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Starchitect City

Adam L. Brinklow | December 5, 2014 | Story Architecture

Two years ago, famed architect Frank Gehry dismissively called San Francisco a town where people “preserve old things without taking the risk to build something new” in the New York Times. Around here, Frank, those are fightin’ words. “There’s definitely an interest in pushing the boundaries now,” says San Francisco planning director John Rahaim, who oversees the city’s development on a big-picture level. Here, eight new additions to the city’s skyline, by two Pritzker winners and a host of other bigwig architects.

1. SFMOMA Addition
(151 3rd St.)
Who designed it: Snøhetta
What it is: A 10-story, 235,000-square-foot museum expansion
Why it looks like that: “The building skin is designed to interact with light and weather conditions,” says Snøhetta project manager Lara Kaufman. “When you get up close, you can see that each of the panels is unique.”

2. Strand Theater
(1117 Market St.)
Who designed it: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
What it is: A 3-story, 300-seat theater for A.C.T. made from the shell of an old-timey movie house
Why it looks like that: “The digital marquee screen is 27 by 18 feet, and it’s transparent, like a theater scrim,” says lead designer Michael Duncan. “It’s like the ghost of the former Strand movie theater.”

3. 8 Buchanan
Who designed it: Arquitectonica
What it is: A 9-story, 115-condo building
Why it looks like that: The building embraces Market Street’s oddly shaped blocks. “It’s an interesting composition of rectangular glass prisms coming [together] from two different directions,” says Arquitectonica principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia.

4. 950 Market
Who designed it: Bjarke Ingels Group
What it is: A mini-city containing 310 condos, 250 hotel rooms, 15,000 square feet of retail, and 75,000 square feet of art and theater space
Why it looks like that: “There’s no reason to limit architecture to four equal sides and a ceiling,” says Joy Ou of Group i, the developer. “Triangular corners offer a unique opportunity for units to front two blocks.”

5. Salesforce Tower (415 Mission St.)
Who designed it: Pelli Clarke Pelli
What it is: Soon to be the tallest building in San Francisco, rising 61 stories and 1,070 feet
Why it looks like that: The tower’s obelisk shape is meant to recall landmarks of the ancient world. A beacon at the top will be illuminated at night.

6. 160 Folsom
Who designed it:
Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang
What it is: 390 housing units totaling half a million square feet
Why it looks like that: “It’s an evolution of the classic bay window. They rotate up the building, creating a variety of orientations and lending individuality to each unit,” says Gang.

7. Transbay Block 8 (Folsom St. and 1st St.)
Who designed it: Rem Koolhaas’s OMA Partners
What it is: A 550-foot-tall tower of 650 condos
Why it looks like that: “We wanted to cut the monolithic tower,” says lead designer Shohei Shigematsu. “The zigzag crenellation also creates a solarium to get more light from above.”

8. First and Mission Tower
Who designed it: Foster + Partners
What it is: A 910-foot-tall combination of hotels, condos, and office space
Why it looks like that: “Tech companies like a lot of open floor space, and the steel exoskeleton lets us move the elevators, stairs, and mechanical stuff to the side of the building,” says developer Michael Covarrubias. “The windows maximize heat reflection; we’re going for LEED Gold.”

Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco magazine

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