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The Story Behind The SF Transamerica Pyramid's Shape

The SF Transamerica Pyramid's shape, which was formerly known as "Pereira's Prick," was created in order to minimize too much shade in the streets and park below the building's footprint.

A distant shot of transamerica pyramid building and transamerica's frequency chart
A distant shot of transamerica pyramid building and transamerica's frequency chart

A futurist skyscraper, the Transamerica Pyramid, located at 600 Montgomery Street San Fransisco between Clay and Washington Streets in the Financial District of San Francisco, California, United States, is the second tallest building in the city's skyline. From the time of its completion in 1972 until the opening of the newly constructed Salesforce Tower in 2018, it was the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco.

After moving its headquarters to Baltimore, Maryland, the Transamerica Corporation no longer maintains a presence in this building as its headquarters for North America. The building, on the other hand, continues to be associated with the corporation because it is portrayed on the company's emblem. The structure, which measures 853 feet tall, was designed by architect William Pereira and constructed by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company (260 m). When it was completed in 1972, it was the eighth-tallest structure on the planet. It is also a well-known tourist destination. The building was sold to New York City investor Michael Shvo in the year 2020.

A close angular shot of transamerica pyramid building in evening
A close angular shot of transamerica pyramid building in evening

Why Is The Transamerica Pyramid Shaped Like A Pyramid?

Transamerica CEO John (Jack) R. Beckett commissioned the SF Transamerica Pyramid's shape building, claiming he wanted light in the street below. Built on the location of the old Montgomery Block, it comprises 48 stories of retail and office space.

Construction was handled by San Francisco–based Dinwiddie Construction, renamed Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company. Transamerica relocated from a flatiron-shaped building across the street presently occupied by the Church of Scientology in San Francisco.

Designed by architect William Pereira, it was dubbed "Pereira's Prick" by detractors throughout its design and construction. In 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle described the building as "a uniquely memorable building, a triumph of the unexpected, unreal and engaging all at once. ... It is a presence and a persona, snapping into different focus with every fresh angle, every shift in light."

When built, the Transamerica Pyramid surpassed the Bank of America Center in San Francisco as the highest building west of Chicago. The Aon Center, Los Angeles, took over in 1974.

In 1995, the Bojinka conspiracy prevented a terrorist attack on the structure.

Transamerica was bought out by Aegon in 1999. When Transamerica's non-insurance operations were sold to GE Capital, Aegon kept the building as an investment. SHVO and Deutsche Finance America paid $650 million for the property in 2020.

The Transamerica Pyramid was San Francisco's highest building from 1972 until 2017 when the Salesforce Tower was completed.

It's one of 39 San Francisco skyscrapers identified by the USGS as being vulnerable to a big earthquake owing to faulty welding.

Design Of Transamerica Pyramid

The parcel's land use and zoning constraints limited the amount of office space that could be developed on the lot, which borders the financial district to the north.

The building is a towering pyramid with two "wings" on the east and west for an elevator shaft, stairwell, and smoke tower. The spire is 212 feet (65 m) high.

The "Transamerica Virtual Observation Deck" is a spire with four cameras pointing in four directions. Four displays in the lobby show the cameras' views 24 hours a day. The 27th-floor observation deck was closed to the public in 2001, according to the Pyramid's official website, and the New York Times stated it had been shuttered "since the late 1990s. The virtual viewing deck came along a few years later. A local TV news station used the "Transamericam's" video signal for years to show traffic and weather in downtown San Francisco.

The Transamerica Pyramid's top is metal. The "Crown Jewel" is lit at the summit of the pyramid during the Christmas, Independence Day, and 9/11 anniversaries.

Some Interesting Facts About Transamerica Pyramid Building

  • Crushed quartz covers the building's façade, which gives it its pale hue.
  • The four-story base is made up of 16,000 cubic yards (12,000 m3) of concrete and 480 kilometers of steel rebar.
  • It contains a total of 3,678 windows.
  • The foundation of the structure is 9 feet (2.7 m) thick, thanks to a three-day, 24-hour continuous concrete pour. During the pouring, people surrounding the site at street level threw thousands of dollars in coins into the hole for good luck.
  • Only two of the 18 elevators in the building reach the top floor.
  • The initial plan called for a 1,150-foot (350-meter) structure, which would have been the world's second-tallest finished structure for a year. The city planning commission denied the design, claiming that it would obstruct views of San Francisco Bay from Nob Hill. The structure is on the location of A. P. Giannini's Bank of Italy's interim headquarters after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed the bank's office. Transamerica was created in 1928 by Giannini as a holding company for his financial empire. Bank of Italy later merged with Bank of America to form Bank of America.
  • At the base of the structure is a plaque honoring two renowned dogs, Bummer and Lazarus.
  • The wreck of the whaling vessel Niantic, an artifact of the 1849 California Gold Rush, was virtually beneath the Transamerica Pyramid, and a historical plaque outside the skyscraper commemorates the spot.
  • To balance the appearance at night, the aluminum cap is indirectly lighted from within.
  • At the top levels, the two wings increase interior space. The tops of elevator shafts are one extension, while a smoke evacuation tower for firefighting is the other. [25]
  • A red aircraft warning light and a brighter seasonal beacon are encased in a glass pyramid cap at the top.
  • The bulk of the windows can revolve 360 degrees due to the building's form, allowing them to be washed from the inside.
  • The spire is essentially hollow, with a 100-foot steel stairway at a 60-degree angle and two steel ladders leading up to it.
  • On the 48th floor, there is a conference room with 360-degree views of the city.
  • The first tenants moved in during the summer of 1972 after construction began in 1969.

"Also good for earthquakes"

-Hour_Comfortable_214 (Reddit)

"Where'd you screenshot steal this photo from?"

-innerpurification (Reddit)

Conclusion

In the San Francisco skyline, the SF Transamerica Pyramid's shape is one of the tallest structures to take care of environmental needs and also take care of what is best for its people. SF has marked a line and that is such a good example.

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