We haven’t seen growth this ambitious and this widespread since the quake of ‘89. San Francisco’s skyline, its streets, and the list of iconic destinations are growing tremendously with breathtaking plans from a number of the world’s most premier architects. Some are already in the works and others still unapproved and unfunded but, one thing is for certain, the city is changing, and we must prepare ourselves for the future. Here are just a few of what’s coming.

Warriors Stadium – The proposal is far from done, however the powers that be are all in on the project. The new stadium will be built on Piers 30-32 near the Bay Bridge.

SF MoMa – This visionary plan is being designed in collaboration with architectural firm Snøhetta and will connect seamlessly with the original Mario Botta-designed building. Set to open in early 2016.

Transbay Tower – The new tower, which will be the highlight of the new Transbay Transit Center, will become the tallest building in the West once it is built, projected for 2017. Sprawling urban gardens and public spaces will complement what will surely be a new SF Icon.

One Van Ness – This fantastic glass building, if approved, will be built on the corner of Market and Van Ness, adding another breathtakingly designed tower to the changing landscape of San Francisco.

By Alexander Winter

San Francisco’s limited amount of space is faced with a growing population that makes building skyward necessary to meet the rising demand for housing. Dozens of new building projects are growing out of the ground, and many more approved by the Planning Commission are in the works for the near future. Such rapid development of an urban landscape comes with a lot of questions, concerns, and hopes among its citizens. How will building upward impact the environment, local neighborhoods, rent prices, and the overall city? If San Francisco’s future is sky-bound, then we might as well make the best of it and design an awe-inspiring aesthetic we can all enjoy and share.

To better understand the immense growth underway in San Francisco, we spoke with several experts. “The initial development taking place here is mixed-use housing, which is the first step in the development. Once the housing is in place, secondary development will fill in other gaps with support services,” says local architect Paul Darmofal (NBBJ) of the development that’s happening in the Upper-Mid-Market area. He compares it to what happened to SoMa during the dot-com boom in the late 1990s: “SoMa was an underdeveloped area that drew lots of work-live housing developments that changed SoMa’s character.” A main goal with new developments like the one around Upper-Mid-Market is the invigoration of the neighborhood, economically, socially, and aesthetically.

Two of the biggest development projects in the works are a re-envisioned Treasure Island and the new Transbay Transit Center, both with a number of high-rise buildings that will be used for housing, offices, hotels, and other commercial purposes. The Transbay Transit Center Project includes San Francisco’s future tallest building, the Transbay Transit Tower, attached directly to the new Transit Terminal. Our skyline is the face of San Francisco and partly defines its character, which is why a beautiful aesthetic is key, among livability and sustainability. This plan sets forth a good example by adding to the aesthetic of San Francisco by means of an elegant design, which incorporates parks, art, and community spaces and integrates well into the existing urban landscape of downtown.

The taller a building, the more living space it can potentially offer. An increased number of apartments and condos will hopefully help balance the insane and out-of-control rent market, as housing supply aims to match the demand for living spaces. Additionally, high-rises have the potential to be much more energy-efficient than individual houses, by centralizing heating and cooling systems and using cutting-edge know-how and materials to maximize insulation and energy efficiency. A high concentration of people living on a relatively small footprint helps us save space that we can use otherwise—for example, to create parks and communal spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Zoning is crucial in determining where high-rises and skyscrapers may be located. Urban planners create a map to define specific uses for each part of the city, based on the existing infrastructure, conditions, and demands. James Castañeda, an urban planner in San Mateo County, provides interesting insight into the future skyward development of San Francisco, which focuses on connectedness. The better-connected an area is, the more prone it is to development, though high-rises require certain qualities of roads and energy and water supplies to sustain a very dense population on a relatively small piece of land. So we will likely see different transit hubs developing upward and in areas along larger transportation corridors like Market Street, Geary Street, or even Taraval, rather than a gradual expansion of the downtown area.

Imagine a myriad of skyscrapers, some of them connected by skyways, which are bridges that feature parks and beautiful views and allow you to travel between buildings without having to go through the streets. The far future is going to inevitably surprise us, and as San Francisco’s urban landscape and its skyline are gradually changing to something new, it is important to embrace the changes, because they are necessary for adapting to the demands of the population. In doing so, as citizens of San Francisco we are empowered to have a voice that will help us shape the city’s urban landscape of the future. Consequently, we have to implement the powerful means of communication at our disposal to connect the people, the city planners, and the developers, with the goal of forming a strong vision of San Francisco’s future that bears everyone’s best interests.

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This article was published in:
Idea Issue - Released March 2013
Issue 2 / Version 3 | Buy print copy here
Issue 12
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