Pyramid, by Pereira

The Transamerica building in San Francisco (1978) by the architect William Pereira uses the iconography of the pyramid.

Although the clear and smooth pyramidal form refers to the Egyptian pyramids, it also refers to the pyramid that emperor Augustus build in ancient Rome: the pyramid of Ceius Cestius. It’s form is steeper than the Egyptian pyramids and has a white color – just as the Transamerica Pyramid.

The fact that the pyramidal form of the building is ‘punctuated’ by the two elevator shafts seems to give the building an extra schwung. It’s iconographic, without being too literal. Formally the elevator-shafts work together with the closed top of the building and therefore de-isolate that part of the building that would otherwise look like a sort of hat.

As with all iconic buildings one can buy a model of the Transamerica building. More important is the fact that the iconicity of the building is such that the company adopted it as their company logo.

The pyramidal form of the building has also an ironic reference in the (less iconic) historical caricature of the pyramid of capitalism. The Transamerica pyramid, which houses an insurance company, seems an almost literal translation of the diagram – the ceo’s sit comfortably in the top-floors of the pyramid.

William Pareira - Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco 1

William Pareira - Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco 2 

The pyramid of Ceius Cestius, Rome, Italy 

The pyramid of capitalism 


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