The Signature Building of San Francisco Backstory

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The idea of a city’s signature buildings first occurred to me while I was teaching our Humanities department course, “Biography of a City:Paris,” one of a series of course devoted to exploring the cultural life of the great cities in civilization.  It was apparent to me that, during the Middle Ages in Paris, Notre Dame de Paris both physically and intellectually (including religiously) dominated the spirit of the city. “What can I do to be saved?” was the chief concern of all Parisians concerned about the fate if their souls after death.

But by the time of Louis XIV, the motif had become “How can France achieve glory?” Incorporating bot the religious and military prime questions, Les Invalides gave expression to the transformed goal of Parisian life.  The Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower would represent later transformations of these prime concerns.

So what were the signatures of the city of San Francisco? Though not as easy to determine, the buildings presented in this visual essay represent my best thoughts on the subject as I formulated them many years (actually, decades) ago. I’m no longer so confident in my choice of signature buildings, but I decided to let my original ideas stand in this essay. If you have different notions, feel free to express them.

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