On March 30, 2022, SHVO, a luxury real estate development and investment firm, announced their $250 million renovation of the iconic Transamerica Pyramid Center in downtown San Francisco, California.
The refurbishment will be designed by the renowned London-based architectural firm Foster + Partners. The biggest renovation in the building’s 50-year history, this redevelopment is the largest investment in downtown San Francisco since the COVID crisis began.
The new Foster + Partners design also seeks to revitalize and restore the historic Redwood Park, while tying all three buildings together through a series of strategic interventions at ground level, creating a vibrant new destination in the heart of San Francisco while respecting and celebrating the unique heritage of the site.
The Transamerica Pyramid is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, and is the second tallest building in the city. An additional $150 million will be allocated to expanding and upgrading the adjacent Three Transamerica (545 Sansome) to a contemporary high-design office building.
The selection of Pritzker Laureate Lord Norman Foster—with whom I (Storm Cunningham) had the pleasure and honor of working in Rome, Italy)—known for a prolific expertise in melding historic architecture with contemporary design, followed an invited competition including celebrated international architectural firms Bjarke Ingels Group and David Chipperfield Architects.
Lord Foster said “This is an exceptional opportunity to restore the unique Transamerica Pyramid Tower and its historic Redwood Park, to create a very special destination in the heart of San Francisco. The existing buildings and new additions are tied together by generous landscaping which will breathe new public and community life at the sidewalk level. The previous office areas are reborn as new living spaces, with an emphasis on wellbeing. Working in collaboration with Michael Shvo and his team, we look forward to reinvigorating this truly iconic building.”
Located in one of the world’s premier gateway cities, and a symbol of San Francisco’s ambition, the Transamerica Pyramid Center encompasses an entire city block in the Financial District.
Designed by celebrated futurist architect William Pereira and completed in 1972, is emblematic of the skyline. The broader site consists of two additional buildings—Two Transamerica (505 Sansome Street) and Three Transamerica (545 Sansome Street)—and the famed central Redwood Park.
“Norman Foster is renowned for his brilliant treatment of historic buildings and I am thrilled to partner with his team on the important task of redeveloping this extraordinary city block and reinforcing the Transamerica Pyramid as one of the greatest buildings in the world,” said Michael Shvo, Chairman & CEO.
SHVO and Foster + Partners say they are committed to conceiving high performance office spaces which enhance wellbeing. The office is reimagined as a living space, with a sophisticated emphasis placed on comfort, hospitality, and flexibility for tenants and guests.
In addition to the on-site private members club CORE, hospitality grade amenities and service elevate the offering.
Further incentivizing the return to the office, retail is carefully curated and two floors in the middle of the tower are dedicated to wellness, a lounge and conferencing facilities—all with panoramic city views.
Redwood Park—which consists of nearly 50 mature redwood trees transplanted from the Santa Cruz Valley to the site in 1974 and now over 100 feet tall—will also be upgraded and additional landscape will activate the site perimeter.
Adding seasonal color to the space, Mark Twain Street—the alleyway from Sansome Street—will be lined with plum blossom trees, leading up to the base of the pyramid featuring curated cafes, shops and restaurants. The project is slated to be completed by the middle of 2023.
Distinguished architectural historian Paul Goldberger, an advisor to SHVO for Transamerica Pyramid Center, said “The Foster team, known for the sensitivity of its juxtapositions of historic and modern structures, conceived a design highly responsive not only to Pereira’s spectacular original architecture, but to the nature of downtown San Francisco: not a generic redo of a 1970’s tower, but a unique project intended to celebrate a unique modern building, making the most of its exclamation point on the skyline and its presence on the street, uniting the two to become a place like no other.”
“The Pyramid is synonymous with San Francisco, representing the city’s optimism and forward-thinking nature. We have worked closely with the Foster team to respect the Center’s existing history and complement that with contemporary interventions that will only strengthen this magnificent building that stands as a beacon on this city’s skyline,” he concluded.
SHVO, which acquired the Transamerica Pyramid Center in October 2020, says they are committed to making significant investments to further cement the building’s status as one of the most essential buildings in the world, while creating a revitalizing new destination for San Francisco and its inhabitants.
All images courtesy of Foster + Partners.