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John King
Worked at San Francisco Chronicle
Lives in Berkeley, California
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John King

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Silicon Valley is all about innovation, right? So it claims. But here's something that IS innovative: a large-scale land-use plan in Fremont by Perkins + Will that allows the unexpected to happen, understanding that we don't know what people will want in 10 or 15 years.
In a region where imaginative planning often is constrained by fears of the unknown, it's startling to see a major city take an open-ended approach to nearly 900 acres of high-profile land. The goal is to clear the way for upward of 20,000 jobs and 3,000 housing units on 879 acres at the Warm Springs BART Station, set to open in the fall of 2015. The Bay Area's fourth most-populous city (218,000 residents), its current claim to fame being the h...
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John King

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George Lucas, whose knack for repackaging all manifestations of Star Wars is equalled only by his love of old-fashioned buildings, chooses ultra-contemporary MAD Architects to design his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Chicago. What the what?
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/place/article/Lucas-architect-choice-for-Chicago-light-years-5673214.php
The lead designer will be MAD Architects, a Chinese firm whose lone North American project is a pair of curvaceous residential towers in metropolitan Toronto that could be squeezed metallic toothpaste tubes. When decision-makers turned him down after a combustive public competition, Lucas and his $700 million collection were lured to Chicago. Because of this, some observers in the design world speculate that Lucas is an architectural agnostic. ...
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Kaiser Permanente has a new hospital complex in Oakland that made this architecture critic turn pale and get the shakes. Some readers, though, say I'm nothing more than a cranky quack. Join in the debate, and take the poll!.
  My review today of Kaiser Permanente's new Oakland hospital has sparked a healthy debate among readers -- not all of whom agree with my diagnosis of the 7.6-acre agglomeration of slabs as "e...
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Architecture's feel-good story of last week was Julia Morgan receiving the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. But it wasn't a fluke -- hard work went into making the case for a master whose best known work dates from before the Great Depression. 
[...] when it came time to make the case that a self-sufficient woman who died in 1957 deserved the most prestigious award in American architecture, her boosters left nothing to chance - which is why Morgan's grandniece on Saturday will receive the annual Gold Medal presented by the American Institute of Architects. Not all of the attention was favorable; skeptics raised the specter of tokenism, a way to break the males-only barrier with a woman...
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Donald Trump has met his match in Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin. Don't ask me, ask Jon Stewart -- he turned their "Signfeud" into a five minute "Daily Show" riff. My "Urban Landscapes" blog.
The architecture story of the moment is playing out in Chicago, and it pits a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic against a belligerent billionaire whose name rhymes with chump. The critic is Blair Kamin...
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Renzo Piano, the go-to architect for cultural buildings, has a new commission in the Bay Area -- a shopping mall, albeit one with lofty ambitions. Read on; even if those ambitions fall short, it's good to see one of the world's leading architects looking at the mass landscape.
http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Master-architect-Renzo-Piano-s-new-gig-A-5553515.php
Grand rhetoric aside, what's proposed is down-to-earth: a block filled by a pair of two-story, U-shaped buildings that together enclose a long open space. The upper level has glass walls facing the piazza, but its exterior is corrugated aluminum. There's no resemblance to the stage-set "main streets" of Bay Street in Emeryville, or San Jose's Santana Row, where the outside world is met with loading docks and parking garages. To the east is ano...
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John King

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Urban public spaces matter, no matter what their size.
S.F. shows audacity, imagination with public plazas that create urban gathering places in unexpected spots Yet the aspirations of a city can also be measured in smaller scraps of land - the remnant spaces that often are blighted or ignored, but with imaginative design and care have the potential to be destinations. The most visible redo is Mechanics Plaza on Market Street in the Financial District, an urbane update rather than an attempt to sta...
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San Francisco's fear of heights meets a 910-foot-tall, 80 yards wide tower proposal with a design by Lord Norman Foster -- and it fits the zoning for the block across from the even taller Salesforce Tower.
A new pair of towers proposed for downtown San Francisco would include the city's second-tallest building - and perhaps its most startling public space, an open-air plaza set beneath the main tower's elevated first floor. Except for the elevator lobbies at the rear of the plaza the tower would begin 70 feet in the air, clad in glass and held in place by diagonal columns forming giant X's along the outer walls. "The way you walk along and throug...
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Mondrian -- Flintstone -- View-Master ... and 15 other S.F. houses that would make a Painted Lady blush.
San Francisco’s residential architecture gets reduced to easy stereotypes: Victorian frills at one extreme, storybook stucco at the other. Then you navigate the streets and hills and realize how si...
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George Lucas is crating up his "narrative art" and shipping it to Chicago, and who's to blame for his wanderlust? Ed Lee says the Presidio Trust. I beg to differ.
While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel methodically assembled a well-connected task force to explore sites within his city that might captivate the billionaire filmmaker, Lee made no public gesture in Lucas' direction until early May. Lee's plea a bit tardyIn fact, Lee didn't start making a play for the Lucas museum until a week after a call for civic action appeared in The Chronicle from former Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife, Charlotte...
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Almost by definition, convention center buildings turn their back to the surrounding city. The newest phase of Moscone Center -- a vertical makeover of the FIRST phase from the early 1980s -- is working to reverse that trend. My quick critique? Rough patches ahead, but the architects are heading in the right direction.
Like a pickup easing into a snug parking space without scraping the convertibles on either side, the planned expansion of Moscone Convention Center now looks as if it might fit its setting and not do major harm. [...] the latest batch of changes to the proposed design should help make the south end of Yerba Buena Gardens feel more like part of the city and less like a zone for special events. [...] an earlier scheme that overwhelmed the gardens...
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Climate change and local politics may seem worlds apart -- but if federal projections are anywhere close to accurate, San Francisco's downtown waterfront will be under siege in coming decades. And that, not tall buildings, is the urban design challenge ahead.
[...] that San Francisco voters have said they want final say on waterfront development, we'll see if they have the courage and smarts to tackle the real job at hand - facing up to the need to deal with rising sea levels. The long-range view was absent from the debate over Proposition B, which voters approved last week and which locks in the current height limits on land owned by the Port of San Francisco. Seas to rise 3 to 4 feetThe National R...
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Have him in circles
35 people
Nanette Asimov's profile photo
Lois Kazakoff's profile photo
Sam Singer's profile photo
Jon Ferguson's profile photo
Sam Whiting's profile photo
Andrea Abney's profile photo
Suzanne Espinosa's profile photo
Emily Snyder's profile photo
Jonathan Kauffman's profile photo
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  • San Francisco Chronicle
    Urban Design Critic
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Urban Design Critic, San Francisco Chronicle
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The Chronicle's eye on architecture, planning, urban design and the built terrain of the San Francisco Bay Area. He's the author and photographer of the 2011 Heyday book "Cityscapes: San Francisco and Its Buildings," an outgrowth of his Sunday Chronicle column. He also contributes to such magazines as Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture and Metropolis. 
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Berkeley, California
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