Transamerica Pyramid

The Transamerica Pyramid is the second tallest building in San Francisco and one of the most recognizable high-rise buildings in the world.

The 6,000-watt beacon at the buildings peak, envisioned by the architect as the building’s “crown jewel,” can be seen from all over the San Francisco Bay Area at night when lit on special occasions.

Zoetrope Bldg & Transamerica Pyramid
Zoetrope Bldg & Transamerica Pyramid
American Zoetrope is located in the Sentinel Building. The Transamerica Pyramid is in the background. Photo by: Blueturtle01

At 853 feet high (260 meters), the Transamerica Pyramid remains one of the tallest buildings in San Francisco. The 48-floor high-rise building is constructed of concrete, glass and steel — and capped with a decorative aluminum 212-foot spire (64.6 meters) rising above the top floor and the “crown jewel” of the building, the beacon at the top.

The 48th Floor serves as an impressive conference room boasting stunning, unobstructed 360-degree views of San Francisco Bay.

The Transamerica Pyramid has 500,000 total square feet of floor space. Its distinctive pyramid shape allows for varied floor plates ranging from the 6th floor, with 22,226 square feet, to the 48th floor, with just 2,531 square feet.

The 9-foot-deep concrete mat foundation, which was continuously poured over a 24-hour period with 1,750 truckloads of concrete, rests on a steel and concrete block, sunk 52 feet (15.5 meters) into the ground, and is designed to move with earth tremors. The Pyramid’s base and foundation is constructed of approximately 16,000 cubic yards of concrete, encasing more than 300 miles of steel reinforcing rods.

FAQ: Why was the Transamerica Pyramid built in the shape of a pyramid? 

In addition to being a stylistic statement, the Transamerica Pyramid’s unconventional silhouette is also the result of environmentally sensitive planning. The tapered design casts a smaller shadow and therefore allows more natural light to filter down to the streets below than its conventional high-rise neighbors — important in a city where the sun has to do almost daily battle with the fog.

In designing the building, architects William Pereira & Associates also were adhering to San Francisco’s unique shadow restriction legislation, which impose a certain ratio between buildings’ surfaces and their heights.

Fun Fact

Photographer Nathaniel Jue's love for spotting San Francisco's most iconic building led him to create an Instagram page entitled ispytransamericapyramid.

Embarcadero Center

Holiday lighting at Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.
Holiday lighting at Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.
Copyright @JoeParks - Flicker

The Building Lighting Ceremony at Embarcadero Center is a San Francisco tradition and the official start of the holiday season in the City. The four Embarcadero Center buildings are outlined in 17,000 white holiday lights Spanning four blocks in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Embarcadero Center is one of the largest mixed-use complexes in the Western United States. Featuring a unique history and award winning architectural design, Embarcadero Center offers four buildings with luxury offices space, hundreds of shops, restaurants, services and a state-of-the-art multi-plex cinema. Construction of each of the four buildings was completed over a ten year span between 1971 and 1981. 

Embacadero Center distictive stairs and tile work
Embacadero Center distictive stairs and tile work
Embacadero Center distictive stairs and tile work

Transamerica Pyramid, Embarcadero Center and Financial District is featured on:

  • Private Charter
    Lucky Tuk Tuk at Night Private Charter - San Francisco Lights Tour

    Available Late Afternoons and Evenings

    5 PM, 6 PM or 7 PM

    How long?
    Approx. 2 hours
    Late Afternoons and Evenings
    Do we fit?
    Seats 6 (Ages 5+)
    How much?
    From $320.00

    Explore San Francisco at night in a cozy, electric Tuk Tuk! Get up close to the glittering lights and go where buses don’t dare in this modern-day rickshaw. Live commentary included!