From cozy Victorians with jewelry boxes to sleek modern skyscrapers, San Francisco is known for its style.
While some buildings appear to be universally revered, others were viewed as atrocities when they initially emerged. The patchwork of styles resulting from rebuilding after two major earthquakes adds up to the eclectic beauty of the pastiche that makes up this quirky city. Here are some must-see buildings in the city:
Contemporary Jewish Museum: 736 Mission St. This striking example of adaptive recycling mixes a modern metallic blue cube swaying on the side of the buttoned-down Jessie Street power station, an early 20th-century brick landmark built by Willis Polk. The architect Daniel Libeskind designed his postmodern architecture mashup in 2008.
Grace Cathedral: 1100 California St. Wind your way through the mazes and meditate in an interfaith chapel in this beautiful French Gothic style cathedral that crowns the top of Nob Hill. It was built between 1927 and 1964 and is best known for the bronze and gold Doors of Paradise, replicas of the doors from Lorenzo Ghiberti’s 15th century Bapistry in Florence, Italy.
De Young Museum: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. This state-of-the-art art museum opened in Golden Gate Park in 2005. Copper was designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco and selected as the material for the “skin” of the building. As it oxidizes, it takes on a rich patina that blends gracefully with the green surroundings of the park. The tower, which is freely accessible, rises above the treetops and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
The town hall: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. This beautiful example of Beaux Arts architecture is well worth a visit to marvel at the grand marble staircase that extends beneath the huge dome. In the rotunda is a bronze bust of a smiling Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the United States.
SFMoMa: 151 Third St. With its zebra-shaped cylindrical tower, this museum, currently closed for renovations, is one of the city’s most famous modern architectural icons. Designed by Mario Botto, it was controversial when it was unveiled in 1995.
The Sentinel Building: 916 Kearny St. Bordered by Columbus Avenue, Kearny, and Jackson, and stretching across North Beach, Chinatown, and the financial district, this Grade II listed iron was purchased and renovated by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola in the 1970s. Coppola still runs his production company on the 7th floor of the copper-dome building, also known as the Columbus Tower.
Conservatory of Flowers: 100 John F. Kennedy Drive. A whitewashed wood and glass Victorian confectionery, this 1878 greenhouse is filled with rare, exotic plants and is the oldest structure in Golden Gate Park.
Cultural center for new people: 1746 Post St. A shrine to Japanese pop culture in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown, the five-story center features retail space, a tea house / cafe, and a theater.
Transamerica pyramid: 600 Montgomery St. On 48 floors, the futuristic pyramid was heavily criticized when it was first built, but has become an indelible icon of the San Francisco landscape.
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