The Anti-Masterpiece of Bad Architecture! (Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece)


Good Evening:

How do I meet this week’s Challenge and also do something different from everyone else’s responses? How?! I know! I’ll will photograph a masterpiece of bad!

During the 1960s and 1970s, San Francisco became home to some of the most gosh darned awful office architecture in the history of Western Civilization. One incredibly bad high-rise after another, all reaching to ridiculous heights so you could not avoid seeing them, no matter how hard you tried. In 1986 the people finally got fed up enough to pass something called Proposition M, which did a lot of good things to the city, including a pleasant side effect; the architecture improved greatly.


But we still had these blights upon the city, ruining views everywhere:That building in the background ruining the view of City Hall (by contrast, one of the most beautiful civic buildings in America) is one of the disasters, one of two buildings taking up an entire block of Van Ness Avenue (you can’t see the other, but it’s also a disaster of that era). I did once manage to take a picture of it looking halfway decent, but it was just an illusion of the early morning Magic Hour:

White & Blue Series 672: Van Ness Avenue Friday Morning

White & Blue Series 672: Van Ness Avenue Friday Morning

Beyond the sheer masterpiece of bad ugliness of the tower, an example of what is sometimes called The International Style, these office buildings are also masterpieces of bad energy management, wasting fuel and electricity, poorly designed for use of space, possess hard to upgrade HVAC, et cetera. But I have some good news.

The thing is getting dismantled.

Taking down an office building in the middle of a city presents challenges. You can’t blow it up; you can’t implode it most of the time; and you can’t always resort to that old standby the wrecking ball. So this office building is coming down piece by piece.

DSCN6837 DSCN5856 DSCN5854

But now that it’s coming down, I don’t know that I want all of it to come down. I present a view of the dismantling from the point of view of where I work on Golden Gate Avenue:


What if they take down the windows, exterior “skin” or whatever the technical term might be, take out let’s say every other floor—and then leave the rest? That might become a rather interesting sculpture, or at least a sort of frame on which the City could display a variety of decorations. For example, we could entwine the frame in red, white and blue lengths of cloth reaching all the way from the top to ground level. Or perhaps add decorations for the holidays in December.

Or perhaps I could keep my crazy ideas to myself and let the construction crews (destruction crews?) do their work.

Vonn Scott Bair


11 responses »

  1. Pingback: The New Ushering Out the Old (Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreshadow) | The San Francisco Scene--Seen!

  2. Pingback: Architektensturz | Flaschenpost

  3. Pingback: Chronicle of a Death & Resurrection Foretold (Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV) | The San Francisco Scene--Seen!

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