Apr 062015

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.

Passages of Remembrance

In 1935 that War Memorial Complex architect Arthur Brown, Jr., recommended landscape architect Thomas D. Church be engaged to complete the Memorial Court. Church, a world renowned landscape architect, know for his gardens reflecting the Beaux-Arts tradition completed the design in 1936. His drawings reference a “future memorial” to be added in the octagonal area of the Memorial Court.

Soils from World War I battlefields were consigned there at the time of its completion. A similar ceremony depositing soils from World War II battlefields took place following the 1945 signing of the United Nations Charter in the Veterans Building. And in 1988, veterans groups held a ceremony interring battlefield soils from Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, China, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Guam, Italy, Laos, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Prior to beginning construction of the San Francisco Veterans Memorial, the soil from the center of the octagonal area of the Memorial Court was carefully removed and safeguarded.

war memorial sf

The Young Dead Soldiers, a poem also used at the Presidio Cemetery Overlook, is a fitting poem for this spot.

The project artist was Susan Narduli of Narduli Studio.  The project was completed October 2014 with $2.5 million of private donations.

War Memorial in San Francisco

UN Plaza Fountain

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Jan 072015

UN Plaza
Civic Center

UN Plaza Fountain San Francisco

There is more to the U.N. Plaza fountain than meets the eye, however, typical of the City of San Francisco it took three redesigns, one public vote and a lot of back and forth (much of it ridiculous), to finally get the thing built.

The fountain was designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.  The Plaza was a joint effort between Halprin, Swiss architect Mario Ciampi and John Carl Warnecke.

The fountain is intended to represent the seven continents of the world.  Each “landmass” is tied together by the water symbolizing the ocean.

According to an April 26, 1977 San Francisco Chronicle article: The fountain was to be highly computerized.  “On each of the nine spurting slabs of the fountain will be a wind measuring device and if it is real windy, the spurts will slow down or stop altogether to keep passerby from getting sprayed.  Second, the computer will cause the depth of the waters in the fountain’s 100 foot wide basin to vary from bone dry to eight feet.”

According to the designer, Lawrence Halprin, this change in water height was to simulate the tides of the bay.  None of these items were maintained properly and no longer work.

Lawrence Halprin UN Plaza fountain

On the top stone far left is written:  “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man or one party or one nation….It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.”   This is a quote from Franklin Roosevelt.  The entire plaza was designed and built to honor the 30th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter that took place in the San Francisco War Memorial.

Designed in 1975 the fountain is made of 673 blocks of granite weighing between 3 to 4 million tons, it is 165 feet long and cost $1.2 million.

UN Plaza Fountain designed by Lawrence Halprin

The fountain has had mixed reviews over the years. When it was dedicated in 1975, then-U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young described it as “a tribute to the U.N.’s goals of seeking peaceful resolutions to international rivalries.”

But then-Chronicle architecture critic Allan Temko described it as “pretentious schmaltz . . . whose ‘tidal pools’ are supposed to simulate global oceanic action but rarely work and merely toss around empty muscatel bottles.”

Homeless in UN Plaza

The Plaza has the distinction of being in the Hall of Shame of the Project for Public Spaces, and it has been a source of controversy, anger and neglect for many years.

If you are interested in learning more about the problems of UN Plaza and how the fountain fits into these problems, there is a fabulous 30 minute radio show that you can listen to here.

The original design for the UN Fountain submitted to the SFAC

The original design for the UN Fountain submitted to the SFAC

I want to thank Joel Pomerantz of Thinkwalks for going to the San Francisco library and sending me the entire file to “prove a point”.  I am grateful for my friends that care about the minutia of San Francisco history as much as I do.

The fountain from Google Earth 2015

Dec 292014

50 UN Plaza
City Center

The Federal Building in San Francisco

The Federal Building of San Francisco was vacated by the US Government in 2007 when they built a newer building in Civic Center.  It has recently undergone a $121 million restoration and will be the offices of Section 9 GSA.

