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Dreaming Of Summer -The Intimacy of Rome

I have , on these dark wet winter days , taken to dreaming of summer. One such daydream has me wandering around sun-baked European towns and cities. It seems another lifetime, not just 5 months, that we found ourselves in Italy, each day some variant of that. I decided I would indulge this daydreaming with some reminiscing on a week spent in Rome, and some … Continue reading Dreaming Of Summer -The Intimacy of Rome


I walk everywhere, and sometimes I think I’ve walked every block in the city. And then, I’ll discover something I’ve never seen, and realize that’s not the case. Here’s the latest example. Now, I really like the Tenderloin, but I guess there hasn’t been much call for me to be on the 600 block of Ellis Street. But I was headed to the Civic Center, … Continue reading Tenderhouse

Those Damn Residents, If They Would Only Listen

A new condo building went up in the neighborhood recently. Here it is:

I like this building’s reinterpretation of a two apartment wide block of flats with bays. I think its interest lies in its tweaking of the massing, angled center section with bays rising to the top, rather than contained within, the main box of  the building, as well as the use of materials- steel and concrete in particular. It’s received a fair amount of adulation in the press, which surprised me a bit, since despite my comments above, the building really doesn’t break any significant new ground. What it does do impeccably, is reflect the current fashion of the day, namely checkerboard window and textural patterns , oriented vertically if at all possible, something poor XIP Cleaners next door doesn’t have going for it.

This building is a crisply detailed modern building, and as such, one of its key features is the floor to ceiling glass. This glass does 2 things, it lets a large amount of light (and heat) into these south-facing rooms, but it also lets the passerby glimpse in, perhaps, at the hoped for exquisitely furnished modern digs. And herein lies the classic problem for the modernist, controlling the interior. For in the condo, building, once its  sold and you turn over the keys to a buyer, they likely have their own ideas. So architects hurry to get the interior photos shot before someone moves in. So how has this turned out here:

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Last Call For The TransBay Terminal

Last week, Urban Ambles wandered down to the Transbay terminal for one last time. The terminal has been , for years, the terminus of transit to and from the East Bay, and the terminal is slated  for demolition. In its place is planned a spectacular new station that is hoped to be a nexus for not just East Bay commuters, but Peninsula trains, in-city passages  to Bart and Muni, and the coup de grace; high speed rail from Southern California. They were giving tours of the station, and I joined in. It was an odd mix; a small horde of camera toting enthusiasts set against the usual commuters for whom it was just another day, and the “residents”  who call it home.

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Welcome To Clubland

Commuting via  Muni or BART for us means walking down from Nob Hill to the Powell Street BART Station. Descending to the station, one passes through a dense  neighborhood of retail with apartments above, and interspersed amongst these buildings are a collection of noble  brick buildings that are almost civic in their character; modern-day urban palazzi. They differ from their neighborhood brethren in their absence of retail at the street, or apartments and lodging above. These buildings  look as though  they might be libraries,  banquet halls, or  even theaters. Well, to varying degrees , they are all of these, they are, in fact, private clubs. My dear reader, we bring you Clubland.

The private club is largely of  English origin, initially for men only, and many were centered in the St. James area of London. These “gentlemen’s” clubs served as a place of social(and no doubt business) interaction for the like-minded elite of London. In a certain era, one could see these clubbers dashing about with walking stick and bowler hat . (Urban Ambles spotted a couple, as though in search of a rare yellow-breasted Scottish warbler, on a recent trip to London). Over time, the tradition spread to the United States, and in our aforementioned district, there are a number. Set amongst the otherwise retail bustle and eclectic mix of tourists, local denizens, hip art students, and, well, just plain crazy, they are understandably discreet.

Weaving Spiders Come Not Here

No weaving spiders

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