March 12, 2012

Yes, The Proposed Transbay Transit Tower Shrank A Hundred Feet

Transbay Tower Rendering 2012

As plugged-in people have known for five months, the height for the proposed Pelli Clarke Pelli designed Tansbay Transit Center Tower to rise at the corner of Mission and First was shortened from 1,200 to 1,070 feet.

From the Chronicle today with respect to the revised design:

The revised tower keeps the obelisk form of the original design with office floors giving way to a see-through crown. The changes are subtle ones: The skin's lattice-like metal-work would taper in toward the glass at the curved corners, creating what the architects say will be a smooth vase-like effect.
The glass would be a neutral color, behind aluminum mullions and spandrels painted pearlescent white. The outer grids would double as sunshades to reduce the tower's energy use.

The shorter Transbay Tower will yield 1.3 million square feet of office space versus the 1.6 million square feet as originally proposed, pitched, and rendered:

Transbay Tower 2007

The Plan For San Francisco's Tallest Tower And Transit Center District [SocketSite]
Hines And Pelli Clarke Pelli Bid The Most (And Get The Transbay Nod) [SocketSite]
Plans revamped for SF's tallest skyscraper [SFGate]
The SocketSite Scoop: San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal Designs [SocketSite]

First Published: March 12, 2012 4:30 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Ribbed. For her pleasure.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 12, 2012 5:35 PM

From John King's column (link above)

The proposed height would extend 220 feet above the Transamerica Pyramid, which was completed in 1972 and is the city's tallest tower.
…The revised design treats the top 150 feet of the building as a sculptural finale, with the metalwork encasing only air and a lean structural frame.…

So, of the amount that rises above the current tallest building in The City, at least 68% of it is pure design flourish and serves no functional purpose.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 12, 2012 5:52 PM

I would like to formally nominate the above post for consideration in the 2012 best socketsite comment category.

Posted by: BillyBalls at March 12, 2012 5:52 PM

So, of the amount that rises above the current tallest building in The City, at least 68% of it is pure design flourish and serves no functional purpose.

As originally proposed, the metalwork encasing atop the tower was to wrap four harmonic turbines which would variably light the top of the tower based on prevailing wind speeds.

Posted by: SocketSite at March 12, 2012 6:02 PM

Well, this thing just gets worse and worse. I know there's no guarantee that Rockefeller wouldn't have done the same thing (ie: chopped down a once graceful tower to a stubby thing with a top hat), but it's just another reason to be disappointed the TJPA didn't select them and their SOM-designed beauty instead of Hines and this. I can't believe the city's new tallest building is going to be such a disappointment. I'm not even excited that they are talking about moving forward sooner than later. I'd just as soon wait.

Posted by: Turin at March 12, 2012 6:28 PM

UPDATE: While some are convinced we dropped the ball with respect to today's Chronicle story on the Transbay Transit Center Tower shrinking from 1,200 to 1,070 feet, as we actually first reported five months ago:

At the center of the 145 acre Transit Center District, the proposed Transit Tower to be on Mission between First and Freemont will rise 920 feet to its roof and 1,070 feet including its sculptural element, becoming the City’s tallest structure (1,000 feet to the highest enclosed space) and yielding 1.3 million square feet of office and 16,500 square feet of retail.

Posted by: SocketSite at March 12, 2012 6:43 PM

So, of the amount that rises above the current tallest building in The City, at least 68% of it is pure design flourish and serves no functional purpose.

You could say something similar of Transamerica itself, so.

Posted by: Alai at March 12, 2012 6:55 PM

Refined and adjusted further. Normal process in the design profession.

This will still be a great building and great addition to San Francisco.

Posted by: futurist at March 12, 2012 7:06 PM

20% less office space is quite a reduction of the productive space, given the cost of the land is fixed.

It seems shortsighted to reduce the space by that much, because once you do, you're stuck with it forever, but I assume they won't get financing without showing X% of the building is pre-leased and they don't think there will be enough of a demand for space given the current economy.

