Frequently Asked Questions
- Where is Transamerica Pyramid Center located?
- What makes up Transamerica Pyramid Center?
- Can I visit the top of The Transamerica Pyramid for the view, or take a tour?
- When was the Transamerica Pyramid built?
- What are the Transamerica Pyramid’s architectural details?
- What are the building systems?
- How is the building’s exterior maintained?
- Is the Transamerica Pyramid designed to withstand earthquakes?
- Is it true the Pyramid is built where the Bay used to be?
- Why was the Transamerica Pyramid built in the shape of a pyramid?
- Does the Transamerica Pyramid move with high wind?
- Is the Transamerica Pyramid the tallest building in California?
- What is the Crown Jewel?
- Can the windows of the Transamerica Pyramid be lit to create lighted shapes, like the Empire State Building in New York does?
- Who owns the Transamerica Pyramid?
- Where can I get photography of the Transamerica Pyramid?
- Can I use photos of the building for promotional purposes?
Where is Transamerica Pyramid Center located?
Transamerica Pyramid Center is prominently situated at the gateway to San Francisco’s Financial District and is comprised of one full city block. It is surrounded by world-class hotels, restaurants, galleries, clubs and shopping, and the colorful neighborhoods of Jackson Square, Chinatown and North Beach. Transamerica Pyramid Center offers convenient access to freeways, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), buses, ferries and airports.
What makes up Transamerica Pyramid Center?
Transamerica Pyramid Center is home to two office buildings: the internationally known Transamerica Pyramid, a premier Class A office building and a symbol of San Francisco; and 505 Sansome at Transamerica Pyramid Center, an adjacent Class A high-rise office building. Transamerica Pyramid Center is also home to cloistered Redwood Park, which features fountains, towering redwood trees, benches and a community stage.
When was the Transamerica Pyramid built?
The Transamerica Corporation, with famed architects William Pereira & Associates, began construction on The Transamerica Pyramid in 1969. The first tenants moved in during the summer of 1972.
What are the Transamerica Pyramid’s architectural details?
At 853 feet high (260 meters), the Transamerica Pyramid remains one of the tallest buildings in San Francisco. The 48-floor high-rise building is constructed of concrete, glass and steel — and capped with a decorative aluminum 212-foot spire (64.6 meters) rising above the top floor and the “crown jewel” of the building, the beacon at the top.
The 48th Floor serves as an impressive conference room boasting stunning, unobstructed 360-degree views of San Francisco Bay.
The Transamerica Pyramid has 500,000 total square feet of floor space. Its distinctive pyramid shape allows for varied floor plates ranging from the 6th floor, with 22,226 square feet, to the 48th floor, with just 2,531 square feet.
The 9-foot-deep concrete mat foundation, which was continuously poured over a 24-hour period with 1,750 truckloads of concrete, rests on a steel and concrete block, sunk 52 feet (15.5 meters) into the ground, and is designed to move with earth tremors. The Pyramid’s base and foundation is constructed of approximately 16,000 cubic yards of concrete, encasing more than 300 miles of steel reinforcing rods.
The building boasts 3,678 windows. The majority of the windows pivot 360 degrees, which allows them to be cleaned from the inside of the building.
The two “wings,” which flank the building and rise vertically from the 29th floor, are necessary near the top of the Transamerica Pyramid because elevators cannot run at the angle of the building. The eastside wing contains two elevator shafts; the westside wing houses a stairwell and a smoke tower.
In 2007, the Pyramid installed a 1.1-megawatt combined heat and power system, becoming one of only a handful of high-rise buildings in Northern California capable of generating their own electricity. Two 560 kW natural gas-fired reciprocating engine generators are designed to provide approximately 70 percent of the Pyramid’s electrical requirements and 100 percent of its heating and hot water. The cogeneration facility meets three key objectives of the Pyramid’s owners: to strengthen its environmental commitment, deliver annual energy savings and increase the competitiveness of the property in San Francisco’s commercial market.
What are the building systems?
All buildings get dirty from airborne pollutants, but the Transamerica Pyramid is prone to collecting dirt due to its shape. The Pyramid’s 3,678 windows are washed and polished several times per year, and the building’s white quartz exterior undergoes a “brightening” about every 10 years, involving about 18,000 work hours. This involves replacing more than 50 miles of caulking, applying a chemical wash and then a power wash, and finally a penetrating masonry sealer. This two-year process was most recently completed in 2007.
How is the building’s exterior maintained?
All buildings get dirty from airborne pollutants, but The Transamerica Pyramid is prone to collecting dirt due to its shape. The Pyramid’s 3,678 windows are washed and polished several times per year, and the building’s white quartz exterior undergoes a “brightening” about every 10 years, involving about 18,000 work hours. This involves replacing more than 50 miles of caulking, applying a chemical wash and then a power wash, and finally a penetrating masonry sealer. This two-year process was most recently completed in 2007.
