Explore your world
The Infinity © Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr
The Infinity © Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

The Most Beautiful Contemporary Buildings In San Francisco

Picture of Natalie Savio
Updated: 9 January 2017
Ever stare at a building and try to guess its age? Some may appear to be quite obviously from a certain decade, while others take a little more analyzing. Just so you don’t have to keep guessing, here is a guide to San Francisco’s most beautiful contemporary buildings.

JPMorgan Chase Building

The JPMorgan Chase Building was designed by Cesar Pelli, from the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, in 2002. The firm puts into play a combination of both modern and classical elements to make this beautiful office building. At 31 stories, the boxy building is 420 feet high and has 655,000 square feet of office space. There is also a large POPOS plaza at the base of the building, and two levels of underground parking.

JPMorgan Chase Building, 560 Mission St, San Francisco, CA, USA

JPMorgan Chase Building © Ken Lund/Flickr

JPMorgan Chase Building | © Ken Lund/Flickr

La Cocina

Since 2005, the community kitchen La Cocina has been dedicated to helping people, especially immigrant women, start their own restaurant or food business. The idea behind this non-profit is for La Cocina to provide the tools and the resources for low-income food entrepreneurs. Located in the Mission, La Cocina’s building is beautiful, but does not take away from the other buildings and culture surrounding it. Along with La Cocina, the three townhouses behind the kitchen incubator are also designed by Paulett Taggart Architects, opening to a small courtyard.

La Cocina, 2948 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 824 2729

De Young Museum © SharedWT/Wikimedia

De Young Museum | © SharedWT/Wikimedia

De Young Museum

Although the De Young Museum was originally built in 1894 for the California Midwinter International Exposition, the building was deemed unsafe in 1929 and was subsequently demolished in the 1940s. From there on, the art that was displayed at the De Young Museum was transported and could be viewed at several locations throughout the year, eventually necessitating a more permanent solution: the current building now in Golden Gate Park. The De Young Museum was designed by Swiss architects Herzon & de Meuron and was built in 2005. Blending art, architecture, and nature, the De Young Museum’s copper building is the sixth most visited art museum in North America and the 35th most visited in the world.

De Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA, USA

De Young Museum © Sharon Mollerus/Flickr

De Young Museum | © Sharon Mollerus/Flickr

Curran House

In 2005, the Curran House was developed because of a need for more affordable housing in San Francisco. Located in the Tenderloin, the Curran House has 67 units with nearly 60 percent of them having two bedrooms or larger for families. The complex was designed by David Baker Architects in conjunction with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing. The apartment building does not have parking because of budgeting, which allowed for more units to be built, and the tenants do not have cars. Instead, there is a large garden in the backyard that is accessible by a glass garage door, as well as a roof-top garden.

Curran House, 145 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA, USA

Plaza Apartments

In 2006, the nine-story Plaza Apartments were built in SOMA and designed by Paulett Taggart Architects. The apartment complex is a mixed-use building, providing not only 106 small studio apartments each with their own bathroom, but also a laundry room, community rooms, a rooftop patio, retail stores, a community theater, and support services. The playful yellow and red plywood façade sits in the framework created by the building’s concrete structure.

Plaza Apartments, 988 Howard St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 344 0106

California Academy of Sciences

Right across from the De Young Museum is the California Academy of Sciences, a natural history museum which takes a different approach to how it fits into its environment — Golden Gate Park. While the De Young Museum emerges from the greenery surrounding it with its copper-clad structure standing tall, the California Academy of Sciences blends in with its environment, hidden under its green rooftop. In 2008, the California Academy of sciences was redesigned by Renzo Piano, giving the museum its infamous green roof.

California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 379 8000

California Academy of Sciences © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

California Academy of Sciences © Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

The Infinity

Completed in 2009, The Infinity is a combination of two high-rise towers and two eight-story plazas. Bernardo Fort-Crescia of the firm Arquitectonica designed the apartment skyscrapers with a modern approach that still feels warm and inviting on the inside. It goes without saying that the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking and are highlighted by the building’s curving shape. There is also a two story club lounge, a theater, a rooftop terrace, a fitness center, and a large pool.

The Infinity, 301 Main St, San Francisco, CA, USA

The Infinity © Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

The Infinity © Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

SFMOMA Expansion

Set to open on May 14, 2016, SFMOMA’s Expansion is stunning to look at; we can only imagine how great it will be inside. To meet the demand for more space, the new building was designed by Snøhetta and will have free galleries on the ground-level for the public, better visitor circulation, and a rooftop sculpture garden.

SFMOMA Expansion, 670 Howard St, San Francisco, CA, USA