If you aren't from Sacramento, I know that the contents of this post will be pretty pedestrian for you, but bear with me, because I love high rises and skyscrapers. I may be a rural, mountains kind of guy, but I have always been fascinated with the whole process of building and maintaining a high-rise building. I have always thought that being an architect of one of these behemoths has got to be one of the most complex jobs in the world. How can you possibly make sense of all the tiny little details that go into designing such a massive structure?
When I was going to college near Mount Shasta in northern California in the early 1990s, I always loved it when we would come down to Sacramento for a track or cross-country meet, because I would get to look at the high rises under construction or just recently constructed. Around this time, the Renaissance Tower, also known as the "Darth Vader" building...
... had recently been completed, and to me, it told me that Sacramento was finally coming into its own as a big city. When, by chance, I moved to Sacramento in 1998, I followed the progress of the Cal-EPA building, but I think the finished product (especially the top) was ho-hum and pretty ugly:
After that high rise was completed around 2000, construction downtown pretty much came to a halt. There was a Sheraton hotel built on J Street, but the height of it was rather uninspiring
Circumstances have now changed. If everything goes as planned, high rise junkies like me are going to be in hog heaven in the Sacramento area, as this fall, there could possibly be as many as five sky cranes hanging over the city skyline as they build several projects that are already underway, or are about to be. The building that is furthest along is the 25-story U.S. Bank Tower, which is currently under construction at 621 Capitol Mall. The skeleton is complete, and now it needs its exterior skin. Once completed, the building will look like this:
I like the spire; it gives a futuristic flair to this former Gold Rush city. Just down the street at 500 Capitol Mall, another 25-story office building is also underway. The foundation has been dug, and I think pile-driving is currently underway. On two occasions, I have taken my son on a Saturday morning outing to watch two excavator backhoes fill a never-ending line of dumper trucks with dirt as the foundation was excavated. Once this building is complete, this will be the result:
The original plan called for a replica of the Parthenon to adorne the top of the building. The Sac City Council nixed that plan, much to the chagrin of the Tsakapolous family - local developers who are financing the project. Personally, I prefer this compromise design that they then submitted. I think a Parthenon would have been a bit much.
Yet another project on Capitol Mall - this one at 301 - is currently stalled. A twin-tower hotel/condo complex called Sac Towers would easily be the tallest buildings in the city - by over 200 feet - if they are ever completed. The construction site is fenced off, and the ground has been cleared, but that is all I have seen. The last I checked, there have been some funding issues that have halted construction for the time being. Too bad, because here is what they would look like:
Tastes may differ, but I like 'em! They would give the skyline quite a double exclamation point. In case this project falls through, there are two condos almost underway that will pick up the slack. These are both rather bizarre creations from the mind of one of the hottest architects in the business right now, Daniel Liebeskind. I recently read an architectural critic who said that Liebeskind must get his design ideas by bashing a pane of glass with a hammer, then sketching the results. Let's see if you agree by viewing the towers, which are called the Aura and the Epic. I believe the Epic would be the taller of the two, and here is a rendition:
Talk about futuristic, it makes the U.S. Bank Tower look like a western saloon. Of course then, here is the Aura:
The Aura construction site has been fenced off, and it is also on Capitol Mall, literally next door to the U.S. Bank Tower. The Epic is a bit more uptown toward Cesar Chavez Park.
Another project that has reached sky crane status is a 19 story headquarters for Cal-STRS (state teacher retirement system) that is being built in West Sacramento. Not a lot of ooohs and ahhhs height-wise, but it will be a bump on the skyline nevertheless, and it has an intriguing design:
And finally, I only dare dream that this building will become a reality. It is merely in the traffic study phase, but it could definitely happen. Say hello to the Capitol Grand Tower:
Seventy stories, 775 feet from sidewalk to top of structure, 965 feet to the top of the spire - talk about giving Sacramento a phallus worth gasping at, eh?
For a final review, I found this rendering that shows what the Sacramento skyline would look like with most of these projects included (don't forget to click on the pic to enlarge it):
I make no bones about the fact that I would prefer to live with my family in a small town in the mountains rather than a big city in a flat valley. But I subscribe to that whole lemon/lemonade cliche. The least I can do is to root for as many urban mountains to be built as possible so that I may gaze upon their grandeur and feel a sense of awe for the men who build such seemingly impossible things.
Good Day to You, Sir