Designing San Francisco: Art, Land and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay

Author: Alison Isenberg, professor of history

Publisher: Princeton University Press, September 2017

Designing San Francisco is the previously untold story of the formative postwar decades when U.S. cities took their modern shape amid clashing visions of the future. In this pathbreaking and richly illustrated book, Alison Isenberg shifts the focus from architects and city planners — those most often hailed in histories of urban development and design — to the unsung artists, activists and others who played pivotal roles in rebuilding San Francisco between the 1940s and the 1970s.

Previous accounts of midcentury urban renewal have focused on the opposing terms set down by Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs — put simply, development versus preservation — and have followed New York City models. Now Isenberg turns our attention west to colorful, pioneer-ing and contentious San Francisco, where unexpectedly fierce battles were waged over iconic private and public projects like Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gateway and the Transamerica Pyramid.

Isenberg explores how centrally engaged arts professionals brought new ideas to city, regional and national planning and shaped novel projects across urban, suburban and rural borders. An evocative portrait of one of the world’s great cities, Designing San Francisco provides a new paradigm for understanding past and present struggles to define the urban future.

Text and book cover courtesy of the publisher