Sunday, July 21, 2013

Welcome to Ikeaville?

To make it clear, I am not one of these San Franciscans opposed to all growth and change. Right now we are in the midst of building boom.  I prefer urban in-fill instead of suburban sprawl eating up more orchards, farms and open space.  The thing that is disheartening about our current building boom, is the generic quality of everything being built.  Everything has the same Pottery Barn Modern look.  It could be Santa Monica, Amsterdam or Brooklyn.  It’s all the same.  As the new street level real estate will have the same chain stores and chain coffee shops, this might actually be appropriate.  

I remember all the excitement when Ikea came to the Bay Area years ago (and yes I went and shopped too).  It took less than a year for discarded Ikea furniture to find its way to San Francisco curbs joining old computer monitors and printers. Now, a decade later the influence of Ikea seems to be playing a new role on San Francisco’s streetscape. 

A walk down Market Street from the Castro to Civic Center reveals construction in every block.  These aren’t the faux industrial lofts of 2000. The new decade has brought us kitchens for giants, or to be precise, every new building seems to look like a stack of Ikea cabinets with a few subzero refrigerators thrown in.  Perhaps developers might consider naming their projects after Ikea furniture, can you say Akurum Towers or Abstrakt Place?

No, I don’t think we need to build fake Victorians to keep the City’s character intact, but how about a little imagination and yes, some buildings that blend in and reflect the City better than a stack of appliances.  Think Broderick Place built in 2007 and not the current behemoth that is NEMA.  That one’s almost making Fox Plaza look charming.

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