In what will hopefully turn out to be a win for the less-than-impressive local skyline, San Francisco's Office of Community Investment & Infrastructure has selected noted Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas to design a 550-foot tower in the new Transbay district. Koolhaas is known for the beautifully glassy Seattle Central Library and San Francisco's steel-clad Prada Store in Union Square.
Koolhaas' firm is working with developer Related of California and will go up on a $72 million piece of land on Folsom Between First and Fremont Streets. The Chronicle's J.K. Dineen has a grim outlook on how rents will stack up in the new 40-plus story residential tower:
The Koolhaas-designed tower will be a mix of condominiums and rental apartments. While it will undoubtedly generate astronomical rents, at least 27 percent of the units must be affordable to residents making 60 percent of area median income — $58,250 for a family of four.
Although Koolhaas has big name appeal, his work at the Seattle Public Library was criticized by the Project for Public Spaces for failing to effectively connect with the neighborhood. "If the library were a true 'community hub,'" wrote critic Benjamin Fried, "its most active areas would connect directly to the street, spinning off activity in every direction." Hopefully, Koolhaas and company have taken that criticism to heart while planning for the Transbay District, where planners and designers are making a point to counteract all the tall construction and private space with a 5.4-acre park, a Redwood grove and a funicular.
As for the Prada Store, critics will tell you Koolhaas' other San Francisco work looks like a cheese grater, but that hasn't stopped Willie Brown from shopping there.
Finally, in related architecture news: powerhouse Chicago architect Jeanne Gang, known for Aqua in Chicago, has reportedly been hired by developer Tishman Speyer to design another tower in the Transbay District.
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly listed Koolhaas' nationality as Danish.