Salesforce Tower


Jason O’Rear

In 2018, more supertall towers were completed around the world than in any previous year.

Af Finn MacLeod

According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 18 new supertall towers — buildings rising 300 meters or higher — joined the global landscape, and most were instantly named the tallest tower in their cities. Trailing China in second place for most supertall completions nationally, the United States saw its skylines changed permanently with the addition of towers to cities across the country. From Miami to Philadelphia, New York to San Francisco, innovations in tall building design continue to drive cities skyward.

In San Francisco, where the technology industry continues to grow with unprecedented speed and enthusiasm, Salesforce Tower, the city’s new tallest building opened in 2018 in the heart of downtown. Dwarfing the former record holder — the iconic Transamerica Pyramid tower — the 61-story, 336-meter-tall Salesforce Tower soars boldly above the city’s downtown core. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects under the direction of renowned architect and Pritzker Prize-winner Cesar Pelli, the tower and adjacent transit center serve as the flagship headquarters for Salesforce, one of the world’s leading software companies.

Located between first and Fremont Streets, Salesforce Tower looms tall above the city. Nearly all buildings at the intersection are emblazoned with Salesforce insignia, an indicator of the company’s massive—and growing—workforce. The tower’s blue glass and integrated sunshades gleam in the sunlight, creating a beacon-like effect from dawn to dusk. At street level, the tower’s ultramodern design meets the ground with a sleek glass-enclosed lobby, notably absent of signature Salesforce digital displays. Its slim, though slightly inflated, form is slender in the skyline, forming a sharp contrast to San Francisco’s 1980s-era skyline.

Recalling the design of supertall towers from Hong Kong to Singapore, the sleek tower incorporates many familiar supertall motifs: a grid of metal fins running the height of the building’s exterior, curved corners, an aerodynamic form, and a dramatic crown. Its glass-enclosed crown serves as the tallest public art display in the United States, featuring a nine-story digital work by artist Jim Campbell.

Inside, the highly coveted spaces of Salesforce Tower enjoy striking views of the San Francisco Bay. Dubbed “the tallest building west of Chicago” by Salesforce, the tower includes an observation deck on the 61st floor where staff and the public can enjoy panoramic vistas, complete with flexible working spaces for the city’s technology workforce. Work spaces are as expected for the industry: Salesforce says you can work out while you work, with treadmills within walking distance of desks.

Designed with a focus on sustainability, the tower includes an array of carbon-reducing features: integrated metal sunshades, calibrated to maximize light and views while reducing solar gain; high performance, low-emission glass to reduce the building’s cooling load; heat-exchange coils wrapped around the tower’s foundations; water recycling systems; and high-efficiency air-handlers to take in fresh air on every floor.

The tower is connected at its base to the Salesforce Transit Center, a publicly owned facility realized through a public-private partnership with funding from Salesforce. Now home to eleven Bay Area transit systems and a rooftop park, the center replaces the Transbay Terminal, a 70-year-old terminal located nearby. Salesforce Tower, along with nearby 181 Fremont, enjoys direct access to the rooftop park above the transit center.

Covering several city blocks, the transit center includes an aerial cable car to transport people from the street directly to the park, where visitors can enjoy a 5.4-acre lush, landscaped greenspace. An extensive public art program was incorporated into the center, with works created by Jenny Holzer, Julie Chang, and James Carpenter. In the park, an artwork and fountain created by artist Ned Kahn mimics the flow of bus traffic in the transit center below.

While Salesforce Tower is open for business, in late 2018 multiple cracked beams were discovered in the transit center, forcing its closure through mid-2019 after only six weeks of operation. As experts work to resolve structural challenges next door, the $1.1-billion tower will grow to house a daily workforce of 5000 employees, serving as a beacon for the technology industry in California’s urban Silicon Valley.