Better Late than Never: The SF Federal Building Opens

Today marks the official opening of the much-ballyhooed and somewhat maligned San Francisco Federal Building. While the fanfare has been reserved for today, many people have been working in the building for months and San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King is there with the man-on-the-street, or in this case, the man-in-the-building interviews.

“Everything is so gray. I just don’t find it appealing,” countered Yeung, who works at the same agency. She has an umbrella propped above her computer to reduce the glare from the 13-foot-tall, south-facing window next to her cubicle.

Lest you think this building an impractical failure, there are those who enjoy their futuristic office tower.

“I think it’s fabulous,” Olvarado said. She keeps her window open, and she loves the skip-stop elevators. She walks to work (“I don’t feel threatened at all”) and once inside “I feel like I’m still outside. There are no impediments blocking my view.”

Despite near universal praise throughout the design world, some concessions had to be made to the original building scheme to allow for the unusual San Francisco climate.

There also are changes along the plaza, where the mesh panels stop above a grass berm. Derelicts have scaled the berm at night, slid under the panels and dropped down into an area that will serve an about-to-open day care center.

Whoops. Anyway…Will the forward-looking federal building stand the test of time? Will it rejuvenate the down-on-its-luck neighborhood? What building will the derelicts scale next? Time will tell, my friends, time will tell.

Check out John King’s article for more interviews and building stats, as well as some gorgeous photographs and illustrations.