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Author: John King, Portal

November 29 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm PST


Two-time Pulitzer finalist, John King, explores the story of American urban design through San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building.

Built in 1898 during the Gilded Age, the Ferry Building served as San Francisco’s gateway to the world, initially as the endpoint of the transcontinental railway. Its iconic clocktower symbolized the city in early films and postcards. However, the rise of automobiles and freeways in the 20th century disconnected the city from this beloved landmark and its waterfront.

In Portal, architectural critic John King chronicles the Ferry Building’s history, highlighting the individuals who fought to preserve its character, including architect Arthur Page Brown, columnist Herb Caen, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The story reaches its climax with the earthquake-induced destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway, allowing San Francisco to reclaim its connection to the bay. King’s book spans 125 years of history, exploring the tensions affecting urban infrastructure, public spaces, tourism, deindustrialization, development and globalization. It concludes with a vibrant portrayal of San Francisco’s waterfront today.

Portal is a must-read for city enthusiasts, architecture aficionados and anyone interested in San Francisco’s history and the future of American cities.

King will be joined in conversation with San Francisco State University Urban Studies professor Jasper Rubin, the author of A Negotiated Landscape: The Transformation of San Francisco’s Waterfront Since 1950.

King is an esteemed urban design critic at the San Francisco Chronicle and a two-time Pulitzer finalist, residing in Berkeley, California.






November 29
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm PST
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San Francisco Public Library
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San Francisco Main Library, Saroyan Area, 6th Floor
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, 94102
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