Falling into Preferences

Regarded from one side, an entire range;
From another, a single peak.
Far, near, high, low, all its parts
Different from the others
If the true face of Mount Lu
Cannot be known,
It is because the one looking at it
Is standing in its midst                                          – Su Shih

In a recent roam we passed by the foot of the Sutro Tower, which looks impossibly large when you are so close to it. Not long after, meeting someone for lunch on a sunny day downtown, I wandered for a while with my camera around the constant construction that is going down there; I watched workers hauling barrows and carts at the entrance of the Salesforce tower, which rose high into the blue sky – a reminder that no matter how glossy the building looks when it is finished, it still depends on huge amounts of basic physical labour to reach that state.
At other times, these built landmarks can be seen from all across the city and beyond. When the fog descends on the city, sometimes the Sutro Tower, or even just its three tips, is all that can be seen from the clear slopes of Mount Tam which rise clear of the fog. From the east bay, coming home on BART as the sun sets, it silhouettes the skyline atop the range of hills that frame the city. I have a particular fondness for it; in its somewhat unique shape, it seems to represent the city – not as clearly as the Golden Gate Bridge does, but in other representations I have seen.
The Salesforce Tower, by contrast, and perhaps just because it is new, seems like a terrible mistake. There are many places I have been since it reached its topping-out height where it alone juts up above the skyline. Even in the Zen Center dining room, it is the only thing that peaks above the neighbouring roofs. In the Presidio, from the Legion of Honour, where you can feel at a remove from the busier side of the city, it seems to loom as an unwelcome reminder. Coming home by bike from Mill Valley recently, it was the only thing that rose into view from one scenic spot.
Perhaps age and custom will wither this dislike, though I suspect it is going to end up alongside the unlikable hulk of the Bank of America building rather than the elegant TransAmerica pyramid. Perhaps it is just a visible sign of the priorities of this city these days, which were not the ones that made me feel it would be a lovely place to live, almost two decades ago. Perhaps older residents still feel the same about the Sutro Tower, an alien robotic shape imposed over the natural contours of the city, but I have not anyone who says so.

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The Sutro Tower from an adjacent path through the woods.

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The Salesforce building from 2nd St.

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This is a view I think of often – returning to town on the freeway at sunset.

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This was returning from Marcia’s shuso ceremony on Monday. Look for the tallest building.