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Skin Deep: Changes to the Transbay Transit Center Design Reflect Budgetary Realities

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Concerns about the financial bottom line have led to a revised proposal for the new Transbay Transit Center that calls for a perforated aluminum skin instead of the undulating glass that has been a signature of Pelli Clarke Pelli's design since it debuted in 2007. All told, the material change will cut an estimated $17 million from the project's $1.59 billion Phase 1 budget, in addition to providing additional blast resistance reducing the building's vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Though only skin deep, the redesign has big implications for the public face of the huge project bounded by Mission, Howard, 2nd and Beale streets. The glass was intended to create transparent and welcoming street-level experience and entry to center's shops and restaurants. Revised renderings show the perforated metal having a similar effect created by large openings and the artful lighting. Architect Fred Clarke told The Chronicle that despite the "dramatic change in material...the philosophical change is not enormous." Reality check: philosophy (and renderings) aside, aluminum metal isn't actually transparent.

The Board of Directors of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority will consider the change at its March 25 meeting and—given the difficulties the project has already encountered getting realistic bids for construction—it seems likely that the prospect of substantial financial savings will trump any concerns about the pedestrian experience. - Laura Tepper
· Transbay center design change proposed [SFGate]
[Rendering via Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects]

Transbay Transit Center

85 Natoma Street, San Francisco, CA