A major new urban history of the design and development of postwar San Francisco
Designing San Francisco is the untold story of the formative postwar decades when U.S. cities took their modern shape amid clashing visions of the future. In this pathbreaking and richly illustrated book, Alison Isenberg shifts the focus from architects and city planners-those most often hailed in histories of urban development and design-to the unsung artists, activists, and others who played pivotal roles in rebuilding San Francisco between the 1940s and the 1970s.
Previous accounts of midcentury urban renewal have focused on the opposing terms set down by Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs-put simply, development versus preservation-and have followed New York City models. Now Isenberg turns our attention west to colorful, pioneering, and contentious San Francisco, where unexpectedly fierce battles were waged over iconic private and public projects like Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gateway, and the Transamerica Pyramid.
When large-scale redevelopment came to low-rise San Francisco in the 1950s, the resulting rivalries and conflicts sparked the proliferation of numerous allied arts fields and their professionals, including architectural model makers, real estate publicists, graphic designers, photographers, property managers, builders, sculptors, public-interest lawyers, alternative press writers, and preservationists. Isenberg explores how these centrally engaged arts professionals brought new ideas to city, regional, and national planning and shaped novel projects across urban, suburban, and rural borders. San Francisco's rebuilding galvanized far-reaching critiques of the inequitable competition for scarce urban land, and propelled debates over responsible public land stewardship. Isenberg challenges many truisms of this renewal era-especially the presumed male domination of postwar urban design, showing how women collaborated in city building long before feminism's impact in the 1970s.
An evocative portrait of one of the world's great cities, Designing San Francisco provides a new paradigm for understanding past and present struggles to define the urban future.
Introduction Land and Landscape 7
1 The Illustrated Pitch "Guys with Ideas" and the 1940s Vision for a Historic Waterfront District 26
2 "Not Bound by an Instinct to Preserve" The Modernist Turn toward History 62
3 "Culture-a-Go-Go" The Mermaid Sculpture Controversy and the Liberation of Civic Design 86
4 Married Merchant-Builders From Home-Making to City Planning in the Postwar Suburban Boom 114
5 Maaging Property An "Iffy" Collaboration 142
6 Movers and Shakers Publicists and the Writing of Real Estate 168
7 "Urban Renewal with Paint" Graphic Design and the City 196
8 Model Cities "Think Big, Build Small" 230
9 "The Competition for Urban Land" Grady Clay's Lost 1962 Manuscript 276
10 Skyscrapers, Street Vacations, and the Seventies 300
Conclusion "Got Land Problems?" 344
List of Archives Consulted 419
List of Interviews by the Author 420
Image Credits 433