Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thom Mayne's Federal Building In San Francisco

All the talk is about the "strikingly original" architecture, but the most striking thing about this building is the bleakness of its public space, shown in these pictures.

Whenever there is a breeze, this corner is filled with a whirlwind of dust, newspapers, and plastic bags. This is one case where a video would be better than photos, because the photos don't show how the dust and trash is raised and blown around.

There was a light breeze when I was there, and I shudder to imagine what it is like on a windier day.

Update: July 2011:

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that:

Neighbors of the eye-catching federal building at Seventh and Mission streets say its public plaza has become a lawless haven for the South of Market homeless, rather than the pleasant open space its builders intended. ...

When the super-green federal building opened in 2007, Thom Mayne, the architect, hoped the plaza could become a hub for the improving the neighborhood, "offering much-needed open space and services to the local community," promotional materials said at the time.

But visions of farmers' markets have turned into something else, especially on three-day weekends when the building is shuttered for more than 72 hours, neighbors say.

"What you see there all day, 24/7, is people drinking, you see people urinating on the walls, you see everything,"

Why am I not surprised? When you design this sort of bleak space, which no one would want to use, the only people who are attracted to it are those who have no better choice. It is no more surprising to find homeless people here than to find them camping under a freeway overpass.

The only thing that is surprising is that anyone ever took seriously the architects claim that this space would become a hub for improving the neighborhood.


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