San Francisco’s Transamerica building: Landmark Design with a purpose

See recent posts by Heather Dugan

The Transamerica Building rising above the rest in San Francisco, CA

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One of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks, the Transamerica building rises to a point 850 feet above the surrounding streets. While the futuristic building is an urban eye-catcher from any angle, the natural beauty of the Pacific impacted its design. In the late 1960s, the city planning commission nixed a requested 300 additional feet that might have compromised views of the Bay from Nob Hill. The 212-foot spire was inspired, also, by nature. The pyramid shape was designed to allow light and air to reach the streets below, like a towering tree in a city park.

A prime example of the marriage of design and effective earthquake engineering, its exterior quartz panels are constructed for lateral movement in the event of seismic activity. A 52-foot deep foundation of steel and concrete allowed the building’s upper floor to sway nearly a foot and withstand the World Series Quake of 1989.

It takes an entire month to wash its 3,768 windows. Surprisingly, only two elevators reach its 48th floor, but then there’s only so much room at the top — 2,025 cozy, square feet of space to be exact. The observation deck was closed after 9/11, but four cameras were installed to present a “virtual observation deck” on moniters in the building’s lobby 24 hours a day.

The Transamerica building is both a landmark with a view and a landmark that is a view — from almost any point in the San Francisco area. Other noteworthy buildings in the downtown area include the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, The Ferry Building at Market, and the Embarcadero Center along Embarcadero Plaza.

The Hotel Vitale-Embarcadero has views of both The Ferry Building and the waterfront and is within walking distance of San Francisco’s most impressive skyscrapers.

– Heather Dugan of Footsteps

[Flickr/Thomas Hawk]

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