Urban Grids: Financial District


San Francisco’s Financial District is a collection of towering, imposing structures surrounded by the buzz of business and economy. Just like in any major metropolitan center, the city’s success is in no small part due to the activities that happen within these city blocks.

This area has perhaps the most grids per square foot of any neighborhood within the city limits. It is not hard to see the reason why. The amount of people needed to keep its institutions running is massive, so a high demand for square footage means building up. And the only way to efficiently build higher and higher is to stack the building blocks into grids.

a wall of balconiees
the windows of two skyscrapers

The financial district is not traditionally a place for creativity and standing out. It is instead a place of high efficiency and financially proven methods, where businesses race to become the largest, both in size and value. Therefore, it is no big surprise that its facades give the impression that their gargantuan buildings never end. Rows upon rows upon rows of windows march along columns upon columns upon columns of even more windows. Undoubtedly, there must be some differences between each window on the inside, because unquestionably, warm people are inside. But on the outside, they look much the same from one row to the next.

The eye is given some relief when it finally transverses to the next building. But once again, fatigue sets in.

wall tiles
art deco metal trimmings

However, the Financial District still tries to showcase some creativity. For its citizens who tirelessly work within its confines, day in and day out, there must be a way to keep things refreshing. Graceful lines swirl across surfaces, creating interesting shapes with light and shadow. Elegant lines weave through bars, suggesting its denizens’ appreciation for fine craft and tasteful detail. At times, the stately energy breaks out of the grid and creates new forms. Is this a suggestion of the innovation that happens within these walls?

a grid in a stone wall
carved stone trimming
lobby of glass

At times, the financial center can appear cold and arrogant. The world is like a sea of mirrors, hiding all activities inside to the unprivileged outsider. Dominating columns of solid stone or strong steel peer down from massive heights. Even those lucky enough to be privy to its secrets—and to enter the doors—look no larger than ants scurrying through the doors.

glass wall with cement columns
steel trellis covering windows

Grids imposed upon grids are not a rare sight. They create interesting shapes, some like meshwork, tantalizing the eye to follow its lines and peer between the layers. Despite the thinness of the lines, there is an impressive sense of security. The odds at which fine details decorate the sturdy structures invites scrutiny and admiration.

Grids imposed upon grids are not a rare sight. They create interesting shapes, some like meshwork, tantalizing the eye to follow its lines and peer between the layers. Despite the thinness of the lines, there is an impressive sense of security. The odds at which fine details decorate the sturdy structures invites scrutiny and admiration.

metal gate

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