Posted by: tipster at March 12, 2012 7:31 PM

Oh stop crying. It's fine.

Posted by: Old Mission Neighbor at March 12, 2012 7:33 PM

With the proposed SOM towers across the street rising over 900', the skyline is going to look fantastic!

Posted by: sf at March 12, 2012 8:02 PM

I still hate the terminal itself.

Posted by: badlydrawnbear at March 12, 2012 8:57 PM

As Milkshake of Despair points out, it does indeed look like a giant white dildo.

Posted by: schlub at March 12, 2012 9:02 PM

there's something in my gut that says that this will never be built.

Posted by: david m at March 12, 2012 10:30 PM

Looking forward to seeing it built. From my offices' windows that will be quite a sight.

Posted by: lol at March 13, 2012 8:06 AM

10+ years ago, I worked on one of the upper floors of 50 Fremont and that always seemed to be a tall building. It looks like an after thought next to T3 (Transbay Transit Tower).

Posted by: JustLooking at March 13, 2012 8:49 AM

Yeah but...will this still be the tallest bldg. on the west coast? And are there any other WC city with plans to top that? (SF must maintain the biggest dick on the WC, and the dildo bldg. is the perfect instrument for that.)

Posted by: 48yo hipster at March 13, 2012 9:02 AM

Well if they aren't going to have wind turbines up there, how about a giant water cannon that fires off several bursts into the sky every couple of hours?

As for the tower shrinking 100 feet, its just the cold weather, I'm sure once it warms up it will be to its full glory.

Posted by: Rillion at March 13, 2012 9:16 AM

Shame that the building is shrinking in height. We really need something to puncuate the flat skyline that has developed in the past 20-30 years.

Posted by: Mike at March 13, 2012 10:19 AM

wow, skyscrapers as phallic metaphors. such a groundbreaking insight.

Posted by: EH at March 13, 2012 11:09 AM

@tipster wrote: "20% less office space is quite a reduction of the productive space, given the cost of the land is fixed."

Not true. The cost of land is not fixed -- to the developer, who does not own the land. The sale price of the land from TJPA is based on the developer's program (ie how much square footage). So there's a directly scaled correlation actually.

Posted by: intheknow at March 13, 2012 11:24 AM

"wow, skyscrapers as phallic metaphors. such a groundbreaking insight."

Not all skyscrappers are created equal as far as being phallic metaphors. Going back to the three finalist for this building, this design was way more phallic then the other two.

People are not making phallic jokes about this building just because it is a skyscrapper. Look at the Rincon Tower building, no one makes phallic jokes about it because it looks like an old Shaper Image Ionic Breeze.

Posted by: Rillion at March 13, 2012 12:13 PM

Yea, it's so INTELLIGENT how some comments now refer to tall buildings as phallic metaphors and dildos.

There is that group of San Franciscans, actually quite a lot of them, who disdain any architecture as new, different, tall or "not what they're used to", as a joke.

It's either that, or a bunch of 12 year old boys joking about sex behind the garage.

Newsflash: this is a piece of significant architecture, as part of a much larger complex and urban plan designed by an extremely talented and world class architectural firm.

Posted by: futurist at March 13, 2012 12:31 PM

For what its worth I was referencing the slogan of condom maker and their ribbed feature. Not that it makes the reference any less phallic. But yeah now that I look at it again it kind of looks like a vibrator now. They should have left the turbine feature on the reservoir tip crown to produce a natural humming.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 13, 2012 1:10 PM

Wow - SF is actually planning something that will be big enough to trump a skyscraper in LA, and *this* is the winning design? *YAWN*

If you're going to go for a record, such as tallest skyscraper on the West Coast, then make it look worthy of such a distinction.

Posted by: Sean L at March 13, 2012 1:42 PM

This skyscraper looks much more graceful than the West Coast's tallest tower- library tower.

