Sunday, July 01, 2007

SF Magazine: "Urbanities" and kissing ass

Photo by Tim Griffith

San Francisco magazine composes a hymn to Thom Mayne's new Federal Building on Seventh St. in its introduction to its July, Best of the Bay Area edition:

The stunningly visual new 18-story Federal Building is causing heads to swivel. Forget the Civic Center's Beaux Arts marble facades. This building is in dialogue with the future, using the language of math and science. Trapezoidal rooftops, stainless steel sheathing that cascades down the building, perforated metal scrim that buckles and thrusts upward before landing near the curb, exposed concrete trusses, metallic overhangs shaped like chevrons and triangles, opaque glass fins glowing with the setting sun---it's utterly unlike the rest of San Francisco's skyline.

The last part of the final sentence is the only sensible statement in the paragraph. The rest is pretentious, artsy-fartsy crap, much like the Maynes building itself. I'll take the old Federal court building across the street. In fact, I'll take the old Greyhound Depot that used to be on the very spot where the Maynes building now squats like a beached aircraft carrier. "Dialogue with the future"? This may also be true, alas, as the Planning Dept. seems intent on destroying this part of the city.

The cover of the magazine shows us the view of the beautiful City Hall building from the Maynes building, calling it "the best new vantage point: Now dominating the Civic Center area is the breathtaking, breakthrough federal building..." No one with any sense of aesthetics would want to "dominate" our wonderful Civic Center, but the Planning Dept. is determined to do so, with 40-story highrises in the Market/Van Ness area as per the Market/Octavia Plan.

We can look forward to future editions of San Francisco magazine with thrilling views from these new monstrosities that will literally cast shadows on the civic heart of San Francisco (the hideous Fox Plaza building is a mere 29 stories, and the 100 Van Ness building is 26 stories).

What this "best-of" crap really sets out to do is flatter everyone, especially its readers, for being cool enough to read the magazine:

Only this time around, we just couldn't decide between the tried-and-true and the cool-and-new. So our 2007 edition pays special homage to the classics---the people, the places and perks that just get better with age. But it also scans the horizon for the brave newbies---the future classics---that, if we're lucky, we'll be taking for granted in years to come.

As the magazine scans the horizon for asses to kiss, it throws a bouquet to, of all things, the new and guaranteed-to-be-awful Rincon Hill, where thousands of luxury highrise condos are being built, thanks in large part to Supervisors Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin (Mirkarimi of course voted for them, too):

Thankfully, everybody's a new urbanist these days. You can't throw a rock without hitting a planner or a politician pitching 'sustainable' solutions to city problems, and every flashy new development from Rincon Hill to Mission Bay touts its community-building, transit-friendly bona fides.

50-story highrises are "community-building"? Can anyone really think that members of the international community of millionaires who buy those condos are going to take Muni? ("Honey, I'm going to take Muni down to Union Square to pick up a few trinkets at Tiffany's. Where did you put my Fast Pass?")

Naturally San Francisco magazine places a big smooch on Mayor Newsom's skinny ass, while scoring points with progressives and their gay yuppie readers:

Gavin Newsom should always be remembered for his efforts in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage. When he defied discriminatory state laws by urging the county clerk to marry same-sex couples in February 2004, he made history...Despite the fact that he was only 33 days into his term---or perhaps because of it---Newsom had the guts to make same-sex marriage happen here.

On the other hand, why didn't Newsom wait until after the November, 2004 election, which George W. Bush "won" by a whisker? Democrat Newsom's gay marriage initiative probably gave Bush the election. He "made history," alright! Besides, Newsom deserves more praise for the "guts" behind his initiatives on homelessness than on the gay marriage thing, since the latter wasn't at all controversial here in Progressive Land. City progressives are still bitter about how Newsom ate their lunch on the homeless issue in 2003.

San Francisco throws another misguided bouquet at a boxy modernist apartment building that's going to be built at the already-disastrous intersection of Market and Octavia: "The exterior of the apartment building...has a series of colored, etched glass brises-soleil that poetically suggest a row of Victorians. Modern elegance and refinement keep it contemporary."

"Brises-soleil"? La-de-fucking-da! When they start using French phrases, you know it's bullshit.

Good old Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, is praised for being a "Classic Prisoner" and "raising nearly 300 canaries in prison, which...he sold to support his aging mother." Unmentioned is the fact that Stroud killed two men, including a prison guard.

And Josh Wolf is anointed a "Future Classic Prisoner" for his recent stint in prison for refusing to give the Grand Jury his video of an anarchist demonstration. Unmentioned: City cop Peter Shields suffered a fractured skull during that demonstration, but San Francisco magazine has no French phrases or awards for Shields, who evidently isn't "new-and-cool" enough to make the cut.

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At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey -- maybe you could at least get your villains and your facts right. the Planning Dept and City had nothing to do with the new Federal Building. In fact, they disapproved of its bulk and design. But the Federal Government doesn't have to listen to city or state governments, and they didn't. you can blame that one 110% on the feds.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for the correction. So the Feds are the villains for that one, and Planning and the BOS are the villains for the future highrises at Market/Van Ness and those now going up at Rincon Hill. Somehow that's not much of a comfort.

At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it ever so slightly disingenuous of you to quote 100 van ness as 26 stories - and not its height of 400' ?
It surely doesnt speak to your habit of ever so slightly fudging the "truth" to promote your support of a Thomas Kinkade view of San Francisco.
I wonder if you would be opposed to a new building 300' tall going up near civic center ?

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I was figuring ten feet for each story. So it's actually much taller than 260 feet? Why would I know that? Yes, I'm opposed to a 300-foot building in the area. Both the 100 Van Ness building and the Fox Plaza building are mistakes; both are ugly and out of place in that part of town. Please provide other examples of my "habit" of "fudging the truth."

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you might know that from the thread you were posting on the sfwall forum where you specifically stated there were no 400' buildings in the area and another poster posted the stats for 100 van ness.
Also city hall is over 300' tall - so I suppose that we shouldn't have it casting shadows on civic center plaza per your rules.
I guess if you are knee jerk against tall buildings - it wouldn't matter whether a building was 260 feet tall or 400.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Must have missed the post on the Wall that said that the 100 Van Ness building was 400 feet. Seems to me the point is that adding more highrises in that area is a bad idea, since, among other things, they will shadow the beautiful City Hall building and the Civic Center plaza itself. Yes, I'm opposed to highrises in that area, whether they are 260 feet or 400 feet.

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So are you pro highrise anywhere in SF?

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". The rest is pretentious, artsy-fartsy crap, much like the Maynes building itself."
I suppose as official self appointed arbiter of all worthy architecture in San Francisco you are more able to speak for a buildings architectural merit than the countless publications worldwide which have praised the new federal building.
I mean what do the architecture critics of some of the most widely respected publications in the US know ?

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's the height of the buidings at Fox Plaza and 100 Van Ness that's objectionable, though they are also ugly.

"I mean what do the architecture critics of some of the most widely respected publications in the US know?" Nothing, as far as I'm concerned, any more than the Chronicle's John King knows anything.

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The new federal building:

My concern was the outdoor play area for the child care center. UGH!

Having visited Reggio, Italy, I've
seen what is possible. I suggest
the planning dept read, Last Child
in the Woods by Richard Louv and
if interested I'd be glad to give
them a list of Italian architects
involved in Reggio's child care
centers. (Speaker Pelosi, your're
an Italian mother/grandmother, I
hope you are paying attention.)

We can do better! I thought
SF was the city that knew how.



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