Gems Of The City: San Francisco's Most Exciting Architecture

Gems Of The City: San Francisco's Most Exciting Architecture

Photo of Le Meridien San Francisco
An Architecture map by

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the structures that make San Francisco a visual wonderland, and appreciating the architecture of this city is like getting to know a piece of its soul.

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    SFMOMA is an architectural wonder in the making, set to reopen with a new expansion in 2016. The expanded 235,000 square-foot museum will double the amount of exhibition space and include free public galleries, live art space and classrooms. In line with San Francisco’s sustainable values, the completed building is poised to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Gold certification.
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    The de Young Museum’s natural shade of brown blends in amidst the park’s towering eucalyptus trees. Up close, it’s easy to see the small holes that cover the façade, intended to mimic light shining through a forest canopy. Copper—approximately 950,000 pounds of it—was chosen for the exterior so that eventually, through oxidization, the museum itself will match the green of the park’s own canopy.
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    Built in 2008, this museum and research center is an architectural vision—walls of glass beneath a bed of green. Its living roof, which is home to San Francisco’s densest concentration of native wildflowers, is a testament to architect Renzo Piano’s vision to “lift up a piece of the park and put a building underneath.” It was the first ever museum to achieve Double Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
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    Designed by Willis Polk, the architect who helped plan some of the most iconic buildings in San Francisco, the Hallidie Building is perhaps one of his most impressive creations. Built in 1917, it was one of the world’s first buildings to include a glass curtain wall. Its liberal supply of light and air was revolutionary at the time and helped pave the way for modern commercial architecture in San Francisco.
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    Built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Palace of Fine Arts has impressive Greek and Roman characteristics, complete with a Romanesque rotunda and Corinthian columns. The structure, which was not durable enough to stand the test of time, was completely reconstructed before the Exploratorium (now relocated to Pier 15) and the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre were open and operational in 1970.
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    The Haas-Lilienthal House was built from redwood and fir trees in 1886 and remains a steadfast example of middle class life in the late 19th century. Today, the house is open to the public and is, appropriately, the home of San Francisco Heritage, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the city’s historical architecture and culture.
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    The oldest of San Francisco’s hundreds of historical landmarks is Mission Dolores. Constructed in 1791 by the Franciscan Order of Spanish missionaries, the structure is a reminder of the city’s earliest European settlers. Nestled among the homes of tree-lined Dolores Street, today the mission is an active church and the location of the city’s oldest cemetery.
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