that we shouldn’t build this because a long time ago these types of structures were often built by peasants and/or indentured servants (not sure if the greeks used slaves in church building times) and now they’re not?
    Or that the invention of particle board, bamboo floors, and windows insulated with Argon gas mean that we can’t still do stucco/cement blocks (or whatever this will be made of)?
    I’m assuming that behind the scenes there will be some modern materials and construction technology used in this new building. (for instance, seismic stability technology and insulation). I somehow doubt they’ll dig a quarry down the street and have peasants roll huge stone blocks on timbers using hand-made rope made of plant fibers!
    but again, I’m not sure I really understand the the highlit quote, so I apologize if I misunderstood!

  13. Posted by sixtypercenttogether

    I don’t really care what style they choose, I just think they should build it. That site has been an eyesore for a while.
    Also it’s kinda funny that it’s across the street from the Kink.com pleasuredome.

  14. Posted by redseca2

    The early christian churches, eastern and western, borrowed the roman building type called a basilica when the finances and need for large gathering places came up. At least they didn’t use roman baths as their model.
    http://www.google.ca/search?rlz=1T4GGIE_enCA417CA418&q=roman+basilica&safe=active&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1155&bih=663

  15. Posted by EBGuy

    For those interested in the plans, you can check this out (PDF Alert). Also the merits of its southern neighbor that is rising up at 299 Valencia (on the used car lot) were, of course, debated on SS here. Love the clerestory windows; I may make a trip across the Bay just to check it out when its completed.

  16. The decision of style should really come down to the client whether religious institution individual homeowner. And religions aren’t inherently stuck in the past. Many faiths have invested in stunning modern designs. Even the stodgy old Roman Catholic Church has added very modern structures to the skyline.
    I’m all for allowing the property owner and their respective stakeholders make architectural aesthetic decisions. Even if the product ends up comically wrong at least it adds interest and variety to the streetscape. Functional issues regarding size, height, use, parking, traffic impacts, building codes, etc. however should be in the hands of the community.

  17. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    I’m with ex SF-er on this one, I also don’t know what exactly

    …it is a little weird to recreate past architectural styles when the reason for why those styles were used (construction technology, labor costs, materials, etc) have passed on

    means. I suspect that there’s a set of pernicious implicit value judgments at work in there.
    From the document linked to by the pc agenda, which EBGuy pointed to, above:

    The design for the proposed cathedral is inspired by Byzantine period church architecture in Istanbul, featuring a large dome over a central plan. The proposed two‐story cathedral building would be 50 feet tall, with the dome, containing 24 dormer windows, extending to a height of 68 feet. The new cathedral is designed to interface with the existing building on the project site…Exterior walls would be white cement stucco, to match the walls of the existing building, with steel trowel finish and capped with cast stone. All window sills, columns, bases, capitals, paving, and steps would be gray cast stone…The pitched roofs would be clay S‐tiles, a color similar to the existing building on the project site.

    (Emphasis mine) Seems reasonable to me. Why would the Cathedral throw up a post-modernistic, cast-concrete and steel, Dwell-esque addition to their building just because those materials and techniques are common today? It would clash with the existing building and detract from the overall aesthetic.

  18. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    What is “gray cast stone”? Is that just a fancy way of saying “concrete”?
    (I have another post hopefully coming, probably quarantined for excessive URLs)

  19. Posted by BobN

    but replicating forms when there were limited construction capabilites is slightly, hm, backward?
    Obviously we should no longer allow arches anywhere, as they are technologically obsolete.
    Sheeesh.
    Basilicas do not “predate” the profession of architect. Who do you think designed them?
    Some of our best public buildings in this country are modern versions — using steel and other technologies — of ancient Roman buildings. Even City Hall is essentially a basilica, though finished in the Beaux Arts style. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with applying modern techniques to a traditional style. Whether one does so to create a building whose form and massing could well have been created centuries ago or whether one applies the style to a shape which could not have been achieved in previous centuries — like some of our “Gothic” high rises downtown — it’s not sacrilege to harken back to tried and tested forms.
    Besides, it’s their building, their land, their money, and thanks to accommodations to religion which I personally think are now going overboard in the particular area of zoning, etc., we don’t get a say, period.

  20. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Milkshake wrote:

    What is “gray cast stone”? Is that just a fancy way of saying “concrete”?

    Seems like it. From The Cast Stone Institute®:

    Cast Stone is made from fine and coarse aggregates, Portland cement, mineral oxide color pigments, chemical admixtures and water. Not surprising then, Cast Stone products are available in virtually any color, and will give the appearance of a variety of natural building stones including but not limited to limestone, granite, slate, travertine or marble.

    If that last sentence seems like an advertisement designed to distract you from reading the first sentence and thinking “sounds like concrete”, keep in mind that the definition one might read in a common introductory trade-school or college text such as Construction Materials, Methods, and Techniques by William Spence, would be pretty much identical.