This article is about the exterior of the building.

entryway to 50 UN Plaza

In 1927, the government allocated $2.5 million for the Federal Building’s design and construction, although final costs reached a total of $3 million.  Architect Arthur Brown, Jr. designed the building, which was constructed between 1934 and 1936.

Arthur Brown, Jr. (1874-1957) was born in Oakland, California. He graduated from the University of California in 1896, where he and his future partner, John Bakewell, Jr. were protégés of Bernard Maybeck. Brown went to Paris and graduated from the École des Beaux Arts in 1901. Before returning to San Francisco to establish his practice with Bakewell, the firm designed the rotunda for the “City of Paris” in the Neiman Marcus department store in San Francisco. Other notable San Francisco buildings include Coit Tower; San Francisco War Memorial Opera House; and the War Memorial Veterans Building. He was a consulting architect for the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Federal Building is an excellent example of Second Renaissance Revival architecture. The six-story steel frame is encased in fireproof concrete with concrete flooring and roof slabs, important features after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The street elevation walls are constructed of brick but faced with granite, with the exception of a section of the McAllister Street elevation, which is faced in terra cotta.

Eagles over the front door at 50 UN Plaza


50 UN Plaza

Male and female mascarons (carved faces) adorn the exterior. The carvings sport different horticulturally themed headpieces, including corn, wheat, cat tails, and oak leaves. There are 18 of them in total.

Faces on 50 UN building

Sadly it is not known who did all these wonderful carvings for the building.

50 Un Plaza Faces


Faces of 50 UN Plaza


Faces of 50 UN Plaza


Apr 282014

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
50 Oak Street
Civic Center

Exultagio by Daniel Winterig

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.

Exultadagio by Daniel Winterich

San Francisco Conservatory of Music GlassInterior Shot courtesy of Winterich Studios

According to Daniel Winterich’s website he was raised in a ninety-five year old family business devoted to the liturgical arts, his training in stained glass, painting and mosaic work began in 1975. His extreme attention to materials and details developed over these early years while working on ecclesiastical projects across the Midwest and southern states.

During his studies at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design, Winterich expanded his education at the German stained glass studio, Oidtmann Glasmalerei in 1982 where he apprenticed in glass painting while working with Germany’s leading glass artists.

After completing his undergraduate design degree, Winterich’s interest in the integration of art and architecture led him to work with three award-winning architectural firms from 1984 to 1994 and become a registered architect in the state of California.

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Apr 072014

SFPUC Building
525 Golden Gate Avenue
Civic Center

Ned Kahn's Rain Portal

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 architecture can be viewed as the endeavor to keep rain out. Here we have invited it in.”



The installation covers two walls located on either side of the lobby stairway. The installation is a self-sustaining system that continuously recycles water to create the illusion of rain inside the clear polycarbonate wall panels. The extruded polycarbonate has multiple cells of plastic that through which water is pumped up from a reservoir at the bottom of the panels and released as small drops into the top. The artwork was dedicated with the opening of the building in June 2012.

SFPUC Rain Portal

The installation of Rain Portal cost $24,800, and was done by Gizmo Art Productions.  I was unable to find what the piece itself cost.

SFPUCThese two plaques are not part of Ned Kahn’s installation, but rather part of the buildings effort to be one of the foremost water conscious buildings in the world.  An important reminder while California enters another year of sever drought.

Mar 312014

154 McAllister Street
Civic Center

Peace by Reka


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 art. This style emerged from his Pop-Art-influenced logo design background, featuring simple but striking lines and colour ways. Over time, the logos and symbols he created for clients evolved into more structured, animated forms and embraced variances of the different media he began experimenting with.

This is Reka’s art: a paradox between sharp design and graffiti, held together with a fuse of passion and spray paint.



This installation was a result of Reka’s show at White Walls Gallery titled 3am Femmes.  The show ran October 12 – November 2, 2013.

