The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Banner photo. The Downtown skyline taken from The Embarcadero.

If you ever have the opportunity to ramble the city sidewalks (assuming you have a city that’s handy ), look around you. No, not for muggers. Okay, yeah always keep an eye out for sketchy fellow citizens, but also keep your eyes open for the varied patterns.

The city is alive with geometry; a plethora of squares, rectangles, triangles, circles and cylinders. And if precise angles don’t move you there’s plenty of the shapeless, and the precilelessly planned amorphous.

And by all means look up.

I visited the Financial District one Sunday morning, specifically on Sunday, because on a Sunday the Financial is essentially closed and as devoid of people as downtown small town America. That might be the only thing that tiny Pocahontas, Iowa and San Francisco’s Financial have in common. On a Sunday morning you can fire a cannon down the middle of the street and not hit a thing.

Forsaken streets make it all the easier to photograph the architecture without the intrusion of photo bombing humans.

Standing on a plaza between Market and Mission Streets I noticed four highrise buildings separated by three city blocks. With a little imagination you can almost see it as one building composed of four designs. (Okay, maybe a lot of imagination).

From the plaza I walked up a flight of stairs and when I looked down, the pavement looked as if it had been laid unevenly, complete with uniform folds.

The cylindrical Salesforce Tower often gets lost in a fog. At 1,070 feet, it’s the second tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi. The view below passes through several city blocks.

Ask me what the coolest building in San Francisco is and without hesitation I’ll offer up the Sentinel Building, a flatiron style that sits at the confluence of three city districts; Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial. The photo below is of two of the ornate columns.

Built in 1907, the building was once owned by the folk music group, The Kingston Trio. The Trio turned around and sold it to some guy named Francis Ford Coppola.

Among the tenants are American Zoetrope Studio, Pixar, PBS and Skywalker Sound. On the ground floor is Café Zoetrope owned by – Signore Coppola. A step into the café is like taking a step into Europe.

The view below looks towards the corner of the tower.

The Sentinel, also known as the Columbus Tower or Coppola’s Cupola always catches my eye when I’m leaving North Beach.

The Financial is an amalgam of concrete, glass and creative design. The glass offers reflections to reflect upon as well as some interesting distortions.

In the photo below I removed the texture and much of the clarity in Lightroom for the desired effect.


I adjusted the texture and clarity on the photo below as well. The swirled panels in the windows are the blinds which are silhouetted behind frosted glass at the tops and bottoms of the windows.

Distorted by design is the Mira Tower (below), designed by Studio Gang Architects.

A condo in Mira would definitely be a conversation piece.  The price puts the lie to the old saying that “talk is cheap.”
A three bedroom/three bath, 2000 square foot unit runs $4,645,000.
If you’re looking for something more spartan, a one bedroom/one bath, 797 square foot unit is going for a mere $1,345,000 dollars.

13 thoughts on “Monthly Monochrome: The Shapes of San Francisco

  1. Toonsarah says:

    This sounds like the City of London, the financial district here, which is always really quiet on a Sunday. Your photos are all excellent – I love this sort of architectural photography, where pattern is more important than structure and the buildings seem more two dimensional than three! Your Sentinel building looks lovely but I’m also very taken by the Mira Tower 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      Yes, in the financial district even Starbucks and the fast food restaurants are closed on Sunday.

      The Sentinel Building is actually an antique green and is topped with a copper dome.

      If you’re taken with Mira, there’s space available. You just might have to liquidate all assets to appropriate it.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  2. Jane Fritz says:

    You have a gift, Paul.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Jane. Much appreciated.

  3. jilldennison says:

    I lived in the suburbs of San Francisco back in the 1960s … looks like they’ve added a few buildings since then! I enjoyed the pictures … thank you!

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Jill,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’ve lived both in the suburbs in various places and in The City itself, in various places so I’ve seen the changes that have occurred over six decades. Many have taken place since Loma Prieta in 1989. The Downtown and Financial seem to be in an almost constant state of construction. South of Market where warehouses and abandoned buildings abounded has all been repurposed with businesses, housing and a basketball arena.
      Glad you enjoyed the journey.

      1. jilldennison says:

        I suspect I would not recognize the city if I returned today! I did used to love going into the city … hung out some in the Haight Asbury district 😉

  4. alison41 says:

    Fabulous pics. I enjoy geometric shapes when it comes to design, so this post had me a pic #1 . I agree with you, about ignored/unseen architectural wonders . Amazing what you can discover if you raise your gaze from eye level, there are carved friezes, decorative panels, murals, adventurous windows …. thanks for an unusual post

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m glad that the images pleased you.

  5. M.B. Henry says:

    Amazing photos. Makes me want to visit San Francisco again, it’s been way too long!

    1. Paul says:

      Hi M.B.
      If you ever need a tour guide you know how to contact me. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  6. eden baylee says:

    Hi Paul,
    Some excellent pics! The Mira is dizzying to look at, but what an imaginative design!
    Your four high rise buildings do indeed look like one building with 4 unique designs, and the third one looks like a stack of tall martini glasses. 😀

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Eden,
      “a stack of tall martini glasses.”
      Good eye. Even I, an aficionado of the Martinez cocktail, didn’t spot that one. I had to go back and look.

      I would love to check out the inside of the Mira Tower. Maybe I can set up an appointment as a prospective buyer.

      Still, the Sentinel is one of my favorite buildings in San Francisco for both it’s looks and it’s history.

      Thank you for commenting.

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