‘Map of Perceptions’ has lovely views of The City

COURTESY PHOTO

San Francisco’s architecture is often celebrated for its loveliness – no more so than in “San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions.”

The memoir by Italian architect Andrea Ponsi, a Florence resident who lived in San Francisco for many years, offers detailed observations about many of The City’s most well-known buildings and locations, from Washington Square Park to the de Young Museum.

Like his book “Florence: A Map of Perceptions,” this unconventional guide is perfect for architecture buffs who enjoy wandering around The City.

Ponsi’s illustrations, done in muted colors, are beautiful and nicely complement his writing.

There are charming passages, such as his view of the Transamerica Pyramid: “Take one pyramid, Egyptian is fine. Grasp its top with your thumb and forefinger. Then pull up, stretching the point as if it were a piece of very elastic rubber. Pull higher, higher and higher, until its height is at least ten times the width of one side of the base. Prick it with dozens of windows all alike. Then add two ears: the concrete elevator shafts.” In the back of the book is a handy list of illustrations to help readers and visitors find sites in various areas of The City.

Ponsi lived in San Francisco from 1977 to 1988. He writes about homelessness, traffic, fog and other issues. He also includes a couple of pages on “Old Berkeley,” touching on the Claremont Hotel and the arts and crafts style of a home where he stayed.

Part of the book’s appeal is its timelessness. While describing a sidewalk in North Beach, Ponsi calculates exactly how many steps a child or elderly person has to take to avoid stepping on a crack. It’s a poignant moment.

BOOK NOTES

San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions

Written by: Andrea Ponsi (translated by Susan Scott)

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Pages: 107

Price: $24.95

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