September 24, 2012

Transbay Tower Tweaks, Cuts And Timing


Shrunken 130 feet earlier this year, the revised design for the proposed 1,070 foot Transbay Tower has added "a deep vertical slit…up each side of the [tower’s] crown, backed by perforated metal that will be lit at night for a sculptural effect."

Having gone missing, the funicular from the street to the 5.4-acre City Park over the proposed Transit Center is also back on the boards:


Hines has until the end of this month to complete their $185 million purchase of the Transbay site, down from $350 million as originally bid. Hines' plans for the proposed Transbay Transit Tower and Terminal are up for approval by San Francisco’s Planning Commission next month.

Assuming approvals and financing materialize, and no setbacks emerge, construction could start as soon as late summer 2013, according to a senior managing director at Hines.

Yes, The Proposed Transbay Transit Tower Shrank A Hundred Feet [SocketSite]
Transbay Tower's Financial Backer Has Left The Building [SocketSite]
Transbay Land Cost Cut Another $50 Million For Shrunken Tower [SocketSite]
Tweaked S.F. tower plans up for approval [SFGate]

First Published: September 24, 2012 8:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

The vertical slit has GOT to go. I'm in pain. Shiver. I'm hoping this is a post Folsom Street fair joke. OK you got me....

Posted by: Invented at September 24, 2012 8:25 AM

Loving the vertical slit. Makes the tower look different from Pelli's ten other identical towers in other places.

Posted by: anon at September 24, 2012 8:34 AM


Only in San Francisco

Posted by: Toady at September 24, 2012 8:40 AM

Yup, now I can [tell] this one from the one in Jersey City, NJ.

Posted by: elbee at September 24, 2012 8:52 AM

That's one glorious looking erection, but it seems they're trying to ram this design down our throat. And yes, it looks like a penis.

Posted by: kg at September 24, 2012 9:03 AM

For architectural phallic metaphors may I recommend the LA city hall? It's in a class by itself.

Posted by: zzzzzzzzzz at September 24, 2012 9:34 AM

Phallus? Now it looks more like a camel toe!

Posted by: Dan at September 24, 2012 9:38 AM

I rarely comment on the aesthetics of projects in SF because I'm no designer or architect, so what do I know? BUT, seriously? That slit has got to go. We do not need a giant penis to be the tallest building in SF. That's just TOO obvious.

Posted by: nancydrew99 at September 24, 2012 9:52 AM

Now they need to add two geodesic domes on top of the transbay center.

Posted by: James at September 24, 2012 9:52 AM

I usually cringe at the juvenile comments about the phallic design of this tower or any other, but this is getting ridiculous. WTF are they thinking?

Posted by: Michael at September 24, 2012 10:09 AM

Glad to see I'm not the first to immediately think "camel toe." Which means if this thing gets built, there will be a lot of sniggering all over town. Hope the architects read this site.

Posted by: agreen at September 24, 2012 10:10 AM

Maybe if they put a huge illuminated "eye" on both sides it would look like a giant eel rather than a mutilated penis.

But the funicular? Why is that in the design? It looks like an escalator that will not turn into steps when it fails. And transports 5 people really slowly.

Does San Francisco really have to be this incompetent all the time?

Posted by: danieleran at September 24, 2012 10:15 AM

Pelli shouldn't have proposed such a generic tower in the first place. Now they have this arbitrary "signature" feature applied after the fact that was clearly not part of the initial concept. I much prefer the earlier tower, even in its blandness it has an elegant purity. This notch looks like what it is: a decorative afterthought just to counteract the tower's lack of distinction. It seems motivated by insecurity.

Posted by: James at September 24, 2012 11:14 AM

NICE!!! From a ginormous vibrator to an erection every man in the world would envy!

Posted by: Pfffft at September 24, 2012 11:24 AM

Not a big fan of the slit, but I think it'll actually look decent enough.
The funicular (whatever) thing is a terrible idea. It won't get nearly enough people up to the park fast enough. Why not use an escalator instead? I foresee an beautiful , mostly empty park frequented only by the occasional tourist.

Posted by: Old Mission Neighbor at September 24, 2012 2:00 PM

Not sure the slit is an improvement. Looks like the Dune sandworm.

