Hallidie Building
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Architect Willis Polk
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Location San Francisco, California   map
Date 1918   timeline
Building Type mixed retail & commercial offices
 Construction System curtain wall and
Climate mild temperate
Context urban street
Style Early Modern
Notes Curtain wall facade trimmed with cast iron detail.


Photo, exterior, facade overview

Photo, exterior overview, historical
Discussion Hallidie Building Commentary

"Credited as the first glass-curtain wall and more curtainlike in its unbroken transparency, bracketed away from the structural frame, than almost anything since."

— Sally B. Woodbridge and John M. Woodbridge. Architecture San Francisco—the Guide. San Francisco: 101 Productions, 1982.

"The gothic trimmings on Polk's frontage to the Hallidie Building tend to obscure one of the finest and most uncharacteristic façades to be erected on the west coast in the late 1910s. The sheer wall of glass of this eight-storey framed structure, which had no columns on the exterior in order to provide large areas of display space, was prophetic. Of particular interest, too, are the small projecting balconies on either side of the wide front which have an unobtrusive linking fire-escape."

— Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. p57.

"The first application of a pure curtain wall to any building in America came some six years after the completion of Peter Behrens's Turbine Factory in Berlin with its flanking glass walls. ...While Polk had visited Europe soon after the completion of the Fagus-Werk it is unlikely that he was familiar with...these precedents. One other reason for the Hallidie Building may have been Polk's decision to break with the heavyweight Richardsonian manner, that Neo-Romanesque style which Polk once described as 'Titanic inebriation in sandstone.' After 1893 Polk was in any event under the influence of Burnham's highly successful Beaux-Arts Columbian Exposition staged in Chicago in that year. All the same, this in itself in no way accounts for a structure of such extraordinary precision and lightness. Such a work was hardly eclectic practice prior to 1915. Like the Monadnock Block in the career of John Root this seven-storey structure was to be the unique triumph of Polk's career.

"Natural light, budget limitations, and a desire to facilitate erection, were all to influence Polk's decision to produce an all-glass facade and this he was to achieve by exploiting the cantilevering capacity of reinforced concrete to its fullest. A regular grid of mullions held the glass membrane in place with three vertical subdivisions per floor; the top pane of each storey pivoting outwards for the purposes of ventilation. This transparent wall was suspended 3'-3" in front of the support line, which was comprised of a 2'-6" diameter hexagonal reinforced columns at twenty-foot centres. The weight of the glass skin alone was carried on a 3" projecting concrete sill, cantilevered out from the upstand beam. These sills simultaneously served as horizontal 'firebreaks' between one floor and the next. The upstand spandrel projected 1'-6" above the floor level, while the hollow-ribbed concrete slab itself was one foot six inched deep."

— from Kenneth Frampton and Yukio Futagawa. Modern Architecture 1851-1945. p194.


Address:130-150 Sutter StreetSan Francisco, California

In the San Francisco financial district.

Named after the inventor of the cable car, Andrew S. Halladie.

Sources on Hallidie Building

Sir Banister Fletcher. Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture. 18th ed., revised by J.C. Palmes. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975. ISBN 684-14207-4. NA200.F63. photo, p1276. comment, p1277. — The classic text of architectural history. Expanded 1996 edition available at Amazon.com

Kenneth Frampton. Modern Architecture 1851-1945. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1983. ISBN 0-8478-0565-9. LC 83-61363. NA642.F7 1983. discussion, p194. photo of front facade, p194. — Available at Amazon.com

A. J. Peterson, Oakland, CA. Slide from photographer's collection, Nov 1993. PCD.2287.1022.1938.041.

Leland M. Roth. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1979. ISBN 0-06-430086-2. NA705.R67 1979. exterior photo of facade, f162, p186.

Dennis Sharp. Twentieth Century Architecture: a Visual History. New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-8160-2438-3. NA680.S517. facade photo and erroneous comment, p57. — Available at Amazon.com

Sally B. Woodbridge and John M. Woodbridge. Architecture San Francisco—the Guide. San Francisco: 101 Productions, 1982. NA735.S35W63 1982 917.94'610453. ISBN 0-89286-204-1 82-14291. commentary and small facade photo, p23.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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