San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California

The city (723,959 residents In 1990) constitutes the main nucleus of a metropolitan area of ​​6,253,311 residents, Which extends largely on the opposite shore of the San Francisco Bay, where it includes, among others, the cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond. The remarkable rate of demographic increase of this metropolitan area (in the period 1980-86 the population increased by 30%) pushed the city to expand in the only possible direction, towards the south-southeast, where the urbanized area now occupies the entire internal slope of the San Mateo peninsula, joining up with the centers of Palo Alto and San José.

According to Liuxers, the functions of San Francisco are maritime trade, the tertiary sector and industry. The port, which is among the most active in the country and the first in terms of volume of traffic with Asia and Oceania, plays a fundamental role in trade. Furthermore, its prospects are brilliant, as it has been chosen by China as the main port of access to the American continent. Served by a dense railway network, it is also the stopover of about fifty shipping lines for foreign countries and many others for the interior and for the centers of the bay.

The main industries are mechanical (large shipyards), metallurgical, chemical, oil and sugar refineries. Each part of the metropolitan area has its own specialization: in the interior of San Francisco there are almost only the food industries, while services dominate (banks, insurance companies, administrative and management offices), even if the current trend is for their decentralization. Heavy industries are located in San Mateo, especially steel mills; south of the bay, the light and electronic ones: between Palo Alto and San José extends the so-called Silicon Valley, home to industries, operating in close connection with Stanford University, with very high technology for the production of micro-components and microprocessors. This region, whose original name is Santa Clara Valley, once covered with fruit crops (plums, in particular), it has seen – starting from the 1950s – radically change not only its landscape aspect, but also and above all its demographic and economic aspect. Santa Clara is the center of the aerospace industries. Airplane assembly workshops operate in Palo Alto. Alameda welcomes mechanical (automobile, agricultural machinery) and food industries. Berkeley, as well as the headquarters of the University of California, also hosts specialized industrial activities. Refineries, petrochemicals and steel mills thrive in the Richmond district.

The city, which has long played the role of the main metropolis on the Pacific coast, is seeing its leadership tarnish as a result of the enormous development of Los Angeles. The competition between the two metropolises manifests itself in the arising of various problems, starting from the need for both to obtain water and energy from the large artificial lakes of the Sierra Nevada, as well as in the competition of the respective canning and processing industries to grab the agricultural production of the great Californian inland plain, until the battle to conquer the major administrative powers to the detriment of each other.

On October 17, 1989, San Francisco was struck by the most severe earthquake (grade 6.9 on the Richter scale) in modern American history, after the earthquake that had already canceled it in 1906. Most of the victims (in total over 270, including 1000 wounded must be added) found death on the highways, in particular the number 880, on two levels, where the upper floor of the great artery collapsed onto the lower one, trapping hundreds of cars. The Bay Bridge, which connects SF with Oakland, also gave way under the pressure of the earthquakes.

Architecture. – The city extends over a hilly system that occupies the southwestern inner edge of the bay of the same name. The last decades have led to the consolidation and infrastructural connection of urbanizations that have sprung up all around, so that the city lives and should be read in the territorial context of the bay. If, before 1950, the geographical structure fully characterized the urban morphology, with tower buildings that often emphasized the natural hills, the start of strong position rents between the Kearny and Van Nesse streets determined, in the following two decades, a a reversal of the trend: a transformation of the characters of the city began which still largely determines the current image.

As in other central business districts of North American cities, the construction of skyscrapers is intensifying which, rising from a flat area, enter into a strong dialectical relationship with the hilly development. Beyond the very frequent perspective relationship, in which skyscrapers and hills alternate as a backdrop to each other, recent developments have attributed a special role to one of the first urban settlements (1850), Telegraph Hill. From this height, in fact, the closest to the edge of the bay and already completely urbanized in the mid-thirties, the city of skyscrapers to the south and, to the west, that of the hills can be seen with diagrammatic evidence.

The decade 1980-90, with the urbanization of the areas between Market Street and the Bay on a street fabric rotated by 45 ° with respect to the hilly one, confirmed, on a large scale, the dialectical one, while a tertiary area more southern, called South of Market. However, these processes have not canceled or completely changed the urban quality: this is also due to the social struggles for the defense of the hilly areas of the historic city and the safeguarding, in general, of buildings and quality urban situations.