Mar 242014

50 8th Street
SOMA/Civic Center

MAGS mural on Holiday Inn on 8th Street SOMA


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 to collaborate with JanSport and their ‘Live Outside’ campaign, to create a mural any size and any content that we could imagine. Mags and I decided to go bigger than ever and create a piece that was enhanced by elements of our fine art collaborations, traditional graffiti, and of course some lovely ladies! We are so honored and humbled by all the amazing support we have received with this project, and look forward to doing many more. Stay tuned for the official campaign launch and accompanying video of the whole process.

Amanda Lynn Mural*

Lady Mags Mural*

Lady Mags and Amanda Lynn*

Amanda Lynn and Lady Mags


If you follow this website often, you will notice that I have been doing fewer and fewer murals.   The reason is they have become repetitive.  I am in awe with anyone that can take brush or spray can to a wall and create something of beauty.  However, the art of so many of the artists I have focused on in this website can be recognized without the help of a guide.  The same might be said of Alynn-Mags, but it isn’t quite true.  Their work, while often of beautiful women, are of the same genre, but the paintings themselves are each unique and beautiful.

I look forward to catching other great street artists breaking out of their molds.

Holiday Inn Mural





Feb 142014

City Hall
South Light Court

Heart sculpture at City Hall SF

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.

Love + Marriage SF

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 today. The list of same-sex names represents some of the 4,161 gay marriages that took place in 29 days, and has now become an important part of our city’s history. The names were done on my computer and printed onto canvas with a digital permanent pigment printer. At the center of the heart and the literal focal point are the names of Del Martin, 83, and Phyllis Lyon, 79, who were the first couple to get married on Feb 12. The names fade out away from the center like a drop of water in the middle and its ripple effect. I was extremely happy that the heart was appropriately placed on the spot where these marriages took place.”


Deborah Oropallo is a Bay Area painter and sculptor who has exhibited her work at various museums around the country including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. and the Whitney Museum in New York City.

Oropallo got her MA and MFA from the University of California, Berkeley

Heart in San Francisco South Light Hall*

Love and Marriage


Feb 112014

Second Floor
City Hall
Civic Center

Judge James Seawell City Hall Bronze Bust

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 services have helped to elevate the bench of San Francisco and gain for it the confidence and respect of the people. Judge Seaweil was born in 1536 at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, where his father, who was at the time a captain in the regular army, was then stationed. The Judge graduated at Harvard College In 1855. and at the law school of Louisville, Ky., in 1857. He came to this city in 1861 and has resided here ever since. He was elected to the Superior bench in 1892, and his candidacy for re-election is most favorably received because of his eminent fitness for the position.

Judge Seawell in City HallThe artist of this bust was Ralph Stackpole.  Stackpole is responsible for many statues throughout San Francisco that you can see here.

Ralph Ward Stackpole (May 1, 1885 – December 13, 1973) was an American sculptor, painter, muralist, etcher and art educator, San Francisco’s leading artist during the 1920s and 1930s. Stackpole was involved in the art and causes of social realism, especially during the Great Depression, when he was part of the Federal Art Project for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Stackpole was responsible for recommending that architect Timothy L. Pflueger bring Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to San Francisco to work on the San Francisco Stock Exchange and its attached office tower in 1930–31.

The statue was a gift of the SF Bar Association.

Dianne Feinstein

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Feb 072014

City Hall
Mayors Balcony
Civic Center

Bust of Dianne Feinstein

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 ceramic figures with animals, to her more historic public commissions that express ideals of peace and social justice. In her public sculptures of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez she blends bas-relief into her three-dimensional sculptural forms creating an historic and powerfully moving narrative. Her work combines a realism rooted in figurative art traditions, with a contemporary expression of social and psychological content.

Reinertson completed her MFA at UC Davis in 1984, studying with Robert Arneson, and Manuel Neri. She has taught at several universities and colleges in Northern California including CSU Chico, Santa Clara University and UC Berkeley. Her ceramic work has been in exhibitions and museums nationally and internationally, and is in several public and private collections including the Crocker Art Museum, the ASU Art Museum and the Mint Museum. Reinertson has completed over 20 public commissions in bronze.