December 2, 2013
Planning To Chop The Clock Tower From Atop 200 California Street
The six-story building at the corner of California and Front was built as the headquarters for Home Savings of America in 1988, replacing a three-story building which had sat on the site since 1908 which replaced a two-story building on the site before.
Constructed in "a post-modern style common to that era" that "draws attention to itself, rather than blend in with the context" of the surrounding buildings, the owners of 200 California are now proposing to cut the clock tower from atop the building, add operable windows, and re-coat its exterior in order to reposition the building as one "that’s less identifiable by its decorative elements than by its occupants, retail presence, and location."
A Boxwood hedge around the perimeter of the roof and potted trees would aim to soften the edge of the roof parapet, but no public nor private rooftop space is proposed.
First Published: December 2, 2013 1:45 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
In other words, the owners are bona-fide morons.
Posted by: Invented at December 2, 2013 2:08 PM
Okay, I'll ask. Why? Why would they want to this?
Posted by: SFMichael at December 2, 2013 2:16 PM
So their goal is to make the building as bland as possible? What a mess. I hope they reconsider. I can understand the desire for operable windows and the green roof, but the other changes are terrible!
Posted by: Gordon at December 2, 2013 2:22 PM
Save the historic clock tower!!
Posted by: Mike at December 2, 2013 2:24 PM
Stupid. Leave it alone.
Posted by: conifer at December 2, 2013 2:31 PM
Why are decorative elements seen as so affected and quaint these days?
Most new project are just a bunch of alternating right angles with flat roofs. Any suggestion of attractive embellishment gets snickers
Posted by: zig at December 2, 2013 2:31 PM
Boo hiss. I love that little building - and such a great example of that particular wave of post-modern design.
Posted by: Sierrajeff at December 2, 2013 3:19 PM
With lots of money laying around.
Posted by: BobN at December 2, 2013 3:23 PM
Not a great loss, architecturally speaking, but the rationale is completely misguided.
Posted by: James at December 2, 2013 3:44 PM
Such a minor, but period little building steeped in Post Modernism. Nothing wrong with that.
The original is a bit too shiny and over detailed.
I like the goofy Vegas style clock tower.
Hope they leave it alone.
Posted by: Futurist at December 2, 2013 3:48 PM
I like the after pic better. There are enough horrible 80's buildings down there
Posted by: S at December 2, 2013 4:10 PM
Definitely a solution looking for a problem.
Posted by: d-b at December 2, 2013 4:26 PM
Wonder how they will "re-coat" the exterior, which looks like granite--paint it all grey? Seems like a very bad idea.
Posted by: Snark17 at December 2, 2013 4:34 PM
Much better, simpler and under-stated. In my opinion, how they should have done it in the first place.
Posted by: Rob at December 2, 2013 5:01 PM
They should keep the clock as a warning to future generations of architects.
Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at December 2, 2013 5:06 PM
Again, why? Save the money and spend it on something else. Better yet, send me the money and I'll gladly spend it on something frivolous!
Posted by: RDL at December 2, 2013 5:13 PM
After looks much better IMO.
Posted by: sf at December 2, 2013 6:04 PM
Sounds like the owners have gotten some feedback that prospective high-class, high-paying tenants are embarrassed to be associated with in this building.
Post-modernism anyways was something of a horror -- if the practitioners had been properly schooled in classical architecture it would be one thing, but they weren't -- the detailing was foolish and uninformed, like those random english phrases one used to see on t-shirts in Japan in the 1990s (and probably the Chinese-character tattoos folks around here are sporting these days).
Still, a little voice in my head reminds me that thirty years after their heyday Victorians were considered eyesores too and lots of folks started pulling them down -- ditto for arts and crafts, deco, streamline modern, midcentury, etc…. In fact, in the early Christian era folks were reworking classical Greek temples in favor of domed Byzantine-style churches, so there is a long, long history of this kind of thing...
The owners might indeed be advised to leave well enough alone...
Posted by: around1905 at December 2, 2013 6:32 PM
I agree. That's essentially what I said, as well.
Posted by: Futurist at December 2, 2013 6:43 PM
Yes, flashy! This building was designed by a young architect (unfortunately deceased) by the name of Willis Mathews from Chicago, who was as flamboyant as the building is itself. I believe this is from he is period at Whistler Patri. Definitely a period piece from the post modern era. Never liked it myself, but for pete's sake just leave it alone! Don't add insult to injury by making it the blandest thing on the block!
Posted by: ARC at December 2, 2013 7:31 PM
Leave it alone. It will age well.
Posted by: SF_GUV at December 2, 2013 8:05 PM
It has character
It's not ugly - It's...interesting. So it's all flashy. Gee Whiz..who cares.
With all of the 26 year olds driving 80K BMW's in this city....who would even notice.
I like it.
Leave it alone. And if the owners are worried that some renters won't rent...there are plenty of others.
Like a previous commentator said...have extra cash that they need to spend on a manufactured problem...? No worries. Send me the cash. I have plenty of real problems that need some cash....
Posted by: mdg at December 2, 2013 8:22 PM
Walked by the building this morning - it's not being maintained well. The 'before' pic above is old, and also exaggerates the building's 'gloss'. Today the gold ornamentation is tarnished, and there's some kind of superstructure on top marring the building's lines. A real shame the owners think a (literal) whitewash would be better than maintenance and restoration.
Posted by: Sierrajeff at December 3, 2013 7:52 AM
I've walked or driven through this intersection a million times and I have never ever noticed that clock tower.
Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at December 3, 2013 8:40 AM
Kind of a missed opportunity for an 80s / Back to the Future reference in the headline, no? :-)
Posted by: noodle at December 3, 2013 9:07 AM
I am using Wikipedia to educate myself of architectural styles
I believe the building in question here is post-modern. I know the Marriott on 4th is most definitely post-modern
What is the style of all these glass high rises being build now? Are they International Style?
And what is the style of the typical 4-8 story mid-rise that in being build in SF with various right angles and sometimes alternating colors? Is this basically a modern style because they are completely devoid of any ornamentation?
Posted by: zig at December 3, 2013 9:51 AM
Say what? You want to make a distinctive building bland that blends in with everything else? That's ridiculous!!
Posted by: Brian at December 3, 2013 9:55 AM
If they add a few stories then they have to reclad the exterior. There would be no way to match a new top half with an aged bottom half.
If the added value & cash flow from the extra floors pencils out, it makes sense.
Posted by: Helmut at December 3, 2013 10:54 AM
?? they're not talking about adding floors.
Posted by: Sierrajeff at December 3, 2013 11:11 AM
The impulse to "improve" never rests. It's not always bad, but usually it is: hundreds of "modernized" Victorians, the bulldozing of the Western Addition, the curtain-walling of the now semi-restored Burnham & Root Chronicle building, come to mind. This little building, full of visual energy and good humor, should be given a good cleaning and left alone - clock tower and all.
Posted by: John at December 3, 2013 3:21 PM
Can easily understand why they want the change , because who the heck wants to maintain a public clock !
Posted by: Joseph A at December 3, 2013 7:36 PM
BUH-bye Dynasty 80s Shoulder Pad Architecture. How sad. While a tad garish, it is indictative of the era. Which did have it's own neo-Deco vibe going on - should you choose to look even deeper. A generation from now, folks will regret this blanding down and erasing of history. Like the current trend of stripping away 60s Brutalist facades in place of generic glass boxes. (See Folsom & Hawthorne and Fell & Van Ness.)
Posted by: SeanC at December 4, 2013 10:56 AM