News & Research Archive

San Francisco: What Makes It Unique and How Does It Stand Next To the Great Cities of Our World?

Aug 17, 2015

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, Market Street looking west from Montgomery Avenue - NARA - 531032Several years ago, I had asked a prominent San Francisco architect what he thought about our city's structural design. His response surprised me when he said he didn't think much of our city's current architecture. He stated that we lost most of our magnificent buildings in the 1906 earthquake.

If you look at photos prior to 1906, San Francisco was truly a city blessed with buildings that matched some of the greatest cities of the world. The Gold Rush of the 1800's not only boosted this city's economy with enough money to develop such spectacular designs, but also put San Francisco on the map, making it the destination city of the west coast.

I recently visited Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, which encompasses 14 islands of the vast Stockholm archipelago on the Baltic Sea. The city captivates visitors with its unique architecture, married with its most intricate waterways. The city stands today as a great city of the world. When I came back to San Francisco, I realized that it's not our architecture that sets us apart or makes our city world-renowned. It's our distinct districts along with their unique culture, our lively downtown, and the beauty of our surrounding nature of water, hills, and parks. In my opinion, San Francisco is not a great city that can necessarily match itself with the great beautiful cities of the world. Some say it's not even considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. San Francisco is sincerely unique and stands out from almost all major cities, but it only does so for its geography and culture.

In looking at the future of our city, San Francisco is going through a tremendous building boom, unseen since the 1980's. New architecture, both commercial and residential, is exploding onto our city landscape. Unfortunately, what is being built is not any different than what any other city is building.

Stockholm is also experiencing a boom and attracting more residents than they have housing to provide. The pictures shown here represent the new Stockholm area. If you look at their new housing you could easily believe that you are in Mission Bay of San Francisco.

All modern architecture involving high density of residential structures around the world is taking a similar path in design. Unlike the old masterpieces, the ability to create noble architecture that can be defined for generations to come is not happening today and hasn't happened in our city since before 1906.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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