old and new San Francisco architecture

San Francisco Architecture in The Age of Eclecticism

San Francisco is changing, but it’s still recognizable. The Victorians, The Edwardians, and The Queen Annes that played host to the summer of ’67 are still here, protected and grand, but that doesn’t mean that the city should be frozen in time. There is a new urbanism, a new spirit, and a new industry, but the form and fabric of the old city remains.

In an era of housing shortage, rising rents and climate change, urbanism is the answer. It’s time to expand upon all that is good about San Francisco.

San Francisco architecture has always shifted with the demands of time. We’ve responded to earthquakes, housed soldiers, and been an example of tolerance and progressive thinking. In the context of 21st century America, California, and the San Francisco Bay Area, the Contemporary Architecture that is being created is, just like its Victorian grandparents, uniquely San Franciscan, suited to its place, climate, and the urban fabric. It’s the current interpretation of “place,” but just as native as its precedents.

In this moment, the eclectic blend of classic and contemporary architectural styles, and their mutual influence on each other, what are the benefits?  Here are some examples.

Creates A Better Urban Experience

Architecture plays a vital role in defining local culture. It gives a particular sense of place that becomes more and more vital in today’s homogenized, corporatized world.

Many urban theorists believe the only hope for density is verticality. They, rightfully, sing the praises of skyscrapers in reducing traffic and urban sprawl. San Francisco will add housing and office space in these types of structures, and indeed a great build up of residential and commercial space is underway around the new Transbay Terminal, but it must also add space at the neighborhood scale.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation sheds some light on the matter. The study concludes that cities with the most diverse range of buildings create the best urban experience. The way forward would be to integrate classic architecture in San Francisco with modern updates. When created carefully, sensitively, contemporary buildings add a layer of diversity and interest to the old city, while respecting and enhancing it.

Historic Buildings Attract Creatives

Artists and creative types are notoriously averse to sterile, placeless designs. If San Francisco modern architecture hopes to draw, and captivate, the creative class, it needs to build on its heritage and legacy.

Nearby Silicon Valley attracts plenty of business people, software developers, and entrepreneurs.  The resulting innovation takes place inside of the labs, think-tanks, and VC firms, but outside there is an equally bleak reality marked by repetitive and generic sub-urbanism, the antithesis of a vibrant artistic culture.

If San Francisco hopes to maintain its position as a haven of innovation, builders should be keeping 1968 in mind as well as 2018 and 2050.

Preserves Local Identity

San Francisco is full of memorable, distinctive architecture. It’s one of its most noteworthy features, right along with its rolling hills and functional cable cars and trolleys. It’s like no other place on Earth, having weathered serious disasters, it’s resilient and has a quickly-shifting culture. Architecture in San Francisco needs to reflect that.

Consider the recent renovation of San Francisco’s Ferry Building. The 104-year old building was converted into public space, featuring a 5-story atrium. The Ferry Building’s design is a testament to the creativity that can come from honoring the historic with a modern sensibility. This famous San Francisco building will live on, repurposed and ready for the 21st Century.

Updating San Francisco’s architectural heritage for modern times will help preserve its past and ensure its future.  Modern architecture is one of San Francisco’s most relevant cultural exports.  Working in this rich environment, San Francisco architects are envisioning futures across the globe. We need to do more of it here.

Looking For Architectural Services In San Francisco?

At Levy Art + Architecture, we’re passionate about both the past and future of San Francisco architecture. We love San Francisco’s history and mythology.

We’re committed to bringing that heritage into the future. If you’re looking for architectural services in or around San Francisco, contact us today.

Based in San Francisco, California, Levy Art & Architecture specializes in commercial and residential projects, with the goal of creating an innovative architectural design consistent with the client’s vision, sensitive to the context and the environment.  A  team of professionals with extensive experience and multi-disciplinary backgrounds handles a wide range of project at every scale.