What’s your favorite San Francisco building? In his new book, “Cityscapes: San Francisco and its Buildings,” urban design writer John King identifies 50 notable structures, from the signature Transamerica building to Telegraph Hill’s streamlined Malloch Apartments, to the controversial de Young Museum.

View buildings from the book and share your favorites in our Flickr pool:

John King, author and urban design writer for The San Francisco Chronicle

  • Randi

    Very interested in the new Federal building, and the library and Ferry Building. Love that you are doing this.

  • Warnersf

    The old Sears building on Geary and Masonic. It seems like such an under utilized space- great mid century design albeit in need of some major sprucing up, built in parking, central location on a major transportation artery, easy access by public transportation, and some of the best views in the city from the upper floors.
    I wish the Fischer collection could have been considered for this local- similar to how the LACMA moved into an old department store on Wilshire in LA.
    Come on people, time for creative thinking for some of SFs vacant retail spaces.
    Thank you,
    Warner Graves

  • MichelleSF

    My grandfather, a long time construction worker, recently died. When my family and I were going through his things, we found articles on certain buildings that he had helped build. We found lots on the Wells-Fargo building on lower Market Street that went up in the mid-60s. Can you tell me why he might have been so proud of working on this building? What made it special? What do you think of the building?

  • Henry

    Dolores Park as a GREAT civic space. Open space, terraced elevation changes, and the gathering place for the Mission. The long view of the city on a clear Sunday afternoon with the near view of movment of people makes the human connection to the city.

  • CarolynRealEstate

    Question: Are you aware of other Pater Nostra in San Francisco besides the one for the valet parking under the Russ Building? (Latin for Our Father, the name given to “open air” nonstop elevators that one hops on and off? There are three remaining in Vienna, I am told.

  • Hank Roberts

    For years I watched the sunrise and sunset reflections off the Transamerica Pyramid — twice a year, for just a few days each time. At other times windows in a few stretches of the Oakland Hills reflect the bright sky at sunset.

    Downtown in the Financial DIstrict, there are brief moments on special days when a sunbeam will be reflected back and forth several times between buildings before lighting up a bit of park or sidewalk or street, a transient

    Do architects and cityscape thinkers ever document or think about how the light gets passed from one structure to another?

    I wish there were an archive of this, something computer modelers could derive — assuming windows are vertical planes parallel to street lines for example — to tell people where to look, or a register where these events when observed can be written down and photographs left for others to see.

  • bernaldweller

    Can you talk about the new move towards interim spaces popping up between buildings in the City? Is San Francisco leading this iterative method, or are we part of a larger trend across the country and world?

  • CatSynth (AmarC)

    Not a building per se. But I am quite fond of the concrete future retro Plaza in front of Embarcadero Center. Especially the vaillancourt fountain. I find myself defending it against detractors and upset by the comments I often hear about tearing it down.

  • Silvafx

    Worked on both the Flood and 450 Shutter
    I think Dick Ritter is an unspoken local hero’

  • Jim F

    One Bush Street – best high-rise in the West, hands down. Superb example of modernism

  • eriksf

    At the entry to Sydney Walton Square park on Front Street there is a massive brick arch. My understanding is that it is a fragment from an old market warehouse that used to be at this site and was torn down. Any insight into this?

  • Tana Lehr

    Identifying captions would be so helpful to the many of us who don’t know the names of these buildings, or locations.

  • Sarah

    I’m curious about the Fox Plaza building. I’ve heard for years that it’s cursed because it is built on a sacred burial site. Urban legend or true?

  • William

    can John King comment on the
    Congregation Beth Sholom in the Richmond district?

  • david

    I’m excited to see the book. Can Mr. King comment on any notable buildings outside the city center, in the districts, like the Sunset, Richmond, Castro, Bernal Heights…etc?

  • eriksf

    Curious what your thoughts are on the UCSF mission Bay development. For me this is fast becoming one of the most inhospitable spots in the city. It feels like San Jose plunked down in the midst of San Francisco.

  • Gaston Olvera

    First of all congratulations to John King, he’s one of the few reasons I buy the SF Chronicle. I not always agree with his views on urban design and architecture but I find his analysis of the city intelligent and informed. I also follow him in twitter.

