DZINE + Lissoni Event Part 2: “Rising Towers: In Conversation with Lissoni Inc.”

The theme of bravery carried over into the evening event’s conversation about “Rising Towers,” with the group reflecting on the ongoing challenges of building in San Francisco.

The panel, also moderated by Austin Forbord, consisted of Stefano Giussani, and local architects and developers including Stanley Saitowitz, Mark Schwettmann, Vivian Lee and Andy Ardila.

The evening group shared the prevailing view about San Francisco that “we are open-minded about everything else but design.” And that in spite of challenges with getting plans approved by the City, the overriding sentiment is one of incredible optimism for what San Francisco can be.

“I love the intensification of what is going on – the rich urbanity – but I also don’t want to be the same as every global city,” shared Stanley Saitowitz. This view addressed the fast pace of high-rise development, against the feeling of ‘being confused’ when in certain parts of the city that don’t even look like San Francisco.

“Walking around Mission and 1st I sometimes can’t recognize where I am. It feels like a place I don’t know, or maybe it feels like every place I know,” explained Saitowitz. This fear of sameness was how Saitowitz referred to the “blue blob” that is growing in downtown South of Market.

When talking about the future of how we live, including the movement towards residential towers, Vivian Lee shared her view about what is missing in San Francisco. That as we build towers, the idea of selling smaller units is appealing to help “force people to go outside and engage with humanity.” Lee believes that, “we need more urban energy as the city is quiet at 8 pm.” Giussani added, “Life does happen in the street in Europe.”

“Living in a tower is not about a box; it’s about bringing the ground up,” said Mark Schwettman of SOM. “With rising construction costs, the margins are smaller for residential development. The planning challenges we face in this city force us to be more collaborative and creative. Like in Hayes Valley where a tower is being built on top of a new school, supported by the proceeds from the development.”

Guissani reflected, “We built for the world and now the world is different. So we must reinvent, always reinvent.”

Many of the panelists are also connected to the new Treasure Island development, which they deemed a model for collaboration and shared possibility.

The shift from private spaces to more common, public spaces is a step in the right direction for the future of how we live, Lee and several others agreed. This includes Salesforce Park which is an example of “how the city can take advantage of the incredible culture here.” Lee’s project at 33 Tahoma Street includes some of the “most extraordinary amenity spaces I’ve ever seen,” said Saitowitz.

Andy Ardila offered his perspective on the “urban room” where private and public spaces come together, with a diversity of housing options, like at the Oceanwide Center mixed use project by Foster & Partners. His view is that the “changing skyline of San Francisco is exciting.”

Schwettman summed up the evening with, “You have to be intrinsically optimistic to do architecture in this City.”

We are grateful that they are.

Next: DZINE + Lissoni Event Part 1: “Medici by the Bay: A New Renaissance for Clients and Architects”