Mies in San Francisco? Almost

December 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

A 1958 rendering of the Mies van der Rohe towers proposed for the foot of Russian Hill.

A 1958 rendering of the Mies van der Rohe towers proposed for the foot of Russian Hill.

LUDWIG MIES VAN DER RHOE was among the 20th century’s most revered modern architects, known for such meticulous landmarks as the Seagram Building in New York.

What wasn’t known until this year is that in 1958 he designed two towers intended for San Francisco β€” a pair of dark metal slabs that would have stood at the base of Russian Hill, filling a block that now is a city park.

That location was second choice. The first site the team coveted was a block on Marina Boulevard across from Fort Mason. But the developer was outbid by Safeway, which built the supermarket that opened in 1959 and still does a brisk business.

When he was 74, Mies was in San Francisco for a convention of the American Institute of Architects. He was to receive the group’s highest honor, its gold medal. His hosts took him to the Buena Vista cafe and insisted he try an Irish coffee, the house specialty then as well as now.

“He was skeptical, but he agreed,” one remembered. “One taste led to another, and pretty soon the guy famous for not being talkative β€” we couldn’t stop him.”

Read more: “Planned high-rises near the bay never made it big”

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