Towering at 779 feet high, the 52-story 555 California Street skyscraper, formerly known as the Bank of America Center, was once the tallest building in San Francisco, California but holds the second place as of today. From its opening in 1969, it served as the world command center of Bank of America until it merged with Nations Bank in 1998 leading to its move to its new office (Bank of America Corporate Center) in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bank of America, the 555 California Street?s initial tenant, wanted a prominent, sculptural, skyline building that would mean to be a purposeful and explicit flaunt of the wealth, power, and importance of the bank. To meet that objective, the renowned architecture firms Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill were commissioned to construct what became a soaring and remarkable tower of bold proportions, through the expertise of Pietro Belluschi.
Belluschi?s unique design for the building called for literally thousands of bay windows which not only added magnificence to the structure but also work for the increase in its rental value. The window design also symbolizes the bay windows which are commonly seen on San Francisco residential real estate. To honor the founder of the Bank of America, A.P. Gianinni, a large plaza bearing his name was laid on the north foot of the tower. The plaza, though, is often shaded during the day as this is frequented by locals on their lunch break. Due to this, it is being criticized by many as taciturn and lonely.
Along the plaza, a 200-ton black Swedish granite sculpture by Masayuki Nagare called ?Transcendence?, is displayed. The sculpture, although looking like a liver, is locally and cynically known as the "Banker's Heart."
The nearly the entire building is covered with polished or rough luxurious Carnelian granite, including the banking hall, the plaza, the stairways and the sidewalks. Moreover, a still existing restaurant named The Carnelian Room, with the same embellishment is situated on the top floor. The high-speed elevator that serves the visitors of the tower going to the restaurant is one of the few publicly accessible around San Francisco.
Two years after its opening, the 555 California Street started gaining media exposure through several Hollywood films. The building was featured in the 1971 film Dirty Harry. In the beginning sequences, the roof of the tower was the setting of the scene where the killer shoots his victim. The rooftop again was shown in the 1981 film An Eye for an Eye. Moreover, the outside plaza was used as a substitute for the fictional skyscraper, the infamous Glass Tower in the disaster movie The Towering Inferno that was a box-office hit in 1974.
In the mid-1980?s, the local real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein acquired the building from Bank of America then sold it to the Hudson Waterfront Associates of New York in 2005 and eventually its name was changed to 555 California Street.