AKA: Neiman Marcus Rotunda, Union Square, San Francisco, CA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - department stores

Designers: Johnson / Burgee, Architects (firm); Robertson, Leslie E., Associates (LERA), Structural Engineers (firm); John Burgee (architect); Philip Cortelyou Johnson (architect); Leslie Earl Robertson (engineer)

Dates: constructed 1981-1982

5 stories, total floor area: 251,000 sq. ft.

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150 Stockton
Union Square, San Francisco, CA 94108-5837

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Southeast corner, Stockton Street and Geary Streets;

The Dallas-based retailer Neiman-Marcus purchased San Francisco's City of Paris Department Store in 1974, indicating its imminent plans to build a new outlet on the prime southeast corner of Union Square, the city's main shopping district. Preservationists fought the demolition plan by adding the City of Paris to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. To mollify the opposition, the New York architectural firm of Johnson /Burgee agreed to incorporate the City of Paris's four-story rotunda, with its elaborate stained-glass skylight, into their new, harlequin-patterned box. Many in San Francisco and elsewhere deplored the desecration of the beloved City of Paris building. New York Times columnist Paul Goldberger called the Johnson/Burgee building "...one of this city's most conspicuous architectural mistakes," but there were some critics who liked the pastiche. Michael J. Bednar, in his book, Interior Pedestrian Places (1982), wrote: "Today this ornate, four-story, balconied space with its stained glass skylight acts not only as a historic link between the old and the new, but also as a splendid transition between Union Square and the store's interior." (See Michael J. Bednar, Interior Pedestrian Places, [New York: Whitney Library of Design, 1982], p. 50.) The demolition of a landmarked building proved controversial, but it was not enough to outweigh the financial factors in play with the proposed new department store. In the end, the Neiman-Marcus Union Square Store has become, for better or worse, a Postmodern landmark.

Tel: 415-362-4777.

In 2002, Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA) worked on the expansion of the Neiman Marcus Store into neighboring properties and made seismic alterations. At this time, the original, rounded, glazed entry corner was converted to a square glazed corner. In 1982, Johnson/Burgee had the City of Paris entryway painted white when the building opened, but this was painted green during the renovation. The R.F.J. Meiswinkel Company also performed alterations to the historic plasterwork of the City of Paris section in 2002.

PCAD id: 982