Posted by: @ Sean L at March 13, 2012 3:28 PM

Futurist - Its not all tall buildings, it's THIS building. Do a search on phallic on socketsite and its all about THIS building, not tall buildings in general. Except of course for the thread with quotes from Renzo Piano: "When you make tall buildings you have be careful not to fall in the trap of making aggressive, powerful, arrogant buildings," he said. "(Tall buildings) can be obsessive symbols of power. Somebody talks about phallic symbols and it is true. Sometimes tall buildings don't tell very interesting stories."

This building could be the same shape and 100 feet tall and it would be phallic. Its not phallic because it is tall.

Posted by: Rillion at March 13, 2012 4:00 PM

Ok, Rillion and MOD, then see it the way you want. I guess your description could be funny. Or it could not. Or it simply could be because you're bored and need to be funny today.

It's always been fairly difficult, anyway, to have any sort of intelligent conversation here about architecture, tall or not.

Lots of San Franciscans love to complain about change.

Posted by: futurist at March 13, 2012 5:01 PM

I still miss the SOM design. Sigh

Posted by: Morgan at March 13, 2012 5:30 PM

I'm not dissing this design futurist, just being honest about what it resembles. Actually why don't the architects go all the way and expand that decorative crown so it overhangs ten feet or so over the rest of the structure?

... but for gender equality the city needs to redesign the Transbay Terminal's rooftop park so it looks more like a yoni.

(embarrassed that I just now got Rillion's water cannon concept)

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 13, 2012 9:35 PM

Exactly, not against change, nor against tall buildings. Just preferred the other designs. And if someone is going to design a building this phallic, I'm going to make phallic jokes about it. Just like if someone designed a power plant up here that looked like the one in San Onofre, I'd make breast jokes.

Posted by: Rillion at March 14, 2012 9:53 AM

Sure, 12 year old boys make sex jokes and engage in sexual innuendo all the time. That's what they do, I guess. I know I did.

But, I assumed, maybe wrongly so, that we were all of adult age and intelligence here.

Maybe I was wrong.

Jokes aside, this promises to be perhaps the most elegant and beautiful piece of architecture that San Francisco will have on the skyline.

Posted by: futurist at March 14, 2012 3:04 PM

When a skyline already has a jukebox, a gigantic ionic breeze air purifier, and a pyramid, trying to not joke about a phallic shaped tower is almost impossible. San Francisco has never been celebrated for having any "elegant" or "beautiful" piece of skyline architecture.

Posted by: anonarch at March 14, 2012 4:58 PM

"But, I assumed, maybe wrongly so, that we were all of adult age and intelligence here."

Yes only stupid people or kids find phallic jokes funny. What complete and utter elitist garbage.

Posted by: Rillion at March 15, 2012 9:13 AM

I suppose Futurist also thinks that farts aren't funny. What a depressing world to live in.

Posted by: R at March 15, 2012 9:37 AM

The truly bad thing about Pelli is that he's the ultimate go-to mall architect - it's just blase 'meh' stuff. Oh, and endlessly recycled. Hey, SF Planning: how about Googling Pelli's recent work before approving anything that will be built in 2-3 other cities at the same time and just end up embarrassing us all:

look a little familiar?

Posted by: Sharp at March 15, 2012 2:01 PM

Well, I get that you don't like or appreciate or perhaps understand the true value and quality of architecture by Pelli Clark Pelli. That's your prerogative.

But they are hardly "go-to-mall" architects. Their work is internationally recognized as some of the best, sustainable, environmentally sensitive and urban solutions among the top ten firms in the world. The firm has won the AIA firm of the year; Pelli himself won the AIA gold medal and the Aga Khan award for outstanding architecture.

And no, they don't "endlessly recycle" their architecture and their work is hardly "blase" by even the simplest definition of the word. Believe me, no city is embarrassed by having a Pelli building. And because other buildings by Pelli may have similar components or expressions of another building does not diminish that building. Often architects continue to develop and explore a particular design idiom on multiple projects. Witness the continual warped planes that Frank Gehry continues to develop on many buildings and museums thru out the world. He allows his ideology to continually evolve and change with the site, the client and the program while his signature thought process remains.

