350 Mission Street
The 27-story office building shown below, designed by SOM design partner Craig Hartman, is proposed for 350 Mission and Fremont Sts., a site adjacent to that of the future Transbay Terminal. The project epitomizes contemporary design aided by computerized tools and committed to energy conservation and environmental responsibility.
Glassy office towers are not new to downtown San Francisco. One of the oldest, the Crown Zellerbach Building at 1 Bush St., was designed in the late 1950s in the newly established San Francisco office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Its design referenced the New York firm’s Lever House, built in Manhattan in 1952, which became a landmark of the Modern Movement in the U.S.
The post World War II boom in high-rise office buildings filled US downtowns with boxy skyscrapers encased in largely glazed walls. But over time these towers lost their currency and became stereotyped as “refrigerator cartons.”
Unlike the flat “curtain-walls” of the Modernist office towers, the current glazed exterior cladding for towers, which often have irregular shapes, may be prismatic, as is the case with 350 Mission St. Instead of serving as mirrors of their surroundings, such buildings become vehicles for refracting and reflecting light. They shimmer and change color with the daily passage of sunlight and shadow. This is good news for us spectators who see the buildings from the street or freeway or the surrounding hills.
The shimmering effect seen in these images is produced by arranging double rows of glass panes so that the panes in the upper rows are slanted inward while the lower panes slant outward, thus producing the appearance of a woven surface that reflects and refracts light.
The building is crowned with a parapet equipped with a layer of galvanized mesh, cyclone fencing, laced with translucent nylon strips that absorb and diffuse light in a soft way and also enhance the night illumination. The parapet also conceals window-washing equipment and a novel amenity, a rooftop dog-run for the building’s canine population.