The San Francisco Chronicle boasts one of our nation's best architecture critics in John King. We happy citizens of the City by the Bay look out for his column in each Tuesday's paper, though his short addition to the Sunday edition—CItyscapes—is often just as rewarding. Heyday Books in Berkeley, California, has seen fit to print a pocket-sized edition of the best of those short pieces aptly titled Cityscapes: San Francisco and Its Buildings. Here we get 50 doses of the wit, wonder, and historical accumen King distills each week for the paper. The avid city-walker turns his attentions to iconic structures like the Transamerica Pyramid and neighborhood treasures such as Pacifc Primary School with equal aplomb. Call it a guidebook for locals, Cityscapes takes in the great breadth of San Francisco's built landscape and in it finds joy, beauty, and the great dynamic thrum that marks one of the world's most vital cities.
The inclusion of the Lakeside Medical Center, an off-the-beaten track structure marked by its "streamlined exclamation point," in Cityscapes tells you all you need to know about King as a critic on the lookout not for icons but for the landmarks by which citizens navigate their city. Lakeside is a small neighborhood and this is certainly what you'll remember most about it. It's about time this retro tower, which King calls "a cross between a tower and a marquee," gets its due.
King scored a small coup recently when he held the release party for Cityscapes in the lobby of the indefinitely closed Pacific Telephone Building. The stunning lobby is in the maximalist art deco mode and a true treasure that the local gawkers don't get to see much of these days. A "Roaring Twenties triumph" indeed.
Home to Francis Ford Coppola's HQ, and a solid pizzeria downstairs, the Sentinel Building is typically upstaged by the city's tallest structure, the Transamerica Pyramid, just down the block. But its copper cladding and dome make King quip "Let the pyramid loom; for true San Franciscans the Sentinel will suffice."
Here's an overlooked modernist gem just around the corner from the Dwell office. 675 California Street by A.E. Waegeman. An oddity in Chinatown, the building is a maybe the city's purest expression of the International Style.
King aptly names this modern-meets-deco brick school in the Inner Richmond as a building to note. Its architect, Timothy Pfluger did a number of other notable structures in town, namely 450 Sutter St, a gilded palace that houses loads of the city's dentists. Any architecture buff worth her salt gets her pearly whites shined there.
No one to shy away from a bit of infrastructure, King shows us the brutalist beauty of the Glen Park BART station. Its soaring ceiling, open-air design, and the rough texture of the walls makes it the rare transit station in which you'll want to linger.