The work by Pelli Clark Pelli uses a similar process, producing great work.

This building as well as the entire TransBay Terminal promises to be a successful project by a great firm.

Posted by: futurist at March 15, 2012 2:34 PM

Sharp: I don't know much at all about Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects other than I'd heard of them before this project. Thanks for that link.

But it isn't at all uncommon for architects to repurpose design elements over and over again for disparate projects and even engage in wholesale self-plagiarism. Not that I'm defending it, but it's not at all unique to Pelli.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at March 15, 2012 2:35 PM

Happy to have an opinion. Look; the bar in San Francisco architecture is set so low it's buried in the ground, and it's only over the past ten years or so that this is finally beginning to change. Pelli isn't bad - he's just 'meh.' If you want to walk the walk when you talk about the SF bay area being a leader, you have to bring in really good people, not just the best of the corporate go-to guys. Compare what we're doing not to Pelli's stuff in Charlotte or Cleveland or LA; we don't WANT to compete for their architecture or architects! AIA gold medal; winner? ahahahahaa! oh man, my side hurts; stop, please. Is that where our standards are? Still; it's good to have this project, and the Terminal building; the Financial District and Rincon Hill are in desperate need of a transformative park, and PClarkePelle will deliver on that front, at least.

Posted by: Sharp at March 15, 2012 2:49 PM

Well, I'm glad at least that Sharp is coming around (somewhat) to the fact the PCP will at least "deliver". They will do more than just deliver, I feel. They will, once again, raise the bar another few notches. BTW, they also were the architects for that stunning, in not the BEST new building in decades, on Mission St. near 2nd: the all black curtain wall high rise, north side of street, with the peaceful, zenlike park with bamboo and shallow pools. An outstanding example of their urban work.

And yes, despite your bias, an AIA firm of the year and the Gold medal do define a level of quality and achievement in the architectural profession.

Posted by: futurist at March 15, 2012 3:45 PM

As I mentioned, the bar is pretty low. 'Zen-like.' Heh. Rather in the same way that Hillsborough is 'Mediterranean', I take it? But yes, that's not a bad building at all, despite the faux columns at the ground and the glue-in public art piece*, oh yes, and the astro-turff: klassy. Great corners in the offices; lots of floor to ceiling glass, and a lot of texture on the wall without being covered in spinach or being too busy. Two lessons can be pulled from that building, one good, the other less so. Less so first: please: no more wood-paneled office lobbies. Please. Now the good: golly! look! a building with color! what a concept! In San Francisco! the Holy Land of beige and white!

And I reserve judgement on the delivery of the park. The potential is there for it to be a genuinely great place that will actually make the FDistrict a decent place to be after hours. The potential exists for it to be a concrete plane covered in potted plants and bad concrete fountains. I'll say this for Pelli that I will not say for most of his company's competitors: he's not afraid of color, and that's a great quality to have. But don't expect me to praise mediocrity. When the best you can say is 'it could have been worse,' well, that's just sad.

Still, Hines is a good player and a powerful one, historically proven to drop the cash to make their projects significantly better than anything around them, consistently. Kudos: been a fan for a long time. Plus, it's just good business sense.

*Let's talk about the McArt glued into every office plaza/condo tower in town for a second. 1% for Art is a fantastic concept: good job, City. How about creating an allowance (ie, an option) that would allow the builder to pool that money into a central City fund rather than have it dedicated to on-site one-liners (at the City's discretion)? It's nice to have art, but it'd be nicer to have a massive pool quickly build up that could be used to do something truly spectacular every few years or so: maybe build a museum or park or a new theater with a funding base. Whatever. But the lick 'em and stick 'em type art pieces are getting pretty boring, in part because the money from these projects just doesn't go far enough. I'm sure we could do both successfully.

