Center of San Francisco

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Jul 132015

UN Plaza
Civic Center

Center of San Francisco

What in the world is that brass cross in the middle of UN Plaza?  That is Joel Pomerantz of Thinkwalks pointing to something most San Franciscans probably don’t even know is there, or why.

center of SFThis is the spot used to measure the distance to and from the City of San Francisco to other cities around the world.  Why here?  Because this is where our original city hall once sat.

San Francisco's First City Hall

The Hall of records is the round building in the front, City Hall is the taller one in the back.

A common misconception is that distances shown on highway signs are always measured to the location of the main post office in the municipality. According to the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS): “The primary point of a populated place is the center of original place, if known, such as the city or town hall, main post office, or town square regardless of changes over time.”

UN Plaza

The “X” is easy to find if you follow the Longitude and Latitude markers that represent San Francisco’s place on the map.

latitude markers in UN Plaza

The granite used in these pieces is the same Sierra Granite used to build city hall.Latitude and Longitude of San Francisco

These items were part of the 1995 redesign of the UN Plaza to mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter around the corner in the Veterans War Memorial Building.

This redesign was done by landscape architect Andrew Detsch, of Berkeley, CA.

83 McAllister

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May 272015
83 McAllister

This is the Methodist Book Concern.  The book concern, established in 1789 in Philadelphia, was the oldest publishing house in the United States and used Abington press as their trade imprint. It is now the United Methodist Publishing House and it is the largest general agency of The United Methodist Church. The Methodist Book Concern furnished reading material to church members and helped support ministers, who received liberal commissions for selling the publications. ”The preachers still feel the need of the press as their most potent ally in their work,” said The Methodist Review in 1889 The building was designed by Lewis Continue Reading

Passage of Remembrance

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Apr 062015
Passage of Remembrance

Memorial Court Civic Center   In 1932 when the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building were built the project was supposed to include a memorial to veterans. The project ran out of money, and one was never made. However, during this time the octagonal lawn in the Memorial Court has held earth from lands where Americans fought and died. This stone octagon, now encloses the earth. The Memorial has been designed so that it can be opened to accept newly consecrated earth from battlefields of the future. In 1935 that War Memorial Complex architect Arthur Brown, Jr., recommended Continue Reading

Apr 282014

San Francisco Conservatory of Music 50 Oak Street Civic Center Fulfilling the 1% for public art requirement for private development in San Francisco, this glass curtain wall of the music school includes 8” deep horizontal and vertical glass fins. A dichroic glass bevel at the front edge of each fin casts colored light across the building facade and the interior classrooms. The combination of sunlight and glass creates an ever changing composition of colored light throughout the day. The project is by Daniel Winterich.  The glass was fabricated by Lenehan Architectural Glass Company. Interior Shot courtesy of Winterich Studios According Continue Reading

Apr 072014
Rain Portal

SFPUC Building 525 Golden Gate Avenue Civic Center Rain Portal by Ned Kahn.  Kahn has several pieces around San Francisco that you can read about here. Ned Kahn’s Rain Portal is located inside the lobby of the new Public Utilities building.  Kahn’s Firefly graces the exterior of the building and you can read about it here. Rain Portal seeks to permeate an interior architectural wall with rain. Drops of water falling inside of an undulating polycarbonate membrane suggests the endless cycle of evaporation and precipitation. According to Kahn, “One of the paradoxes of the Rain Portal is that much of the entire history of Continue Reading

Mar 312014

154 McAllister Street Civic Center   According to Reka’s own website: James Reka – Melbourne, Australia Self-taught artist James Reka is a young contemporary Australian artist based in Berlin, Germany. His origins lie in the alleyways and train lines of Melbourne’s inner-suburbs where he spent over a decade refining his now-emblematic aesthetic. His character work has come to represent the beginnings of a new style of street art: clean, unique and not necessarily on the street (much to his mother’s joy). With influences in pop culture, cartoons and illustration, Reka’s style has become known for its fusion of high and low Continue Reading

Mar 242014
Island Fever

50 8th Street SOMA/Civic Center   I am a huge fan of  Lady Mags and Amanda Lynn, and they have been on this website many times. I have also been walking by this piece for quite a while, admiring it and yet not quite having a chance to take pictures when it wasn’t blocked by cars.  Finally, I had the chance, so here it is for your pleasure. According to Amanda Lynn’s  website: Lady Mags and I (aka Alynn-Mags) recently completed the largest mural production we have ever created, and it all happened in less than 5 days! We were asked Continue Reading