Is the Transamerica Pyramid designed to withstand earthquakes?
In a seismically active region, it is important to engineer buildings, especially skyscrapers, to withstand tremors. San Francisco is very close to the San Andreas and Hayward Faults — in fact, in 1989, the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck the Santa Cruz Mountains about 60 miles away. Although the 48-story-high Pyramid shook for more than a minute, during which the top story swayed almost a foot from side to side, the building was undamaged.
Such success can be attributed to the building’s careful structural engineering. In addition to its 52-foot-deep steel and concrete foundation, which is designed to move with earthquakes, the Transamerica Pyramid’s exterior is covered with white precast quartz aggregate, interlaced with reinforcing rods at four places on each floor. Clearance between the panels allows lateral movement in the event of an earthquake. In addition, a unique truss system above the first floor supports both vertical and horizontal loading, and interior frames extend up to the 45th floor.
As a result of all these measures, the building resists torsional movement and is engineered to take large horizontal base shear forces.
Is it true the Pyramid is built where the Bay used to be?
San Francisco Bay and its sloughs used to come up to Montgomery Street, and ships were anchored only feet from where the Transamerica Pyramid stands today. In fact, neighboring excavations have revealed the remains of ships where dry land is now throughout San Francisco. The most famous is the Niantic, which is located just a few feet away from the base of the Pyramid.
Why was the Transamerica Pyramid built in the shape of a pyramid?
In addition to being a stylistic statement, the Transamerica Pyramid’s unconventional silhouette is also the result of environmentally sensitive planning. The tapered design casts a smaller shadow and therefore allows more natural light to filter down to the streets below than its conventional high-rise neighbors — important in a city where the sun has to do almost daily battle with the fog.
In designing the building, architects William Pereira & Associates also were adhering to San Francisco’s unique shadow restriction legislation, which impose a certain ratio between buildings’ surfaces and their heights.
Does the Transamerica Pyramid move with high wind?
Yes. In fact, most skyscrapers move as much as two feet back and forth during high winds. The Transamerica Pyramid, however, because of the base-to-top ratio, doesn’t move as much as other buildings of similar height.
Is the Transamerica Pyramid the tallest building in California?
Although it once was the tallest building in the United States west of the Mississippi River (1972-1974), the Pyramid was surpassed by the Aon Center in Los Angeles in 1974, later by the JP Morgan Chase Tower in Houston, and finally by the Library Tower in Los Angeles. The Transamerica Pyramid is the second tallest building in San Francisco and one of the most recognizable high-rise buildings in the world.
As a point of trivia, Transamerica Corporation initially wanted to build an even taller building (1,000 feet), but the San Francisco Planning Commission would not approve the project because it would have interfered with views of San Francisco Bay from Nob Hill.
What is the Crown Jewel?
The 6,000-watt beacon, envisioned by the architect as the building’s “crown jewel,” can be seen from all over the San Francisco Bay Area at night when lit on special occasions.
The aircraft light — a red flashing light at the top of the spire — is a 1,000-watt high-voltage neon lamp required by the FAA.
Can the windows of the Transamerica Pyramid be lit to create lighted shapes, like the Empire State Building in New York does?
No. All of the Pyramid’s interior lights are motion-activated for the purpose of energy conservation, and as a result, the building’s lights are only lit during business hours.
Who owns the Transamerica Pyramid?
In 1999, Transamerica Corporation was acquired by AEGON USA, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of AEGON N.V., the third-largest international insurance organization worldwide (by market capitalization). Based in the Netherlands, AEGON also ranks in the top 10 insurance groups (listed by assets). With five major country units and business in several other countries, AEGON employs more than 20,000 people across the globe.
AEGON still holds the building as an investment, although it later sold the non-insurance operations of Transamerica. However, Transamerica Corporation’s financial service products are still marketed worldwide under the Transamerica brand and the company still is associated strongly with the image of the Pyramid, continuing to use the Transamerica Pyramid logo as its registered trademark and the company’s primary identifier of product authenticity.
Where can I get photography of the Transamerica Pyramid?
The images shown on this website are copyright protected, and the Transamerica Pyramid offers no downloadable photos for the public at this time. The best way to obtain a photo of the Transamerica Pyramid is to buy a photo book or postcards.
Can I use photos of the building for promotional purposes?
Cityscapes are public domain, but specific photography or filming of the Pyramid for commercial purposes requires the express written consent of the ownership. All such requests — as well as those from the media and others — should be directed to Pyramid Center Reception via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.