Going Up!

Today’s post is a bit later than usual because I spent my morning wandering around San Francisco looking at the construction.

Not that I’m a construction fanatic* by any means. I like to think my interest as an uncomplicated childlike delight in big machines. It’s possible I’m self-deluded.

* I tend to think of my Bay Bridge posts as being evidence of my deconstruction fanaticism.

In any case, there’s a lot of construction to look at, and the current crown jewel for anyone casually interested in building in general and building buildings in particular is the new Transbay Terminal. It’s been under construction for years–it had been under construction for years when I started this writing gig–and it’s finally graduated beyond the “giant hole in the ground” stage.

Mind you, it was an impressive hole, but seeing the building-shaped structure of I-beams, girders, and even some staircase frames is more viscerally satisfying than a two-block-long swimming pool.

I did find the layer of rust on much of the exposed metal a little disturbing in a proto-Bay Bridge Bolt Botch kind of way. But since the terminal isn’t in the middle of the bay, the risk of excessive cracking seems–to my layman’s logic–lower. More to the point, Caltrans is not involved in the construction. That lets me assume that industry standards are being observed and testing is being conducted (and documented). One can hope, anyway.

Down the street, I saw another construction project which will remain nameless*. The work is still at an early stage; it’s a partially-dug hole surrounded by fences. The latter, as is increasingly common, are covered with advertising.

* I could name it–and I expect a number of you will recognize it–but I don’t see any value in penalizing the whole project for the actions of a few clueless marketers. If you’re really curious, the project has a website (inevitably) and the URL includes a reference to its neighbor. Feel free to try to track it down with that hint.

The advertising is not, as it might have been in years past, for general products; instead, it’s for the building itself. And, as you might expect for something written by marketers, it’s puzzling. Allow me to quote a few of the blurbs–and yes, the signs are in all capital letters:

  • “NEWEST BUILDING ON THE BLOCK” – Well, no. Right now, it’s the newest hole in the ground on the block. At least until the next project breaks ground. I’m not trying to ill-wish the project, but calling it a building at this stage has more than a hint of counting unhatched chickens.
  • “LEADING-EDGE SUSTAINABLE DESIGN” – Again, no. Maybe the design is leading-edge today. But sustainable design is one of the fastest-moving areas of architecture. By the time the building is complete (the first quarter of 2018, according to the website), the design is likely to be seriously outdated. Or are they planning to update the design during construction? Maybe things are different in constructions, but in software development, building to a design that’s constantly being changed is one of the best ways to blow through your budget, deliver late, and produce code full of bugs. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like the Bay Bridge, doesn’t it? Well, Caltrans isn’t involved in this project either, so maybe they can pull it off.
  • “AT THE CENTER OF SF’S FUTURE” – Say what? If I take this in a literal “the future starts now” way, they’re implying that San Francisco has no future beyond about 2020. I hope that’s not what they meant–though with the odds of a major earthquake growing all the time, it does make me wonder about their seismic stability system, especially as a heck of a lot of that part of San Francisco is landfill, not bedrock. Maybe they’re trying to suggest that the neighborhood in question will be the most important part of town in the future? I’m dubious. Financial center, perhaps, but I don’t see the political and cultural centers moving in that direction. But business is all-important, so perhaps that’s sufficient.

2 thoughts on “Going Up!

    • Hang in there! The Transbay Terminal will be complete–at least this phase–in Summer 2017 (buses are supposed to start using it in August). That’s about the same time most of the other current projects should wrap up. So you’ve probably only got another couple of years of the ongoing aural assault!


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