Architecture Downtown

Neighborhood: Downtown


After the 1906 earthquake crumbled and burned San Francisco, the city was back to square one. If it wanted to remain the major American city of the West, it wouldn’t just need to rebuild — it needed to transcend what had been done before.

Over the next century, luminous designers from Chicago and New York would bring their experiences working with new materials set at record heights to innovate the local blueprint. Architects like George Kelham, Willis Polk, William Pereira, and SOM would paint the skyline out of thin air. Julia Morgan, the first female licensed architect in California, would also make her Parisian Beaux Arts training evident downtown. Across the city, beautiful buildings went up every year.

Look up today, and you’ll see a new beacon dominating the sky: the Salesforce Tower, the tallest office building in the West. Hear about how San Francisco’s distinctive skyline and urban plan was shaped in the aftermath of catastrophe. Get to know the architects who revolutionized the way we build — and learn all the secrets of this city’s magnificent rise to the heavens.

Next Tours

  • Sunday, September 19 at 11:00 am given by Lisa RyersSign Up
  • Wednesday, September 22 at 11:00 am given by Edward O’NeilSign Up
  • Sunday, October 3 at 11:00 am given by Cara TramontanoSign Up
  • Sunday, October 10 at 11:00 am given by Linda DaySign Up
  • Monday, October 11 at 11:00 am given by Edward O’NeilSign Up
  • Sunday, October 17 at 11:00 am given by Lisa RyersSign Up
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Formerly known as Rising Steel: 20th Century Downtown Architecture

Tour Length: Approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours



Meet at the corner of Stockton and Maiden Lane, just east of Union Square. Public transportation: MUNI line 38; also near Powell Muni/BART station.


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Please note: Private groups tours required for groups of 8 or more.