American Institute of Architects, San Francisco Chapter

The Hallidie Building

The historic Hallidie Building, one of the world's first glass curtain-walled buildings, was designed by Willis Polk and completed in 1917. The building is named for San Francisco cable car pioneer Andrew Smith Hallidie and is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the California Register.

Besides AIA San Francisco, the Hallidie currently houses AIGA, the U.S. Green Building Council - Northern California Chapter, Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc, and Coordinated Resources, Inc. The building was built as an investment for the University of California at Berkeley and its decorative metal was originally painted blue and gold.

Though innovative in its use of a glass curtain wall, the building has a traditional composition. Its decorative metalwork is Gothic in style and its architectural organization has a clear base, shaft and capital. The fire escapes are integrated into the metalwork of the building and serve to frame it on either side. Though the ground floor storefronts have been altered, the building's facade remains largely unchanged. Below, read more about the effort to restore the Hallidie's glass wall and decorative balconies and cornices.

"Willis Polk's all-glass facade foretold the modern cityscape by allowing buildings to grow exponentially in scope while incorporating light and air. The Hallidie Building embodies fundamental architectural elements that make the modern city livable in design and form, and we all benefit from its example."
– Jay Turnbull, Founding Principal, Page & Turnbull

Hallidie Renovation

In December 2010, Owners Edward J. Conner and Herbert P. McLaughlin asked The Albert Group to assemble and manage a team of experienced professionals to assess the water damage to the curtain wall and determine how to restore it to its former glory. Because of its skill in forensic architecture and waterproofing, McGinnis Chen Associates was selected as the architect of record with Page & Turnbull serving as the preservation architect and guide through the lengthy City approval process. Subsequently, the team was expanded to include a materials scientist, sculptor, testing agency, two structural engineers, a curtain wall consultant, Cannon Constructors as general contractor and a variety of specialty subcontractors.

With the enthusiastic approval of the Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Commission, the team removed and replaced the structural steel at each of the three balconies and twelve fire escapes. The windows in each of these areas (350 total) were removed, repaired (or replaced in kind), painted and reinstalled. The decorative sheet metal was repaired, strengthened and reinstalled at the balconies and roof cornice. And, without noticeably altering the appearance of the curtain wall from the sidewalk, additional structural supports were added to the mullions, flashing was installed and spalling concrete was removed and replaced.

After a two-year restoration of the glass wall and decorative balconies and cornices, the scaffolding that covered the Hallidie Building was removed in early May 2013.