A homage to great feats of design, building, and engineering
Symbolic of American commerce and iconic of the San Francisco skyline, the uniquely shaped Transamerica Pyramid was designed by architect William Pereira in the late 1960s to become the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation and the tallest building in the west. The four-sided spire rests on a historic spot originally occupied by Montgomery Block, the first fire and earthquake-proof building built in San Francisco.
Due to the limited available building space and the threat of earthquakes, Pereira had his work cut out for him when he sat down to the drafting table, but he reveled in the challenge. Likewise, the Transamerica Corporation had some challenges of its own and was required to get special zoning permits, which would allow them to construct a skyscraper on the lot. At first, Pereira’s design met with some opposition, but once completed in 1972, the Transamerica Pyramid became one of the most recognizable structures in San Francisco and beloved by locals and tourists alike.
When ownership of the pyramid transferred to the Dutch insurance company AEGON in 1999, the building retained its original name and strong association with the Transamerica Corporation. Although no longer the company’s headquarters, the Transamerica continues to be depicted in the company’s logo.
After its completion, the Transamerica Pyramid existed as the tallest building west of the Mississippi for two years until it was surpassed in 1974 by Los Angeles’ Aon Center: the brainchild of Charles Luckman, Pereira’s former business partner and architectural rival. Despite losing the title, the building has retained all of its allure as a masterwork of architecture.