SOMA Architecture Tour – SF City Guides

In a bid to get to know the city and its diverse neighbourhoods, I signed up for my first free walking tour with a fantastic organisation, SF City Guides. 

My first tour, the SOMA architecture tour, met at 10am at the ‘blue cube’ (Jewish Contemporary Museum). Our guide Carole Dolighan welcomed a mixed bunch to the tour and we set off.

We didn’t have to walk more than a few paces to see our first building of interest the Jewish Contemporary Museum before crossing the road to walk past the Moscone Centre (which upon opening in 1981 kick-stared the regeneration of the area, bringing hotels, restaurants, shops and other developments) and the SFMOMA which has recently re-opened after an expansion. I won’t go into too much detail as I recommend you do the tour, but hearing about the area and the architects responsible for designing the buildings was fascinating. 

Next stop on our tour was what is now the Yelp! building. The historic Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Building was redeveloped in 2013 to make it a suitable home for Yelp! and its employees, but the lobby maintains all of the original art deco features and was a wonderful space to discover.

We then ventured into Downtown and saw two work-in-progress buildings. The new transport terminal covering 5 blocks is due to open in 2017 and if the architects vision is realised the Transbay Transit Centre will become a landmark in its own right as well as a transport hub. Directly down the street from this, the Salesforce tower is going up rapidly and is due to reach its full 61 storeys in 2017 when it will become the tallest building in San Francisco.

Next we moved on to my favorite discovery of the tour, POPOS (Privately owned public open spaces).

Over 50 of these spaces exist in downtown San Francisco and range from outdoor terraces and gardens to indoor spaces with cafes and seating areas. Developers and businesses occupying or building offices in the city are required to ‘give back’ to the public in the form of providing these wonderful spaces. We visited 3 on the tour and I stumbled across one at the Westfield Mall earlier in the week without realising what it was.

Examples of some of the artwork and space in the POPOS

I can’t wait to explore more POPOS and find the best spots to make the most of – there must be some great places to sit and write.

The SF City Guides offer over 60 guided tours of the city and I intend to join many more of them over the coming months. As a not for profit, they do appreciate donations and 80% of their income comes from walkers on the tours.

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