Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, June 24, 2011

Critics at Thom Mayne’s San Francisco Federal Building

The four-story barlike annex terminates with a sculptural end elevation on Mission Street. Photo by Roland Halbe. Architectural Record Construction

I love the plasticity of Thom Mayne´s designs and I used to show his buildings´ pictures to my students. I also had the opportunity to meet him and have a nice conversation about one of our projects, in the 90´s.
Then, I visited his Cal Trans building in Los Angeles Downtown a few years ago, and thought maybe Thom is designing out of scale, maybe he doesn´t think about people, but the building itself. You cant´ sit outside under the sun, it´s better to cross the street and go to the park, sit on a beach chair, eat fruits at the Mexican fair.
And now, I´ve found this article by John King, just a brief reproduction of it:
¨During any given week, I’m told, 100 or more design buffs take self-guided tours of the San Francisco Federal Building (SFFB) by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne. The tour’s flyer gushes over the “world-famous architect” and his creation, focusing on such details as green design features that aim to cut lighting costs by 26 percent and the Sky Garden, a “three-story open space [that] provides spectacular views for tenants and visitors.”
Not included in the tour: the Social Security office where, more often than not, at least half of the 94 black metal chairs are filled by regular citizens waiting for their numbers to be called. And the supplicants aren’t feasting on postcard-worthy views. They’re in a windowless room with only a (slightly) canted ceiling to set it apart from thousands of other bureaucratic holding pens, in a squat four-story annex that rarely appears in architectural photographs of the 2.1-acre complex.
I mention the latter space because it’s the portion of this public building that gets the most use by the public, yet it received zero scrutiny from critics — me included — when the SFFB debuted in the summer of 2007. We reviewed the newcomer as though it were a sculpture and then moved on. Standard practice, perhaps, but in the process we ignored what sets architecture apart from other arts. Buildings are created to function as part of their physical and cultural surroundings, and they reveal themselves with the slow passage of time.¨

The Federal Building’s 240-foot-tall tower is the architectural showstopper: connecting it is the annex that does a lot of work.  Photo: Roland Halbe, Architectural Record.  I´ve seen the tower myself from a couple of blocks away, and there is no doubt that´s Morphosis´ design. I´m sorry I hadn´t time to walk over there, next time.....
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