from the Similarity Files – or, “haven’t we met before?” Shaklee Terraces

Shaklee Terraces, 444 Market Street, San Francisco CA, United States

Architect: Skidmore Owings Merrill, 1979

Isn’t this somewhat eerily familiar, in this pic at least (and a whole bunch of others by Thomas Hawk, which can be seen here)? While any similarities to a certain green building, completed in our own city almost a decade later (and with a consequent PoMo twist), are no doubt only superficial, the resemblance is nevertheless striking. Our example is noted by local authors as “a tour de force of stylish design” (Hodgson), and as making a “clear reference to the undulating facade of Gummer’s 1940 State Insurance Building” (Shaw), which means of course, that any similarities to SOM’s Shaklee Terraces are entirely incidental…

Comments welcome (and please feel free to email in any other projects for the Similarity Files…)



2 responses to “from the Similarity Files – or, “haven’t we met before?” Shaklee Terraces”

  1. Well, yes, there is a total similarity and blatant copying going on here – but then is that a bad thing? Isn’t there a fine tradition of 2000+ years of Greek and Roman and Neo-Classical columned portico buildings that we could also accuse of blatant plagiarism?

    Is it not better that people copy off an excellent example, rather than attempt to make up something similar and end missing by a million miles? The image of a modern suburb comes to mind, with its screeds of nasty me-too houses, all with badly proportioned columns to a tacked on portico, with poorly conceived porches using Hume concrete sewer pipes as the structure – or even polystyrene pilasters stuck to the front of the house?

  2. Nice of you to take umbrage on behalf etc (a nervousness for the image of the architectural profession?), but in defence of the post (and others that might follow), you misinterpret my intentions – this is sport, not criticism… You’ll note no value judgments, and no potential libel for that matter (unlike your reply!).

    Mind you, we do live in a culture that values originality and authorship, so criticism could definitely be mounted on that front. And, your Classical comparison misses the mark somewhat, given the established rigour associated with the grammar of the Classical architectural ‘language’. Some might argue that Modernism approached that, but the type of mimicry exhibited here (if indeed it is mimicry at all) is of a wholly different order to working within a set of established elements and ordering…

    Anyway, you raise some interesting issues, and I’d love to get others’ take on this – is this type of post too provocative/insulting/superficial/trite? Is unacknowledged ‘borrowing’ a sanctioned part of architectural design? What of originality and authorship? Is the emperor really wearing new clothes?

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