In fact, there was strong opposition to the high-rise (tall building) supported by various groups (California tomorrow and the League for conservation and planning in the 1960s; the TOOR, tenants and owners who oppose redevelopment, in 1969.; the Heritage in 1971 and the Sierra Club in 1972) until the creation of new Planning Commissions more favorable to neighborhood interests, appointed by the mayor GR Moscone, who was assassinated in 1978 in his office. After the mayor’s death, choices are made for public use and in any case for more measured interventions – for the Yerba Buena area, between hills and skyscrapers – by the Redevelopment Agency, with the technical help of K. Tange and the economic one of corporations as for ex. the Marriot. This strong dynamic is reflected in wider social movements for the defense of minorities and civil rights, which see San Francisco at the forefront in the United States since the early 1960s, thanks also to the contribution of numerous intellectuals and artists. By occupying and buying abandoned industrial buildings and converting them into studios and residences, they effectively symbolize a phenomenon that has the characteristics of a real movement, called the Warehouses movement.

However, the city of the late 1980s does not only register the confrontation between hills and skyscrapers, between rent and basic opposition; but also the completion of the grandiose process of infrastructure and urban renewal started in the early 1960s and pursued with continuity and tenacity. The BART (Bay Area Regional Transportation system), started in 1962, now connects the central stations on Market Street to the whole south-eastern area; it is integrated by a transport on wheels (SamTrans) which allows the entire circuit of the Bay crossed by numerous bridges (Richmond, San Mateo, etc.). Even famous recovery operations, such as the Waterfront, have now been completed, and the Bay has been brought back into contact with the city.

A characteristic element of the transformation processes listed so far is the conjugation between very advanced technologies – which make it possible to face the most difficult risk conditions (the damage of the 1989 earthquake was almost completely repaired as of 1 January 1990) – and the use of poor materials and relatively soft techniques in small-scale architecture and renewal which inherit the experience of the great architects of the Bay, from B. Maybeck to R. Schindler. These building events contribute to the urban progress of San Francisco, however, transforming it into one of the most expensive cities in the United States and starting it to lose the historical character of a city open to any type of social presence: the great international vitality that also benefited from presences enters a crisis external to the economic establishment.

On the other hand, the city has already become, since the mid-seventies, second only to New York as a center of international trade and finance, thanks also to the barycentric position occupied in a market that sees Tokyo grow as one of the most important world stock exchanges. : the headquarters of large corporations, such as Standard Oil of California, Southern Pacific, Trans America Corporation, Levy Strauss and Pacific Gas and Electric, are located in San Francisco.

This circumstance obviously influences the quality of the design and architecture, with the construction of high quality office buildings, such as that of the SOM at 388 Market Street, designed with M. Goldstein and J. Kriken. More generally, the city offers, in addition to the aforementioned interventions on the Waterfront and the refined design of the BART, architectural emergencies that only occasionally connect with the quality of masters such as R. Neutra: so it is for the VC Morris Store, now Circle Gallery, built in 1949 by F. Ll. Wright, while the Trans America Pyramid (Pereira and Ass.) And the Hyatt Hotel stand out for their singularity, in a context of decent average quality.

In the last thirty years, starting from the S. Francis Square apartments, built in 1961 by Marquis and Staller, the traditions of American rationalism and the Californian cottage have been composed in the city: evidence of the Eighties are La Galleria apartments in Kaplan, Mac Laughlin and Diaz; the George R. Moscone convention center in Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (1981), and the small Double house by D. Salomon and Ass. at no. 15-17 Glover Street.

The Marin Count Civic Center in Santa Venetia, the work of F.Ll. Wright performed posthumously with the help of A. Green and WW Peters; however, it is here that even in small-scale examples (Stinson Beach, by Callisten, Gately Hekmann and Bischoff; Maoli Residence, by R. and L. Hartman Fernau, both after 1985) a sort of new architectural look of the Bay is taking shape Area.

San Francisco, California