Posted by: Sharp at March 15, 2012 4:26 PM

I like your proposal for how to handle the 1% for art funds Sharp. Though some are inspiring, so many of the site-located pieces are mediocre. It is as if the developer found an art vendor with the finest kickbacks, installed a sculpture, and said "art installed, done!".

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 15, 2012 5:12 PM

Sorry, sharp: but my impression is that you just choose to see things negatively. I don't. You seem to be full of cynicism for past work, and for any future work.

The Mission St. building I referred to is certainly one of the BEST in San Francisco, and by Pelli. The bamboo forested park is, in fact, zen-like, peaceful and minimal.

As for art in public places, again you seem to denigrate it all by using the crude term "McArt". What really does "lickem and stickem" mean to you? I support the 1% for art program that is currently working very well, allowing for new public art in all plazas. The quality of the art is highly subjective to the public and professional critics. Creating a "pool" for art will not necessarily guarantee something that is spectacular,

or that you like.

Seriously? And, btw, we have a great new SFMOMA addition in the works that will be spectacular and exciting.

Posted by: futurist at March 15, 2012 11:00 PM

A good building is art.

Only mediocre buildings need an art band-aid slapped on the side.

Posted by: diemos at March 16, 2012 8:00 AM

"pool that money into a central City fund rather "

You had me up 'til there.

Gotta disagree vehemently. In no way should any new bureaucracy be created in San Francisco, ever, until the end of humankind's dominion over planet earth. This city will not function the way it should until the B.O.S. system is repealed, the school lottery + teacher recruitment completely overhauled, rent control abolished, SROs banned, planning reconfigured and the board of appeals removed/ the public stripped of using obstructionist vernacular, MUNI directors empowered/better funded, and on and on. We need less bureacracy. Not more.

Posted by: [anon.ed] at March 16, 2012 8:17 AM

You know that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...

Posted by: NoeValleyJim at March 16, 2012 9:11 AM

I'm not going to turn this thread into a pissing match with you, Futurist, but you really need to improve your standards in order to live up to your handle. Very happy to report that Pelli's work doesn't blow me away. At least the JPMorgan building is better by a head and shoulders than its SOM and KPF/HellerManus and Handel neighbors.

The Pelli/Hines team won the TBTower/Terminal commission not because they had the best entry (clearly SOM, period.) but because 'design competition' is a pseudonym for 'bidding contest' in SF, literally and unashamedly. The public agencies owe Give us a true european-style competition for public or private buildings anyday, and gee - look what happens - some great stuff. And somebody makes bags of cash, too. That's all great.

And I am far from negative - fantastic stuff is being built everywhere (some of the genuinely greatest buildings mankind has ever built are underway right now, and that's no hyperbole) we just need more of it here. Chicago has the bar of public (and public agency) perception set high enough to realize that Anish Kapoor should receive a major public commission (CloudGate), and not Claes Oldenburg and his piece of out-dated forgettable fiberglass we've got on our own waterfront. We can do better than that. A LOT better.

Posted by: sharp at March 16, 2012 10:17 AM

No, it's not a match of any sort. I like (immensely) the work of Pelli. You don't. I disliked the SOM scheme very much.

No problem.

Don't be so defensive.

Posted by: futurist at March 16, 2012 10:46 AM

The SOM design was a thing of beauty. The best of all designs submitted. A design worthy of being the tallest building in SF or the west coast. The Pelli building is just plain boring, and it is ugly as well. The bulbous building housing the park 70' in the air is ungainly. The only reason the Pelli design was selected was because of the money the Hines Development team offered and the promise of yet a new park (7 stories above ground) Actually it's ironic that Sue Hestor (she still around?) want's to stop the building in the name of protecting infringement on park shadows, Hines is creating a new park (no shadows since the building is north of new park)

Posted by: e flat at June 21, 2012 8:38 AM

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