Thursday, May 27, 2010

Timothy Pflueger - San Francisco Architect

"No architect made a richer mark on San Francisco than Timothy Pflueger..." That's the opening of an appreciation of the native San Francisco architect written by Jesse Hamlin for the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook of Sunday, February 29, 2004. While his architecture and design are still an integral part of our City, Pflueger's name and career are not well enough known to most of us.

Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger by Therese Poletti, published in 2008, is a needed corrective to this undeserved obscurity. Poletti surveys Pflueger's career and work starting with his San Francisco roots continuing with his early work and apprenticeship with J. R. Miller through the end of his prolific career.

The Castro Theatre (all images in this entry are from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection)

Poletti divides his work into various architectural forms that he worked in. Pflueger designed many movie theatres, but his work should be familiar to all San Franciscans through the legendary Castro Theatre, and the opulent Paramount Theatre in Oakland.

Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Headquarters

Two of San Francisco's most architecturally significant skyscrapers were designed by Pflueger - the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Headquarters on New Montgomery Street, the Medico-Dental Building at 450 Sutter Street, and the William Taylor Hotel at 100 McAllister Street.

William Taylor Hotel (designed by Pflueger, realized by Lewis P. Hobart)

Countless thousands of San Francisco children have walked the halls of Pflueger-designed school buildings - the Alamo School on 23rd Avenue, the Roosevelt Middle School on Arguello Boulevard, George Washington High School on 32nd Avenue, and Abraham Lincoln High School on 24th Avenue. He even designed the inaugural buildings on the San Francisco City College campus - the Science Hall, Men's and Womens' Gymnasia and the Athletic Field.

Science Hall at San Francisco City College

Some of his most striking art deco work was realized in bar and nightclub settings. Much of his design has regrettably not survived, however Poletti includes many striking images of what once was.

The x-shaped diagonals on the Bay Bridge were one of Pflueger's design features

Pflueger was one of the architects involved in the design of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge. Poletti details the struggles Pflueger had with the project's engineers in order to get creative design elements incorporated into the final design. She does show how he made a difference in small ways -- with the diagonal bracing on the towers, and with the portal at the east side of Yerba Buena Island. He also helped to override the engineers' original plans to paint the bridge black. Pflueger also designed the Transbay Terminal at the San Francisco end of the structure.

Bay Bridge Transit Terminal

Pflueger also designed a considerable number of structures on Treasure Island for the Golden Gate International Exposition. He was central to bringing about Mexican artist Diego Rivera's involvement with the Exposition. Pflueger personally met Rivera in Mexico City to offer the commission for the work that became Pan-American Unity now displayed in the Diego Rivera Theatre building at the City College of San Francisco.

Timothy Pflueger shaking hands with Diego Rivera (1940)

Other aspects of Pflueger's career covered in this book include his design of houses and department stores (his final completed project as the I. Magnin store in Union Square). Pflueger also contributed significantly to the design of the now renovated Union Square. He even designed the underground parking garage.

Interior of Union Square Underground Garage

Other books about Pflueger in our collection include a study of the Oakland Paramount Theatre published by the Theatre Historical Society of America and Time and Tim Remembered by his brother Milton Pflueger. This latter work is a survey of the work of the larger Pflueger clan, Timothy, Milton and Milton's son John, who collectively have done a staggering amount of architectural design in our City.

We also have newspaper clipping file on Timothy Pflueger in our Artists File. Our subscription database Art Index Online (accessible with a San Francisco Public Library card) includes citations to many articles about Pflueger and his work.


Art Deco San Francisco: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger by Therese Poletti, photography by Tom Paiva (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008).

Oakland Paramount prepared by Lucy Pope Wheeler; edited for publication and with new material by Steven Levin (Theatre Historical Society of America, 1991).

Time and Tim Remembered: A Tradition of Bay Area Architecture: Pflueger Architects, Timothy, Milton, and John, The First Seventy-Five Years, 1908 to 1983 by Milton T. Pflueger (Pflueger Architects, 1985).

The Timothy Pflueger Blog - maintained by Therese Poletti

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