With a spate of celebrated projects in recent years, there is no shortage of contemporary architecture to see in the San Francisco area, and nearly everyone on our panel recommended a few high-profile projects. The California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano in Golden Gate Park topped nearly every list, with the nearby de Young Museum by Herzog and de Meuron and SOM’s Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland close runners up. At the de Young, Mark Harbick points visitors to the Andy Goldsworthy “crack” at the entrance as an often missed but standout feature of the project.
Owen Kennerly recommends Chrissy Field, designed by George Hargreaves, in Golden Gate Park, calling it “an epic undertaking of landscape architecture integrating wet-land restoration, an old military airstrip, and the shear pleasure of place.” Visitors are also welcome to enjoy snacks at the warming hut and check out Chrissy Field Center.
Several panel members also recommended the imposingly designed and titled 18 story San Francisco Federal Building [(415) 522-4307] by Morphosis, which is the first naturally ventilated building on the West Coast since the advent of air conditioning.
For a quiet interior retreat with an equally impressive design, San Francisco Chronicle writer John King suggests the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at UC Berkeley by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. “You’re enfolded by layers of quiet grace—from the oblique shadows cast by a hidden skylight to the basement with its thick forms of granite and concrete that impart a geological heft,” he says. King also recommends the 8th + Howard/SOMA Studios by David Baker + Partners, a housing complex that King calls “a strong presence with bold colors, but with a tall glassed-in produce market along 8th Street that’s a great place to watch the changing world go by.”
Other new Bay-Area buildings recommended by our group include the Dominus Estate winery by Herzog & de Meuron in Napa, which is available for tours; 560 Mission Street by Pelli Clarke Pelli; Daniel Liebeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum; SPUR Urban Center by Pfau Architecture; and several works by San Francisco’s own Stanley Saitowitz, including Beth Shalom Synagogue, the Yerba Buena Lofts, and the original buildings at 1022 Natoma and 1234 Howard Streets.