Techie and hippe, ultra modern yet rigid – these seemingly contrasting words can best describe San Francisco. Situated at the edge of a peninsula and surrounded by the sea on three sides, San Francisco might seem insignificant because of its compact size.
But its spread of 7 miles by 7 miles is one of the most diverse and forward thinking urban centres of the world, which has been on the forefront of causes as varied as minimum wages to organic foods to equal rights for all.
A geographical feature that prominently shapes the city’s visual identity are the 50-odd hills across which the city is spread.
An early 19th century practice of laying out a uniform street grid irrespective of the topography has resulted in San Francisco having some of the world’s steepest streets.
The city’s historic townhouses are built in a variety of styles from the Victorian to the Revivalist to the Eclectic and are well preserved, thanks to high awareness and a general aversion to drastic architectural changes.
Modernist architecture styles also make their presence felt, though they were heavily criticised by the city’s inhabitants at the time when they were built.
The most iconic of these is the Transamerica building, San Francisco’s tallest skyscraper with the form of an elongated pyramid. A couple of blocks away is Mario Botta’s robust brick facade for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, topped by a cylindrical turret in black and white.
And representing the last decade is the copper-skin clad de Young Museum by Herzog & de Meuron; the dramatic tilted volumes of Daniel Libeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum and the living-roof topped building of the California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano.
Text And Photos By Kunal Bhatia