    I’m an architect, originally from Monterrey Mexico and I moved here 10 years ago.

    To me the rescue of the Embarcadero (Including the ballpark and the Ferry Building) and the Golden Gate Park concourse (The Academy of Sciences and the De Young are the best that has happened to the City.
    What is the best example for you?

    Gaston OlveraPalo Alto, CA

  • John

    Can you comment on Trinity Plaza as they start Phase 2 of the project? LIke so many of the tall buildings in the city, they make the pedestrian fee so small.

  • Melanie

    Does John King know anything about the building near Oyster Point on the west side of 101 that has blue glass? I think it’s lovely–seems to echo the shape of a ship–but there is no sign and it appears to be empty.

  • Denver

    DeYOung reminds me of Auschwitz. I can hardly bear to look at it. Inside it’s wonderful but the lobby is too small and the Friday nt music is too loud

  • MisterElement

    I’m a
    skateboarder, I traveled from the east coast to San Francisco because
    of the architecture and its amazingly creative and fun dynamics (from
    the skateboarders perspective) I know that thousands of other former
    and current youth have done the same.

    Embarcadoro was the meeting place for the worlds best skateboarders in
    the med to late 80’s on to the late 90’s and still holds a special
    place in our collective hearts. We are the type of culture that not
    only appreciates things that people walk past on a daily basis never
    paying attention to, but we are also capable of utilizing them in
    creative and unusual ways. San Francisco is known the world over as a
    wonderland of unique architecture and landscape that skateboarders of
    all ages and backgrounds dream of visiting!

    Thank you

    Mr. Element

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  • ATHarvey

    San Francisco is a deeply conservative city when it comes to architecture… in an odd way it is an inverse spatial reaction to the collective social-liberalism that defines the area. The juxtaposition of new and old is what makes a city dynamic, Buenos Aires, New York and Vienna are all fantastic urban tableau and they don’t treat anything over 4o years old as a precious landmark.Aaron

  • Bret

    There is a building on Sutter across from the Crocker Galleria, the facade is almost entirely glass and looks like it was built soon after 1906. It’d hands down one of my favorite buildings in SF. Any idea of it’s history?

  • Kristina Nugent

    That’s one of my favorite’s too! It was the first curtain-wall building in San Francisco and is called the Hallidie bldg. It took most areas nearly a decade to re-build after the earthquake. Knowing this building was built by the well-known Willis Polk, I assume it was constructed right around the 1920s.

  • Lynda Swanson

    Six gorgeous buildings from 1885 to 1917 line 20th Street on Pier 70, just south of Mission Bay. Remarkable and badly in need of preservation. Check them out.

  • Johnny

    Bring back Mission Bay Golf!!!!

  • CatSynth (AmarC)

    I like that Mission Creek (and the Kayak house) got a mention. I love walking along there, including under the freeway.

    In terms of Mission Bay…what about the old industrial buildings of sthr Dogpatch? Another favorite architectural spot.

  • Kristina Nugent

    From both an aesthetic and historical perspective, 140 Maiden Lane is the unassuming architectural gem of SF. I don’t think many people realize that Frank Lloyd Wright built this gallery a decade before the Guggenheim, but it’s relatively easy to make the comparison once you see the interior. The current gallery owners are very gracious about allowing architectural tourists to visit and gawk.

    • Zip

      I am an architect who lives & works on the north coast of Sonoma

      County. When I was a student at UC Berkeley I made pilgrimages

      to FLLW Maiden Lane gem and when I’m in the city I always stop

      in for inspiration.

      The Halladie Building is also one of my favorites. It was really a precursor to the curtain wall, but it has the charm of the early

      twentieth century.

      Michael Singer Architect

  • Terry

    I see the photographs of the bldgs discussed, but with no ID of what I’m looking at it really does not help. Just a quick caption under the photo would have been very helpful.

    • Adrian

      I also see the flickr pool photos above, but not the pictures from the book — did they not get posted?

      I also think that this book would make a wonderful iPad/iPhone app, with geo-location, comments enabled, and perhaps user-submitted photos. What do you think, John?

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