San Francisco Transbay Terminal

Yesterday saw the unveiling of three competing proposals for the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. All schemes are striving for at least a Gold LEED rating and feature a way-too-big-for-San Francisco glass tower crowned with wind turbines. Oh, and they’re all sort of “meh.”Now, it should be noted that 1) there is no guarantee that any of these schemes will actually be built and 2) Life Without Buildings in no way condones gambling. With that in mind, if you’re a compulsive gambler or your office has already started an high-rise competition pool, you need to be informed. So here’s the breakdown: Rogers Stirk Harbour + PartnersHeight: 82 stories @ 1100 feet. Another 125 feet to the top of the steel wind turbine enclosure.Program: housing, a hotel, a transit center, fresh food markets and “cultural facilities.”Key Features: exposed elevators, photovoltaic cladding.Choice Quote: “Our design for the Transbay Tower is one of optimistic grace, a transparent, mixed-use icon of futuristic elegance…”For the completists out there, way too many images of this project can be found here.Skidmore Owings and MerrillHeight: 1200 feet, plus a 125 foot high photovoltaic crown.Program: retail, cultural, office space, a boutique hotel, condominiums.Key Features: torqued form, publicly accessible “sky room,” large public plaza with 100 ft. tall passage through tower, double-deck bus platform.Choice Quote: “the new Transbay Transit Center will preserve and enhance the exceptional qualities of the City – the beauty of the light, climate, topography, bay, and City – as well as its people (what?), while embodying a potent belief in the region’s future.”Pelli Clark Pelli Height: 1200 feet.Program: commercial-use towerKey Features: 5.4-acre rooftop park, sexified obelisk shapeChoice Quote: “The timeless form of the Tower balances the richness of design of the Transit Center. The perimeter structure of the Center is sculpted like branches of a tree, covered with glass that waves like the petals of a flower.”Although I like the aesthetic / structural unity between the vertical and horizontal elements in SOM’s scheme, the San Francisco skyline could really use a kick in the ass (although maybe not such a tall kick in the ass) and that tower just doesn’t do it for me. Of course I definitely don’t think the project should be judged solely on that merit, but I’ve gotta go with Rogers Stirk Harbours or Pelli Clark Pelli on this one. Reading through their brief, RSH has some great ideas on circulation and communter dispersal, but the civic plaza idea is a hard sell in America. More often than not, they just seem to become dead spaces. As for the Pelli scheme, it’s a little hard to get a read on it from the images I’ve seen. I’d definitely like to see a couple more presentation drawings, but there’s a lot of potential for a 5.4 acre elevated park in the middle of downtown San Francisco. I’m just not exactly sure what’s under it.For more information, check out this article from Tuesday’s Chronicle or the offical Transbay Terminal website.