Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Center Glass Facade Could Become Perforated Metal

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA)

It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city’s Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building’s undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center’s first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be  asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017.



“This is a dramatic change in material, but the philosophical change is not enormous,” said Fred Clarke of the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, who said the terminal would still feel light, not heavy. Chronicle critic John King warned that the move “could make the transit center less of a sinuous, snaking form—and more of a drab block—as it spans First and Fremont streets.” On Pelli’s side, Clarke argued that the wrapping would still be transparent. Of course he admitted: “Architects who do this kind of building must be very, very pragmatic.”

A night view of what the metal skin might look like. (Courtesy TJPA)

A night view of what the metal skin might look like. (Courtesy TJPA)

2 Responses to “Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Center Glass Facade Could Become Perforated Metal”

  1. Todd Larson says:

    Though I realize the budget is a concern, I personally prefer the glass facade over the perforated aluminum one. The glass would make it more sinuous, sensual, bubbly, flowing like water, and in that way expressive of the movement of the crowds in and out of the station. The aluminum’s screeny, scrimmy mesh look apears too metallic and cold, like a millennial revival of those tacky patterned scrims Edward Durell Stone would use on his buildings, which wore thin (so to speak) after a while. Glass is class, scrim is grim!

  2. F. Behr says:

    The metal will collect dust and will not be cleaned the same way that the glass would need to be. It will also oxidize and dull with time. It is a disastrous idea. The glass facade would have looked much more elegant and would have maintained its beautiful and complex reflectivity for a very long time. I have used perforated metal and it tends to look cold and dirty over time.
    I do not think that 17 million dollars warrants such a significant esthetic change to such a large and important project in a very beautiful city.

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