San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid Is For Sale—For the First Time Ever
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San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid Is For Sale—For the First Time Ever

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By Duncan Nielsen
The landmark structure—bundled with two adjacent buildings—is on the market for an estimated $600 million.

The building that has historically defined San Francisco’s skyline is now up for sale by the Transamerica Corporation. The insurance conglomerate has owned the building outright since it built it in 1972, and the decision to offer complete stake is timed with the city’s high-flying real estate values.

"Right now, San Francisco has a very robust office real estate market," Transamerica’s chief administrative office Jay Orlandi told the SF Chronicle. "We are exploring options for a possible 100% interest sale of the property, with Transamerica retaining naming and branding rights."

The pyramid has 300 windows and offers stunning, 360-degree views of San Francisco. Here, Columbus Avenue stretches towards Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge guards the bay.

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At 853 feet tall, the Transamerica Pyramid can be seen from across the city. It was San Francisco’s tallest building for over 30 years—before the construction of Salesforce Tower.

The pyramid’s towering form—a world-famous silhouette featured on postcards and tchotchkes, and in David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac—ranks among the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island as one of SF’s boldest emblems. Although Salesforce Tower is now the tallest, the 853-foot-tall pyramid held that title for three decades. It can be seen from far reaches of the city, poking above swirling fog and between abutting high rises.

A bird's-eye view of the Transamerica Pyramid

Fincher’s film features a CGI time-lapse video of the pyramid's construction that's meant to symbolize progress. But, at the time, critics and the community at large dug their heels, saying the building would mar the city’s skyline. The Washington Post called it a "second-class world’s fair Space Needle." Top SF city planner Allan Jacobs saw it as "an inhumane creation" and warned of the "devastating effect of the tower on the fabric of the city."  

The building gives character to San Francisco's skyline, adding variation amongst large, looming rectangular skyscrapers.

Across the street from the Dwell office you can marvel at the pyramid's presence. It's just down the street from the patinated Coppola building.

New landmarks are often slammed upon arrival; diatribes surrounding Hudson Yards’ "Vessel" immediately spring to mind, and New Yorkers may forever see it as a giant metallic waste basket. Today, the Transamerica building—an elegant monolith designed to maximize airflow and sunlight—is a star skyscraper, and one of the city’s most beloved and defining characteristics.

In 1999 the Transamerica Corporation shuttered its offices in the tower and moved to a new headquarters in Iowa after being bought by Dutch company Aegon. Much of San Francisco's finance industry downsized in that era, and today, nearly 90% of the pyramid is filled with investment companies. Whoever buys the pyramid will face some renovation work in the decades-old building, but they'll be investing in a San Francisco gem that will stand for years to come.

Photos courtesy of David Mark, Jay-JayDenys Nevozhai, and Derwiki.