AKA: Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, CA; Transamerica Tower, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Chin and Hensolt, Incorporated, Structural Engineers (firm); Dinwiddie Construction, Incorporated (firm); Glumac International, Mechanical Engineers (firm); Pereira, William L. and Associates Planning and Architecture (firm); Western Group, Engineering (firm); Poo Quong Chin (structural engineer); William Starrett Dinwiddie Sr. (building contractor); Anthony M. Guzzardo (landscape architect); Hensolt (structural engineer); Werner Heumann (architect); Daniel Morganelli (architect); William Leonard Pereira (architect); G. M. Simonson (electrical engineer); Thomas R. Simonson (mechanical engineer)

Dates: constructed 1972

48 stories, total floor area: 530,000 sq. ft.

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600 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111-2702

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Completed in 1972 to the designs of the Los Angeles architect William L. Pereira (1909-1985), the $32 million Transamerica Pyramid became an instant landmark on San Francisco's skyline. Originally, it was a polarizing building, with many disliking its shape and scale. Over the years, dissent has dissipated, as San Franciscans have become attached to its novel shape and profile. By 2006, the pyramid had become one of three office building components of Transamerica Center, that also included 2 Transamerica Center and Transamerica Redwood Park.

Building History

The Pyramid was erected to stand 260 m. (853 feet) with 48 floors (and 3 basement floors); it was planned to be taller at 1,150 feet, but the San Francisco Planning Commission denied this, citing the building's potential obstruction of Nob Hill views. The building had a reinforced concrete structure, with its frame clad in precast concrete panels covered in a white quartz aggregate. At the 29th floor and rising up, two triangular buttresses protrude from the east and west; the east buttress supports an elevator shaft, while the west braces a staircase and exhaust shaft.

According to the Transamerica Insurance and Investment Group web site, the pyramidal shape was favored as it would cast fewer shadows over its neighborhood: "It all began in 1968 when President John R. Beckett noticed that the trees in a city park--unlike the surrounding, box-like buildings--allowed natural light and fresh air to filter down to the streets below. Wishing to achieve the same effect with Transamerica's new headquarters, an unconventional pyramid shape was chosen for the building." The pyramid form became an immediate corporate symbol.

Anthony M. Guzzardo designed the landscaped park with granite paving at the base of the tower.

Building Notes

The Transamerica Building contained parking for 280 vehicles.

The American Institute of Architects held its annual conference in San Francisco, CA, in 06/1973. Following this event, a reviewer in the journal, Architecture Plus, observed of the new Transamerica Building in 1973: "The predictable comments were made about the pin-pointed Trans-America [sic] Tower designed by Bill Pereira which--while medium awful--was at least in the nice, kookie San Francisco tradition. (The really awful new S.F. buildings were those transplanted cubbages of nothing apparently plonked down in the Bay Area by Uris Brothers helicopters.)" (See "Re-run in San Francisco," Architecture Plus, 1:6, 07/1973, p. 12.)

Glumac International acted as Mechanical Engineer for the building in 1972; The Western Group was the Facade Engineer.

PCAD id: 2499