Transamerica Pyramid- Tallest Building in San Francisco


The Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest building in San Francisco, California.  This skyscraper designed by architect William Pereira has a height of 263 meters (853 ft) and is currrently tied for the 105th tallest building in the world.

What sparked this you might ask?

I was talking on the phone about some of the events of my day at work and I mentioned that one of my co-workers who recenly moved here had  said that in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  she worked at a Blood Center in the city that had four floors.

My mom said, ” what’s the tallest building in New Jersey”?

Good question.   I’ve been to the state’s  capitol, Trenton a city and didn’t recall any tall buildings there.

My husband takes out the Almanac for the year 2008 and proceeds to look it up. ( I didn’t buy a 2009 Almanac this year yet.)

It is 30 Hudson, Street, Jersey City, 43 stories high.

What’s the tallest building in San Francisco?

Later,  I decide to write about this here.  As I proceed to copy and paste this image onto my blog and I ask again  about New Jersey’s tallest building.  

“30 Hudson Street, Jersey City”,  my husband  calls out loudly  to me from another room as I ask for the second time.

Okay it’s late in the evening  and here I am again, typing away with yet another idea for a topic for my blog.

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It’s unique shape is the result of Transamerica to have a building whose top would be looked up to by the Bank Of America executives on the highest floor of 555 California street which sits on a higher elevation.   The land use and zoning restrictions for the parcel limited the number of square feet of office that could be built upon the lot, which sits at the northern boundary of the financial district.   The pyramid is an innovative solution to this design challenge, and when viewed from the East Bay forms a prominent and unique skyline projection, forming an important element of San Francisco’s “signature skyline”.

The building is a tall, four-sided pyramid with two “wings” on opposite sides of the building. The wing to the east of the building contains an elevator shaft, while the wing to the west contains a stairwell and a smoke tower. The top 64.6 m (212 ft) of the building is the spire. There are four cameras pointed in the four cardinal directions at the top of this spire forming a virtual observation deck. Four monitors in the lobby, whose direction and zoom can be controlled by visitors, display the cameras’ views 24 hours a day. An observation deck on the 27th floor was closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and replaced by the virtual observation deck. The top of the Transamerica Pyramid is covered with aluminum panels. During the holiday season, Thanksgiving, and 4th of July, a bright, white light is seen on top of the pyramid.


Appearances in pop culture of movies and syndicated television

Charmed :  The building is frequently featured in the WB series along with other popular San Francisco landmarks as an intermission between scenes.

Zodiac (movie, 2007)  features a time lapsed scene of the building’s construction between 1971 and 1972.  The effect was achieved with computer generated imagery.

The Presidio (movie 1988) the building features prominently in both day and night scenes.

A View to a Kill (1985) depicted James Bond  barely missing the antennae of the peak of a pyramid while being suspended from a blimp.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (movie 1978).  The building appears in a key scene appearing to separate two main characters , one of whom would be revealed to be  a villain a moment later.

 Livin’ on the Fault Line (1977 album by the Doobie brothers)  The building features on the cover but not in downtown San Francisco, instead on the beach next to a rocky cliff.  It appears parially submerged in the ocean on the rear cover.



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The information on Design and Pop Culture was taken from Wikipedia-the free encyclopedia.

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