You are here

San Francisco

A Map of Perceptions
Andrea Ponsi

BUY Cloth · 108 pp. · 5 × 7 · ISBN 9780813936352 · $24.95 · Feb 2015
BUY Ebook · 108 pp. · ISBN 9780813936604 · $24.95 · Feb 2015

San Francisco is a city designed for artists and wanderers. From North Beach, to Chinatown, to the cold, rough surf of Ocean Beach, to Marin, both visitors and lifelong residents have endless opportunities to explore new neighborhoods, buildings, environments, and cultures just by getting in the car, hopping on a cable car, or by simply walking around the block.

In San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions, the architect Andrea Ponsi unravels the multifaceted beauty of one of America’s favorite cities, introducing even those who have lived there for years to nuances often left unseen. Ponsi, a native of Florence who lived in San Francisco for many years, lyrically describes everyday life in the city, from a café in North Beach where he sits next to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, to the de Young Museum ("a solid mass, a rough but elegant body, faceted but compact") and the Academy of Sciences ("an ethereal, transparent building, lace made of glass and slender columns"), to Alcatraz ("an abandoned ship, a Flying Dutchman set adrift that bears the signs of a life of torment"), and even to the buffalo who reside in Golden Gate Park.

As with his book on Florence, Ponsi here reveals a deeply personal look at what it’s like to live in and love a city. Having the unique perspective of having been both an insider and an outsider to San Francisco, he speaks to us in the way we dream an architect would, capturing the city’s diverse yet emblematic structures through delicate watercolor and line drawings, while also offering poetic descriptions of the underlying smells, sounds, and light of its many neighborhoods.

A perfect balance of text and illustrations, San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions offers not only a guide for those visiting or returning to the city but also a compelling invitation for residents to revisit the utterly unique place in which they live.


An excellent companion to the author's elegant and beautiful book on Florence, San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions is a joy to read with its lyrical descriptions of one of the most beloved cities in the world. Even though I've lived in the Bay Area for more than twenty years, the book offered new insights and perceptions of places I've come to know well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and feasting my eyes on the marvelous watercolors and diagrams. A wonderful book for anyone coming to visit the Bay Area."

Chip Sullivan, University of California, Berkeley

San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions is wonderful. And the illustrations are just right—Andrea Ponsi has a unique touch with watercolor and ink. It almost makes me wish I didn't live in San Francisco so I could visit again for the first time. The book exudes the charm of the author himself.

Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

An architect’s autobiographical guide to America’s best-loved city, with its monuments, cafés, and bookstores. One finds on every page delightful urban and social observations, such as how well the zigzag Lombard Street could serve as a model for the garden city. Most of what Andrea Ponsi describes is still there, but his evocative watercolors and descriptions of his own daily life deal with a moment twenty years ago that will never quite be the same. A remarkable graphic and literary memoir.

Richard Ingersoll, Syracuse University in Florence

Few cities have a stronger sense of place than San Francisco and Andrea Ponsi has captures its magic in poetic phrases and delicate images. It's a love letter to the city where he lived for ten years, before returning to his native Florence to practice and teach architecture.

Form: Pioneering Design

Here and there in San Francisco a written passage will correspond quite closely to a drawing, as when Ponsi compares the front facade of a North Beach apartment house to its rear view, captured in a lively watercolor.... But Ponsi often records impressions that defy illustration.... [T]he work of an impassioned but critical admirer, aware of what he sees on more levels than most.

San Francisco Chronicle

[T]his 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.

San Francisco Examiner

[A] beguiling yet sharply focused contemplation of the physical, atmospheric and architectural factors that make this peninsula unique.... San Francisco: A Map of Perceptions accepts that the terrain around us continues to shift. It also grasps that a focus on change obscures what endures — and why the next crop of newcomers will fall in love once again.

San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author(s): 

Andrea Ponsi is an architect, designer, and educator currently living and working in Florence. He is the author of Florence: A Map of Perceptions (Virginia) among other books.

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books