San Francisco’s tallest building, the Salesforce Tower, puts final beam in place

Date: 25 May 2017

Topping-off party featured spiritual blessing, cedar tree tradition, and tour of the very top floor.

“And now we bless this edifice, the Salesforce Tower.”

Not something one expects to hear at the topping-out celebration for the (newly minted) tallest building in San Francisco, but that’s just what happened during Thursday’s celebration of the Salesforce Tower. A structure so prominent that can be seen from the Presidio to the Oakland Hills.

After a reception of kouign amans and coffee, a live DJ, and a gaggle of journalists, developers, and politicos (California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee, District 6 supervisor Jane Kim, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, just to name a few), the Salesforce Tower’s press conference kicked off with an interfaith blessing from city spiritual leaders. From San Francisco archbishop Savatore Cordileone (dressed in full Catholic regalia) to SF Muslim Community Center’s Imam Abu Qadir Al Amin, folks were urged to take part in a chanting prayer for the new tower. Never before had we witnessed such spirituality grace a topping-off party.

Then again, this is no ordinary building.

“This tower is more than an office building,” said Fred Clarke of Pelli Clarke Pelli, one of the principal architects on the project. “It is fundamentally an act of optimism, comparable to a pyramid or an obelisk, marking a new place on Earth that’s reaching for the heavens.”

Another sacred tradition took place: the official “topping off,” one of the oldest rituals in construction. A 14-foot-long beam, covered with the signatures of workers and notable attendees (including yours truly), was hoisted 61 stories to the crown of the tower. Attached to the steel beam was a six-foot-tall cedar tree.

The arboreal tradition dates back to ancient Scandinavia where, after a timber-frame structure was complete, a tree was placed atop the new building in to assuage any tree-dwelling spirits uprooted during it construction.

One of the tallest office buildings west of Chicago at 1,070 feet (the winner of the ultimate title belongs to the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles, which added a spire that brings its height to 1,099 feet), the Salesforce Tower has forever changed the skyline of San Francisco. The Transamerica Pyramid and 555 California, measuring at 853 feet and 779 feet, respectively, are no longer the city’s champion cloudbusters; Salesforce Tower literally rises above both.

The top floor (number 61, but who’s counting?) has been christened the Salesforce Ohana Floor (ohana is the word “family” in Hawaiian), where offices and conference rooms are verboten. During the workday, the Ohana floor will be used for Salesforce meetings, but according to Benioff, on nights and weekends it will be turned over to the city, free of charge, for events and community gatherings.

“My hope for this building is that its meaning goes beyond its beautiful glass-and-steel structure,” said Benioff. “May the meaning of Salesforce Tower be the people within it who are deeply committed to making this city a better place for all of its citizens.”

Supervisor Kim, whose district encompasses the Yerba Buena neighborhood, said that “the tower is a celebration of San Francisco.” She added, “[The building is] more than a reflection of the job boom and tech companies, it’s also allowing us to build more in San Francisco.” The supervisor went on to cite the upcoming Transbay Center, Caltrain, and high-speed rail as examples of Salesforce Tower as harbinger of Bay Area growth.

While good cheer and spirits ran high at Thursday’s fete, a few not-so-spiritual moments punctuated the proceedings.

“Bedrock, baby,” shouted Bob Pester, executive vice president of Boston Properties, the developers who own Salesforce Tower. “We’re drilled into bedrock!” More than a few of speakers made similar jabs indirectly aimed at the troubled Millennium Tower, which, due in part to structural issues, is tilting and sinking.

Not the most gracious sentiment, sure, but entirely accurate. The city’s tallest champ is akin to the bedrock into which it’s drilled—solid, strong, substantial, and reliable. The best antecedents for a city on the rise.


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