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César Pelli, architect of Salesforce Tower and Transbay Transit Center, dies at 92

“Cities are our most important responsibility,” said the architect. “They are the whole of which our buildings are the parts.”

Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli smiles
Cesar Pelli smiles during an interview with AFP in Hong Kong, March 2005.
Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Noted Argentine-American architect César Pelli, who designed some of the tallest buildings in the world, like the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and some of San Francisco’s most prominent structures, like Salesforce Tower, died in New Haven on Friday at the age of 92.

“I want to send my condolences to the family and friends of the talented César Pelli,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter. “The works he leaves around the world as a legacy are a pride for Argentines.”

Salesforce Tower and the three-block-long Transbay Transit Center, due to their inescapable size, are Pelli’s best-known works in San Francisco. But one of his finest projects in the city is the J.P. Morgan Building, a circa-2002, 31-story minimalist tower wrapped in black steel that opened at 560 Mission.

Chronicle urban design critic John King called it “the finest tower built in San Francisco this century.”

Pelli also conceived the Pacific Design Center, famous for its blue glass facade, in West Hollywood; Kurayoshi Park Square in Japan; and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. He was the dean at Yale School of Architecture from 1977-1984, and his firm, Pelli Clarke Pell, is located in New Haven. (The second Pelli in the firm’s name is his son, Rafael.) In 1995, he won the coveted gold medal from the American Institute of Architects.