Humanizing Infrastructure: How Large-Scale, Transit-Based Urban Design Contributes to a Vibrant City

Fred Clarke
Senior Design Principal
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, New Haven



Over the last decade, a team of architects have worked towards delivering the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco, California – otherwise known as the “Grand Central of the West” – and the adjacent 1.3-million square-foot Salesforce Tower, which will be the city’s tallest building when complete. The burgeoning Transit Center district, centered on the Transit Center’s 5.4-acre rooftop park, has become one of the most successful examples of transit-based urban design and development in the world.

This presentation addressed the benefits of transit-based urban infrastructure development. In particular, it discusses the ways large-scale infrastructure can be humanized, making it open, friendly, supportive of the public realm, and welcoming to a wide range of users. It also demonstrates how a combination of public development and private enterprise can contribute positively to a dense central downtown district. Transit-based development is a familiar typology internationally, especially in Japan and China. We in the US, however, have tended to push these projects to the city’s edge, prioritizing the private automobile and adding to unsustainable low-density urban sprawl. This presentation showed how projects like the Salesforce Transit Center and Tower can reverse this trend.

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation

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