Feb 142014
Love and Marriage San Francisco Style

City Hall South Light Court In 2004, San Francisco General Hospital  launched Hearts in San Francisco to generate revenue to support its  numerous programs.  This heart, in City Hall’s South light court, was part of that program.  Designed by Deborah Oropallo the  interlocking Heart, titled LOVE + MARRIAGE, was sponsored by Ambassador James Hormel and Timothy Wu.  The heart displays the first names of many of the gay couples married in San Francisco in 2004. ARTIST’S THOUGHTS: “I wanted to make a heart that would not just be decorative, but somehow be relevant to what is going on in San Francisco Continue Reading

Judge James Seawell

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Feb 112014
Judge James Seawell

Second Floor City Hall Civic Center The San Francisco Call ran this article on November 8, 1898: Judge James M. Seawell. No better nomination has been made by any party than that of Judge James M. Seawell, one of the Democratic candidates for Superior Judge. During the six years he has served in that capacity he has built up a reputation as a jurist that he may justly feel proud of. He has shown conspicuous ability, has ever presided with dignity and has been honest and conscientious in his interpretation of the law. It can be truly said that his Continue Reading

Dianne Feinstein

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Feb 072014
Dianne Feinstein

City Hall Mayors Balcony Civic Center Dianne Feinstein was the head of the Board of Supervisors on the day that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were tragically assassinated.  She instantly became Mayor. This sculpture (the second of Dianne Feinstein to sit in City Hall) was done in 1996 by Lisa Reinertson. According to Lisa’s website:  Lisa Reinertson is known for both her life size figurative ceramic sculptures and her large-scale public sculptures cast in bronze. Coming from a family of peace and social activists, Reinertson’s work has an underlying humanism that can be seen both in her poetic Continue Reading

Feb 062014
City Hall in Wood

City Hall South Light Court Civic Center This is one of five wooden models that Don Potts did for the 1982 AIA Convention.  The pieces were later purchased by the City and four are now on display in City Hall.  You can read about the first two here. Don was a meticulous artist.  Another renown project, that has since been destroyed was “My First Car”. * * * The fourth of these models is of the Hallidie Plaza, a building that houses the San Francisco Chapter of the AIA. * * In researching Don Potts I found this article by Continue Reading

Feb 052014
Don Potts Amazing Wood Models

City Hall South Light Court Civic Center Pylon of the Golden Gate Bridge There are four amazing, exquisite and highly detailed wood models in the South Light Court of City Hall.  They are all by Don Potts. These architectural models were designed and built in 1982 by Don Potts in commemoration of the Centennial of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  The models were first displayed in an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which “highlighted the important contribution that architecture has made to the City and County of San Francisco, and which Continue Reading

Feb 042014
George Moscone

City Hall Mayor’s Balcony Civic Center This bronze bust is of the late Mayor George Moscone.  Moscone was assassinated by Dan White along with Harvey Milk in November 1978, a tragedy for the City of San Francisco.  Moscone was our 37th mayor. The bust was done by my dear friend Spero Anargyros.  Spero has a few works throughout San Francisco, and you can read about them here. Many people are aware of the highly controversial, but in my opinion, excellent, sculpture of Moscone by Robert Arneson.  The bust that Arneson created was not liked by the powers that be.  The Continue Reading

Jan 312014
Cyril Magnin

City Hall South Light Court Cyril Magnin served as San Francisco’s Chief of Protocol from 1964 until his death in 1988.  He was responsible for keeping many key international consulates from moving out of San Francisco and to Los Angeles.  He is seen here walking his dog Tippecanoe. In Magnin’s 1981 autobiography, “Call Me Cyril,” opera superstar Beverly Sills is quoted as saying: “He twinkles, he’s a song-and-dance man, a sentimentalist, a tough businessman, a sucker for a hard-luck story–and one of the great philanthropists. He’s a prince of pleasure, a king of kindness, a formidable friend, and I am Continue Reading

