Bank of California Tower

Ashen + Allen
San Francisco
Building Type:
400 California Street, San Francisco, California
Current Name:
Union Bank of California
Current Use:
Bank and Office Tower
Current Condition:
Not Listed
The graceful 21-story tower addition designed in 1967 by Anshen and Allen carefully flanks the imposing 1908 banking hall designed by Bliss and Faville, and cantilevers over it just slightly. The Bliss and Faville structure is one of the Financial District’s grandest banks, with a striking colonnade of Corinthian columns outside and a stately marble interior. Leaving the original bank unaltered and adding the tower to its side allowed the architects to create a dynamic relationship between the two forms. An interesting fact about the design is that Anshen and Allen hired architectural historian James Marston Fitch, a leader in the US historic preservation movement (and later, founder of Columbia University’s graduate preservation program) to consult on the design. Clearly the designers of the addition took cues from the architecture of the Beaux Arts bank. The color and vertical relief on the precast concrete panels echoes the color and fluting of the old bank’s limestone columns. The horizontally banded façade alternates between short ribbon windows and taller sections of precast concrete panels which pick up the height of the old bank’s entablature. The flaring copper trim above the lobby entrance is a light-hearted touch that doesn’t relate to the rest of the design. The roof of the historic bank was turned into a usable terrace accessed from the tower, creating a charming moment where old and new come together.

Image Credits:
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library



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