101 California St. Plaza (SWA 2)

Designers: SWA Group, Johnson/Burgee Architects | City: San Francisco, CA | Project Type: urban plaza
Date Visited: 11.03.12

Locations: 101 California St
Official Opening Date: 1982

The recipient of a Strybing Arboretum Society Award of Excellence and a California Garden Club Merit Award, 101 California St. Plaza is a triangular granite plaza consisting of colorful, seasonal terraced gardens. Located at the base of a glass-enclosed 48-story cylindrical office skyscraper, this plaza is an easily recognizable landmark along California St–not only does the triangular granite sharply contrast with the rounded, glass-enclosed building base, but the rows of brightly colored potted flowers and wild-looking foxtail ferns also add a sense of whimsy.

SWA Group served as consultants on the 101 California St. project, which was carried out by the Johnson/Burgee, Architects.

I’ve come by the plaza on two occasions: once, on a late Saturday afternoon, and the second during lunch hour on a weekday. While the plaza serves well as a popular lunch spot–the plaza is bathed in sunlight during afternoon hours and the granite terraced steps are the perfect height for sitting–the plaza stands on its own as a bright and curious landmark when unoccupied; the curb appeal is doubly important when you consider that the California cable car route passes right in front of the plaza.

101 California St plaza serves successfully as an easily recognizable landmark and as a temporary meeting space or lunch spot; however, it’s definitely not a place to sit and linger for very long. The rigid geometric patterns, manicured look, and its exposed location on the edge of a busy street make it uninviting to stay and relax–which, when considering that it’s a privately-owned plaza, is likely the point.

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