Some buildings, like some people, are easier to respect than to love. You can admire what they set out to do, even if you don’t want to hug them when they arrive.
Which brings us to San Francisco’s new Public Safety Building, an imposing mosaic of concrete and glass in the Mission Bay district.
The compound sets two five-story blocks of glass on top of a thick concrete podium that extends around a small brick fire station from 1928. Each block is partly wrapped in a loose-fitting gray zinc screen that leaves them open on the east and west but cloaked on the north and south.
The interlocked parts form a meticulous whole, civic and strong. But they’re daunting as well, designed to hold their own amid large-scale neighbors that are still in the planning stages.
The chilly tone probably is inevitable, given the reality of what’s inside.
The 264,000-square-foot structure places the new headquarters for the San Francisco Police Department above district police and fire stations and a 240-car parking garage. One wing includes the city’s emergency operations center, a monitor-filled space where police keep track as needed of everything from civic parades to street riots. […]