Posted by: Snark17 at September 24, 2012 2:19 PM

Horrible with or without the slit.

Posted by: Oceangoer at September 24, 2012 2:57 PM

How embarrassing. I'm thinking that the entire development and architect's teams personally despise this city and this is their cruel joke upon it.

Posted by: sf at September 24, 2012 3:11 PM

Now they just need a fountain on the roof that sends a pulsating jet of water high into the air.

Posted by: patrick at September 24, 2012 3:11 PM

Is it too late to go with SOM?

Posted by: Turin at September 24, 2012 3:23 PM

SOM was better but I liked Rogers' proposal the best:,4,25,1552

[Editor's Note: All three original designs and details: The SocketSite Scoop: San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal Designs.]

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at September 24, 2012 4:08 PM

"WTF are they thinking?"

Weighing in on the side of circumcision, I assume.

Posted by: BobN at September 24, 2012 4:55 PM

I hate being late to a post.

Someone beat me to the camel toe reference. (Strong work, Dan)

Between that and the phallus references, I think the architects need a vacation.

Posted by: BillyBalls at September 24, 2012 5:55 PM

"WTF are they thinking?"

Well, since designing a building that would flip the bird at the city would be a little obvious, a penis comes damn close to saying the same thing. I'm sure it will draw a smirk or some snarky comment from visitors/tourists.

Hey, maybe the architects just have a (sick) sense of humor. I wonder what the building department did to piss them off.

Posted by: Pfffft at September 24, 2012 8:08 PM

yeah, camel toe was my first thought when I saw it. great, we're going to have the biggest camel toe ever known to man.

Posted by: mike at September 24, 2012 8:20 PM

What galls me, in case no one remembers, is that the only reason Pelli's pathetically generic design "won" in the first place was because he offered the city the most money for the opportunity––way more.

Now he's negotiated it back down to almost the same price level as his competition, less than half what was originally offered. Why not reopen the competition and let someone with a greater actual affinity for our city design it? SOMs was brilliant with its bookend reflection of the Transamerica. While I have over the years come to accept this unfortunate building as reality, if there's half a chance, SOM's would sure be better.

And for crying out loud, add a couple of hundred feet to it. Screw everyone who complains about the "monstrous shadows" it will perpetrate––apparently none of them have ever ventured downtown. There isn't a street in the financial district with sun now, it's too late for that atavistic desire; build up and build dense or the city will die the same death as Detroit or Cleveland.

[Editor's Note: Hines And Pelli Clarke Pelli Bid The Most (And Get The Transbay Nod) and Transbay Land Cost Cut Another $50 Million For Shrunken Tower.]

Posted by: SoMa Dweller at September 24, 2012 8:24 PM

I don't buy that the "vertical slit" was simply added for "sculptural effect." Jokes aside, what's the real reason for the design change?

Posted by: JT at September 24, 2012 9:49 PM

Those who look at this and see a penis or camel toe really need to get out more. It isn't even remotely like either, unless perhaps your point of view is from a decidedly lowbrow place. Really, I have stared at the picture and tried to envision it as a penis, and it's no more like one than any other tall building, which is to say: not much. And I say that as a gay man who definitely knows his penises.

So folks, stop blogging, stop commenting, and go out and get some. Maybe then you'll stop seeing genitalia in architectural design everywhere. ;-)

Posted by: Dubocian at September 25, 2012 12:44 AM

"what's the real reason for the design change?"

I'm of the same mind as Pffft. This is intentional. Surely someone in the approval chain would have red flagged this if it were unintentional.

Maybe the builder is trying to squirm out of the contract. Let them and re-open the competition. The skyline will look better for it.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at September 25, 2012 7:35 AM

Looks like a split hoof to me too.

Posted by: Whip at September 25, 2012 5:46 PM

is there a fountain planned for the vertical slit?

what about the rumoured buildings B & C at the base?

Posted by: wrath at September 26, 2012 2:35 PM

Will the funicular be able to deal with the SF human feces problem better than the BART escalators?

Posted by: AnonFedUp at September 26, 2012 4:05 PM

I would agree with Dubocian: the penis jokes are dumb, low brow and childish.

But then again, most people here cannot comment intelligently on architectural design anyway.

Posted by: futurist at October 1, 2012 6:23 PM

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