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Because It's Shark Week, the 10 Most Fin-Tastic Buildings in SF

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Google's foiled barge notwithstanding, architecture tends to be an enterprise for landlubbers. That leaves the likes of us high and dry during the rest of the world's blockbuster feeding frenzies (hey there, Sharknado Week!), but design is a discipline that lends itself to abstractions—aaand the occasional conceptual overreach. So! Without further ado, we present our (thoroughly opportunistic, loosely interpreted) tribute to the most menacing of architectural elements, the fin. Keep your limbs inside the boat, friends, we're entering highly tenuous thematic waters!

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1. San Francisco Federal Building

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90 7th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

When Thom Mayne's Federal Building opened in 2007, John King singled out the 18-story structure's stainless steel panels, which "fold over the broad concrete frame like some immense origami whim." Indeed! If that's not suitably fishlike, Mayne further embellished with 55 rows of slender glass fins. But with that flippy upturned canopy shading those fins, we find the building's profile more flirtatious than threatening.

2. Millennium Tower

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301 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 989-3333
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Handel Architects took a subtler approach at Millennium Tower, which is embellished with we'll-call-'em-minnow-scale fins of glass and metal to mimic the effect of a translucent crystal.

3. UCSF Medical Center Parking

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1625 Owens Street
San Francisco, CA 94158

Designed by WRNS for UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, this 10-story aluminum-finned parking structure presents either a solid metallic front or a peekaboo glimpse of the cars housed inside, depending on where you stand. Like one of those kinetic billboards, the garage appears to move—dare we say swim?—as you drive by. Photo: Tim Griffith

4. 555 Mission St.

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The motif on KPF’s 33-story tower in Yerba Buena is a little more stealthy—the vertical mullions are outfitted with thin glass and metal fins that act as subtle solar shades for this LEED Gold building. That crown on top can be a little menacing, though, especially when it peeks out of the fog.

5. 8 Octavia

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Because this is a fancy condo residence, those jade-green shading devices are not fins but louvers, which are simply gills for the sun! Plus, they are motorized—manipulable via a convenient wall switch—so no one’s going to prey on this fish anytime soon. Except, perhaps one day, flippers.

6. Transamerica Pyramid

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600 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

We can't decide: concrete crown or seriously spiky dorsal fin?

7. Flip House

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664 Wisconsin Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

Typically, windows are bounded by fins, but why can’t they also be fins? Anne Fougeron’s Flip House in Potrero Hill busts up the fourth wall with some seriously spiky glassforms. We (playfully) dubbed the Flip an architectural mullet—because that all-business stucco facade out front puts a damper on the party in the back—but the lingo evolves with each day’s headlines, what can we say. Photo: Joe Fletcher

8. Cathedral of St. Mary

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1111 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 567-2020

Nautically speaking, the quadruple prow of St Mary's more resembles a kind of modernist cruise ship than a beast of the sea. Despite its size, it's a wily one, though; you can never tell which way it's swimming!

9. Google Barge

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(415) 274-0660

Because every sharkitecture roundup needs a seafaring vessel, we can't resist including this rendering of the Google Barge, even though the real thing cut a much sterner profile. One can dream!

10. SFMOMA

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151 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA

Snøhetta's remodel of Great White SFMOMA will be clad in a lightly reflective vacuum-molded concrete, which, in the renderings at least, looks quite hydrodynamic.

1. San Francisco Federal Building

90 7th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

When Thom Mayne's Federal Building opened in 2007, John King singled out the 18-story structure's stainless steel panels, which "fold over the broad concrete frame like some immense origami whim." Indeed! If that's not suitably fishlike, Mayne further embellished with 55 rows of slender glass fins. But with that flippy upturned canopy shading those fins, we find the building's profile more flirtatious than threatening.

90 7th St
San Francisco, CA 94103

2. Millennium Tower

301 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Handel Architects took a subtler approach at Millennium Tower, which is embellished with we'll-call-'em-minnow-scale fins of glass and metal to mimic the effect of a translucent crystal.

301 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94105

3. UCSF Medical Center Parking

1625 Owens Street, San Francisco, CA 94158

Designed by WRNS for UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, this 10-story aluminum-finned parking structure presents either a solid metallic front or a peekaboo glimpse of the cars housed inside, depending on where you stand. Like one of those kinetic billboards, the garage appears to move—dare we say swim?—as you drive by. Photo: Tim Griffith

1625 Owens Street
San Francisco, CA 94158

4. 555 Mission St.

555 Mission St., California 94105

The motif on KPF’s 33-story tower in Yerba Buena is a little more stealthy—the vertical mullions are outfitted with thin glass and metal fins that act as subtle solar shades for this LEED Gold building. That crown on top can be a little menacing, though, especially when it peeks out of the fog.

5. 8 Octavia

San Francisco, CA

Because this is a fancy condo residence, those jade-green shading devices are not fins but louvers, which are simply gills for the sun! Plus, they are motorized—manipulable via a convenient wall switch—so no one’s going to prey on this fish anytime soon. Except, perhaps one day, flippers.

6. Transamerica Pyramid

600 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

We can't decide: concrete crown or seriously spiky dorsal fin?

600 Montgomery St
San Francisco, CA 94111

7. Flip House

664 Wisconsin Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

Typically, windows are bounded by fins, but why can’t they also be fins? Anne Fougeron’s Flip House in Potrero Hill busts up the fourth wall with some seriously spiky glassforms. We (playfully) dubbed the Flip an architectural mullet—because that all-business stucco facade out front puts a damper on the party in the back—but the lingo evolves with each day’s headlines, what can we say. Photo: Joe Fletcher

664 Wisconsin Street
San Francisco, CA 94107

8. Cathedral of St. Mary

1111 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Nautically speaking, the quadruple prow of St Mary's more resembles a kind of modernist cruise ship than a beast of the sea. Despite its size, it's a wily one, though; you can never tell which way it's swimming!

1111 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94109

9. Google Barge

San Francisco, CA 94130

Because every sharkitecture roundup needs a seafaring vessel, we can't resist including this rendering of the Google Barge, even though the real thing cut a much sterner profile. One can dream!

10. SFMOMA

151 3rd St., San Francisco, CA

Snøhetta's remodel of Great White SFMOMA will be clad in a lightly reflective vacuum-molded concrete, which, in the renderings at least, looks quite hydrodynamic.

151 3rd St.
San Francisco, CA