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Things Can Get Better or Worse

I’ve noticed that no matter how bad things are, they can get worse. And often

they do. It’s like that with cities, too. The city is broke, but then it gets more

broke. As if to give credibility to the rumor that he liked to trash fine urban com-

munities, Phillip Johnson couldn’t have designed anything worse than the blank-

walled, harlequin Neiman Marcus Building at Union Square in San Francisco –

almost no windows, lots of blank walls with diamond shapes. But then he or his

firm designed the strange circular office tower at the foot of California Street,

where it meets Market Street. It’s worse, with no relationship to the street and

repelling open space. It’s hard to do that. Attacks on our sensibilities are without

end. Things can always get worse. Consider San Francisco’s new Federal Office

Building, an immense, hulking, bulky growth, totally out of scale with the city.