Jan 302014
Harvey Milk

City Hall Supervisors Legislative Chamber Civic Center This is the only bust of a supervisor in San Francisco’s City Hall. Harvey Milk  was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office. Milk won a seat as a San Francisco supervisor in 1977.  He served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor. Milk’s election and assassination were key components of a shift in San Francisco politics. Despite his short career in politics, Continue Reading

Jan 292014
Goddess of Progress

City Hall South Light Court Goddess of Progress by F. Marion Wells The plaque that accompanies her reads: On April 17, 1906, the dome atop San Francisco’s City Hall that was completed in 1896 supported a twenty foot statue by F. Marion Wells.  The Goddess of Progress, with lightbulbs in her hair, held a torch aloft in her right hand, causing some contemporary counts to refer to it as the Goddess of Liberty.  The statue was so securely mounted that on April 18, 1906, when City Hall and the city around it lay in ruins from the great earthquake-fire, it Continue Reading

Jul 022013
Fletcher Benton at Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness Civic Center Titled, Balanced Unbalanced T, this Steel and Flat Black Enamel piece sits on the exterior second floor of Davies Symphony Hall, it is accessible at all times via a staircase that can be accessed off of Grove Street. The piece, done in 1981, is by Fletcher Benton, who has been in this website before . Fletcher Benton (born February 25, 1931 Jackson, Ohio) is from San Francisco, California He graduated from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1956. From 1964 to 1967 he taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and taught as an Continue Reading

Jun 152013
The Doors of Court

400 McAllister Civic Center This building houses the Superior Court of California and was designed by Mark Cavagnero and Associates. * There are three identical doors at the entry to the building.  They were designed by Albert Paley.  Paley’s work can also be found at 199 Montgomery Street. Albert Paley is a modernist American metal sculptor, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1944. He earned both a BFA and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Paley initially worked as a goldsmith and moved to Rochester, New York in 1969 to teach at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he Continue Reading

Jun 142013
Great Seal of California

505 Van Ness at McAllister Civic Center This is the Edmund G. Brown State Office Building.  Built in 1986 and designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merril, it is one of the anchors of the San Francisco Civic Center. The seal was created by sculptor Rosa Estebanez. Estebanez’s life has been described as a remarkable story of courage, tragedy and the triumph of the human spirit. Born in Cuba, Estebanez graduated from the National School of Art in Havana with a master’s degree in art and became the official sculptor for Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. In 1960, Estebanez left Cuba following Continue Reading

May 162013
Henri Crenier's Telamones

Civic Center San Francisco City Hall These telamones by Henri Crenier have always taken my breath away.  They sit on the Van Ness side of City Hall. Telamones (plural) or Telamon are sculptured male human figures used in place of columns to support an entablature.  They are also called Atlantes (plural) or Atlas.  They are called Caryatids if they are female figures. * Henri Crenier was responsible for much of the art work on City Hall.

May 152013
Henri Crenier adds Beauty to San Francisco City Hall

City Hall San Francisco Civic Center San Francisco’s City Hall has an art collection of its own within its walls.  This is about the art work that graces the building.  City Hall was the cornerstone to the City Beautiful Movement in San Francisco. On City Hall there are two tympanums each holding a sculpture by Henri Crenier.  A tympanum is the triangular space enclosed by a pediment or arch. The tympanum that faces the War Memorial Building on Van Ness features a figure representing Wisdom.  Wisdom stands between the figures of Arts, Learning and Truth on the left and Industry Continue Reading

Apr 262013
The Masonic Temple - 25 Van Ness

Masonic Temple 25 Van Ness Civic Center Walter Danforth Bliss and William Baker Faville were the architects of this, the second Masonic Lodge in San Francisco. The first lodge, at 1 Montgomery Street, was built in 1860 and burned down in the 1906 fire. In 1911 the Masonic Temple Association, headed by William Crocker, laid a 12—ton cornerstone (the largest ever in California at that time) for their new building. Two years later a grand parade of 8,000 Masons, with Knights Templar on horseback, marked its dedication. Cornerstone An outstanding example of the Beaux-Arts period, the temple is primarily Italian Gothic in Continue Reading

