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Transamerica Building, San Francisco

Built in 1969, San Francisco's Transamerica Pyramid is an 853-foot obelisk that soars above all but one of its neighbors.

Transamerica Building view at twilight from San Francisco ferry dock, picture
Photo credit
Photo: David H. Collier
Photo caption
San Francisco's Transamerica Building view at twilight.

An 853-foot obelisk of steel, glass, and concrete laced with gleaming white quartz, the Transamerica Pyramid soars above all but one of its square-shouldered neighbors, a symbol of San Francisco's outside-the-box spirit. Designed so that light could reach the streets below, the triangular tower caused an uproar when plans for it were unveiled in 1969.

Critics claimed the silhouette would ruin the skyline; instead, it attracted admirers worldwide. Although the public can no longer go up to the observation deck, panoramas are broadcast live to screens at the plaza-level visitor center, home to historical exhibits and a tidy gift shop. In an adjacent park, a grove of redwoods flourishes in the hard-won sunshine.

This article was first published in Winter 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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