The World of Ajax Penumbra

In honor of the publication of Robin Sloan’s Ajax Penumbra 1969, his digital original prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore that chronicles Mr. Penumbra’s first visit to the City by the Bay in the year 1969 A.D., we are inaugurating a series of posts to help show what the city looked like way back then - when the city was perhaps no longer the full-blown Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test of the Summer of Love (1967) but also wasn’t quite yet the gritty streets patrolled by Dirty Harry or even Karl Malden and a fluffy-haired Michael Douglas in The Streets of San Francisco.

In Ajax Penumbra 1969, young, intrepid Mr. P. “passes a construction site where a wide ziggurat reaches for the sky and a placard promises THE FUTURE SITE OF THE TRANSAMERICA PYRAMID above a fine-lined rendering of a shining spear.” It’s a sign of a city leaning forward into the future. And while we’d all recognize that lovely “pyramid” now - well, we all had to start somewhere:






Note: The video at the top is from the movie Zodiac. So far as we know, there is no CGI in the photos above, though part of what’s so special about the Transamerica Pyramid is that is ended up looking like a strange technological manifestation than an actual buildling.

For a little further reading on the Transamerica Pyramid:

• The San Francisco Chronicle makes the noble case that it’s actually an obelisk
• The Bold Italic visits “the tippy top”
The Structural Engineering Forum of India explores the earthquake readiness of what is still San Francisco’s tallest building (FUN FACT: Developers initially wanted it to be taller, but plans were scaled down after the city planning commission decided it would interfere with views from Nob Hill.)

Posted 09/26/13 Posted September 26, 2013