Jan 112013
The Beaded Quilt

214 Van Ness Avenue Civic Center This “Beaded Quilt” sits on the outside of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired building on Van Ness Avenue.  According to the Please Touch Garden Site this mural is part of a LightHouse community arts initiative created by dozens of blind San Franciscans.  The mural is created out of 150,000 colored beads. As part of the Please Touch Community Garden, artist Gk Callahan envisioned the “Beaded Quilt” mural as a social arts project and enlisted clients from his art classes plus blind staff and volunteers at the LightHouse to assemble the 576 beaded squares that make up Continue Reading

Dec 292012
San Francisco's Civic Center the Heart of the City Beautiful Movement

San Francisco’s 1906 fire and earthquake not only destroyed much of San Francisco, it also destroyed the dream of many to bring the City Beautiful Movement to large sections of San Francisco. The City Beautiful Movement began with the “White City,” also known as the 1893 World Columbian Exposition. The Exposition took place in Chicago and was an exercise in light, order and forward thinking. The shimmering “White City” was a model of early city planning and architectural cohesion. In the Court of Honor all of the buildings had uniform heights, were decorated roughly in the same manner, and painted bright Continue Reading

Sep 302012
Richard Mayer at Hastings Law School

Civic Center Hastings Law School 200 McAllister at Hyde *  I would like to extend a big thank you to Suzanne Parks, the Volunteer Art Curator at Hastings Law School for this information. This sculpture  is titled “Gary Diptych #1” and is by San Francisco Bay area artist Richard Mayer. He loaned Hastings the sculpture back in the early 1980’s and then gave it to them in 2008. In his statement, the artist said: With its affirmation and ambiguity, “Gary Diptych #1 is intended as a metaphor for our times. Mayer sat on the board of the SFAC when Arneson Continue Reading

Sep 172012
Firefly on the new SFPUC Building

525 Golden Gate Avenue Civic Center This is the new Public Utilities building in San Francisco.  It is touted as one of the more “green buildings” built in the US. Four egg-beater-like wind turbines are on view behind a 200-foot-high, 22-foot-wide curtain of polycarbonate squares called Firefly. Ned Kahn’s Firefly is a lattice of tens of thousands of five-inch-square, clear-polycarbonate panels that are hinged so that they can freely move in the wind. During the day, the ever-changing wind pressure profile on the building appears as undulating waves. At night, this movement is converted into light. As the wind presses the Continue Reading

Aug 292012
Parisian Street Artist Tags the Asian Art Museum

McAllister and Hyde Wall of the Asian Art Museum Civic Center   UPDATE: The artist on this is actually an artist from Iowa that goes by TheUpside.   Apparently the UpTown Almanac and I spotted this one at the same time.  Here is what they wrote: Tim Hallman, the Asian Art Museum’s Communications Director, dropped us a line about the beautiful piece: I think the Asian Art Museum got “tagged” by this famous Parisian street artist. No confirmation from the artist yet, though. It appeared overnight on the McAllister Street side of the building, near Hyde. We didn’t hire her, Continue Reading

Aug 152012
Dancers and Musicians on the Performing Arts Garage

Civic Center Performing Arts Garage Grove and Gough Streets   * * The Dancing Musicians and The Dancer by Joan Brown 1986-1986  Bronze Joan Brown has several pieces around San Francisco.  These pieces were commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commision.  The flautist and guitar player are twelve feet high and five feet wide and sit on the outside of the fifth floor of the garage.  The smaller dancer sits on the first floor. The simplified silhouettes are based on the classic Greek black-figures found on Etruscan pottery.

Aug 132012
Kenzo's Octopus on Fell Street

Civic Center/Hayes Valley  * 155 Fell Street  This is titled Big Octopus and is by Kenzo. Kenzo, (Aleix Gordo Hostau)  is from Barcelona, you can see his other work around San Francisco here or his own flicker photo stream here.

Jul 312012
Breathing Flower by Choi Jeong Hwa graces SF Civic Center

Civic Center Larkin Street, San Francisco * * by Choi Jeon Hwa Fabric with LEDs motor This work of art is part of Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum across the street. The plaque accompanying the work reads: The Breathing Flower, internationally acclaimed Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa created an enormous lotus blossom from sheets of red fabric.  The large lotus appears full of life, its petals slowly inhaling and exhaling, simulating the movement of a live lotus flower.  In many Asian traditions, the lotus symbolizes the spiritual path a person takes Continue Reading