The History Of The Transamerica Pyramid

The Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline and one of its most iconic. Although the building no longer houses the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, it is still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company’s logo. Designed by architect William Pereira and built by Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, at 260 m (850 ft), upon completion in 1972 it was among the five tallest buildings in the world.[4]
The tower has no public access except for the first floor lobby, so visitors can’t reach the top for a panoramic view.


The Transamerica building was commissioned by Transamerica CEO John (Jack) R. Beckett, with the claim that he wished to allow natural light and fresh air to filter down to the street below. Built on the location of the historic Montgomery Block, it has a structural height of 260 m (850 ft) and contains 48 floors of retail and office space. Construction began in 1969 and finished in 1972, and was overseen by San Francisco-based contractor Dinwiddie Construction (now Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company). Transamerica moved its headquarters to the new building from across the street, where it used to be based in another flatiron-shaped building now occupied by the Church of Scientology of San Francisco.[citation needed]
Although the tower no longer serves as the Transamerica Corporation headquarters, it is still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company’s logo. The building is evocative of San Francisco and has become one of the many symbols of the city.[5] Designed by architect William Pereira, it faced considerable opposition during its planning and construction, and was sometimes referred to by detractors as “Pereira’s Prick”.[6]
The Transamerica Pyramid was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi from 1972 to 1974 surpassing the then Bank of America Center. It was then later surpassed by the Aon Center in Los Angeles.
The building is considered to have been the intended target of a foiled terrorist attack, involving the hijacking of airplanes as part of the Bojinka plot, which was foiled in 1995.[7]
In 1999, Transamerica was acquired by Dutch insurance company AEGON. When the non-insurance operations of Transamerica were later sold to GE Capital, AEGON retained the building as an investment.[5]


The land use and zoning restrictions for the parcel limited the number of square feet of office that could be built upon the lot, which sits at the northern boundary of the financial district. This building was built under the ‘Building Codes’ to be Earthquake safe.  The building is a tall, four-sided pyramid with two “wings” on either side to accommodate an elevator shaft on the east and a stairwell and a smoke tower on the west. The top 64.6 m (212 ft) of the building is the spire. There are four cameras pointed in the four cardinal directions at the top of this spire forming a virtual observation deck. Four monitors in the lobby, whose direction and zoom can be controlled by visitors, display the cameras’ views 24 hours a day. An observation deck on the 27th floor was closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and replaced by the virtual observation deck. The top of the Transamerica Pyramid is covered with aluminum panels. During the holiday season of Thanksgiving, and Independence Day, a bright, white light is seen on top of the pyramid.

The building was built on a special base platform that allows it to reduce shaking from earthquakes. While it gradually reduces shaking, some shaking still intrudes the building.