  21. Posted by lordy lord

    Goldman architect- brilliant website! Incredible portfolio.

  22. Posted by bvneighbor

    Not to be picky..but Hagia Sofia (Holy Wisdom) was built in the early 500’s after the previous church was destroyed in a riot. The previous church was basilican in plan but the current structure (the domed church of Hagia Sofia) was wildly innovative at the time and not a basilica.

  23. Posted by EBGuy

    Even the stodgy old Roman Catholic Church has added very modern structures to the skyline.
    Hey MoD, a little respect for the East Bay. We can be modern too (well, maybe not VERY modern).

  24. Posted by resp

    they did not have grilled octopus at last year’s greek festival, therefore i cannot support building this. bring it back this year and you can build whatever you want.
    Efxaristo

  25. Posted by around1905

    I stand corrected about the dedication date of the (present) Hagia Sofia church — a quick check in wikipedia confirms bvneighbor’s correction.
    However, professional architects in the sense we know them really did not exist back then — nobody went around making their regular livelihoods designing buildings (at least, none we have records for) until the late Renaissance. These folks all had day jobs.
    A comment though about concrete — Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, and their Friends all used concrete for decorative portions in their buildings, which were more-or-less classical (at least by today’s standards). Since they did that stuff around 1905, it had to be an Approved Material.
    This looks like a lovely building by the way and it will sit well in the Mission.

  26. Posted by curmudgeon

    Somewhat off topic, but I would be remiss not to mention how much this intersection has changed in the past dozen years. I can remember parking in the evening on Valencia/14th in front of the church many years ago, and looking nervously over my shoulder to see if I was safe to walk a block to a friend’s place on 14th street. It’s really quite amazing how completely the neighborhood has changed.

  27. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    EBGuy – I did recognize that Oakland built a modern Catholic church, check out my name link in that post (the third link included).
    ————–
    As for concrete as a building material, I have nothing against it when used properly. It is a reasonably priced, very durable, and strong. Used well it is not only a solid building material but also fits in well with the overall architecture. And without it there wouldn’t be any Brutalist structures.
    Thanks for Cast Stone Institute definition Brahma. Seems as if it is a general purpose term that includes concrete plus some manipulations of concrete to make it look like stone. I think I’ve seen some of those faux stone applications and they came off looking like colored and textured concrete anyways.
    Here’s hoping that this church doesn’t include faux “cast stone” marble.

  28. Posted by James

    The problem of modernizing Orthodox architecture is an open question, as most attempts end up looking like just another wacky protestant church, and not recognizably “Orthodox”. Of course Frank Lloyd Wright managed it at Annunciation Church in Milwaukee, but he was one of the few who could, as he wasn’t afraid of circles or domes. Can anyone think of any other precedents for forward-looking Orthodox architecture? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annunciation_Greek_Orthodox_Church

  29. Posted by formerly%whatever

    This is simply the 2nd phase of the church construction. The design has been completed for years. Let the fundraising begin!

    BTW, Goldman will be able to take credit for designing about 50% of the frontage of that block. He also designed 270 Valencia across the street (which pays homage to the former Levi’s building).

  30. Posted by rubber_chicken

    Mini-me Byzantine!

    Silly Height limits: the dome should rise above the adjacent urban fabric. Although allowing this exception would violate the 1st amendment…

  31. Posted by OP

    Why the hell are we building more churches? People still in believe in that nonsense?

  32. Posted by 47yo hipster

    I’d prefer for four barrel to expand in that space.
    Coffee god.

  33. Posted by Alai

    The city is planning to turn the parking lot at Folsom & 17th into a park– I think it’s a bit of a missed opportunity not to use the lot south of this one, which would make a much more interesting (if smaller) space. As it is, the rather nice-looking church will be walled off with apartments, so the side of the church will look out onto the blank wall of the building. Oh well, too late. I guess we can only hope that whatever replaces the warehouse next to the future park is worthy.
    Also, if you want to see a ludicrously modernized Orthodox church, check out this number: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/18/paris-skyline-remodelled-russian-church

  34. Posted by ilivehere

    The 17th and Folsom lot was already owned by the PUC, whereas the 14th and Valencia corner was a privately-owned surface parking lot that’s now being privately developed.

  35. Posted by BobN

    Also, if you want to see a ludicrously modernized Orthodox church, check out this number: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/18/paris-skyline-remodelled-russian-church

    Ah, the joys of right-wing government at work. Sell off prime public real estate at premier locations to the highest bidder and then suffer the consequences.

  36. Posted by inclinejj

    This debate has been going on since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989(?)
    The church memembership was divided. Half wanted to repair the old church, half wanted to knock it down and build new.
    This was a great location before Valencia Gardens was built up the street. Most of the church members left and went to Holy Trinity over the years.

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