San Francisco’s Art Deco

26 July 2012

Lens:

I. Medical-Dental Building, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco (1929)

1. Door to Garage, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

2. Entrance, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

3. Detail, 450 Sutter Street adjacent to Skyscraper, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

4. Detail of Lobby, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

5. Detail of Neo-Mayan Art Deco, 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

II. Coit Tower at the Top of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco (1933)

6. From Observation Deck at Coit Tower, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

7. Coit Tower, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

III. Other Art Deco Examples, San Francisco

8. Art Deco Entrance, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

9. The “Juke Box,” Marriott Hotel, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

10. Close Up of “The Juke Box,” Marriott, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Let me know which is your favorite. (I could not choose, because I am so smitten with each Art Deco style.)

Lens:

Art Deco and San Francisco are a duo. Even though Mother Nature (e.g., earthquakes) influences the city’s architectural longevity, many 1920s-1930s buildings stand proudly as representatives of the Bay’s sumptuous designs and history.

Architecture stands as a testament to the human spirits’ abilities to create structures that are not only utilitarian but aesthetically captivating. Art Deco is wedged between Art Nouveau and Modernism, and the West Coast’s Bay area is a dream for aficionados.

Art Deco’s standards include sleek and geometric lines with bold colors, stepped or tiered shapes, and materials such as concrete, glass and metal. This movement’s influence spread into the popular culture where it planted its decorative leanings into everything. See photograph # one in the Lens section where the lettering above the door of the entrance to the garage is case-in-point: the Art Deco stylized font.

Mostly, simplicity is its main characteristic–its pure lines that have the feel of a fast and then slower train moving toward a destination. But within the discipline are offshoots such as Neo-Mayan as exemplified by photographs 1-5.

Daily commuters, residents and visitors to San Francisco will notice its abundance of Art Deco architecture that weaves into the city’s vibrancy. During my travels with my teenage grandchildren to this golden city, it became a running joke: Art Deco up ahead. My granddaughter ribbed me mucho times about my excitement each time that I  witnessed yet another diner, gate, home, theater, and skyscraper in the genre.

Our first sighting was the Golden Gate Bridge. Not only could we gaze upon its streamlined design, but we saw it from all vantage points (except above). The walk back and forth are stored and easily retrievable. To see my photographs of that journey about one of our country’s landmark icons, visit my post titled ” San Francisco: The Golden City, Part One.”  Click here to see and pay particular attention to photographs #3 and #9. Art-Deco architectural theme can be seen in the lamp posts, railings and walkways. But it is the towers at either end that display a strong sense of the period’s design sensibility.

On our on-foot travels we saw more than we could ever record in our memories and through our iPhones and my Nikon camera. The photographs in the Lens section are small tributes to our discoveries and to the 20s and 30s when Art Deco was the precursor to Art Moderne.

Here are some comments about the other examples found in the Lens section:

1. Medical-Dental Building was designed by the renowned architect Timothy Ludwig Pflueger, who was a native to the city, and left an outstanding legacy  throughout his forty-year career. 450 Sutter shows distinct elements of the Mayan Revival arm of Art Deco. It’s truly one of Pflueger’s masterpieces. As we stood in its shadow, there was nothing to do by be in awe of such staggeringly gorgeous craftsmanship. If you want to learn more about the architect, you can peruse Art Deco San Francisco: Architecture of Timothy Pflueger (2008).

2. Another day we walked through North Beach and  took a leisurely walk up Filbert to Telegraph Hill, the views behind us were enticing. But ahead was such a treat that we continued on course. Coit Tower, which was designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., was standing in the distance. On a spectacular hilltop sits the Art Deco Tower that provides a sweeping view of the city. But it also houses one of the city’s historic collections of murals that document life in California during the depression. Artists, who were part of the WPA (Federal Work Projects Administration), painted directly onto the concrete walls. The lobby of the tower is covered with their gems. I’m sure that it’s darkly lit to preserve these historic frescoes. Here are some images from Google.

“Detail of California Agriculture” by Maxine Albro, 1933

“Industries of California” by Ralph Stackpole and Tom Haynes,1934

3. Every day we discovered other examples within zigzag streets and areas with distinct and unique qualities. In the Financial District the mirrored skyscraper seemed to take up the entire skyline. Although it rises with stylized symmetry, its girth amazes. It tantalizes with your visual grounding. I could easily have stood in its presence for hours. The afternoon was gray and still the facade was ablaze with confident pride. From our viewpoint an entire grouping of sculptures seemed like playthings. It is quite a juxtaposition.

San Franciscan Art Deco stuns at every turn. Each is a monument to the city’s heritage. Each is a tribute to 1920s and 1930s in which the history of architecture and urban planning took a turn towards the new–the new that changed our cityscapes forever.

Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. If you want to see another source about San Franciscan Art Deco, see Michael F. Crowe’s Deco by the Bay: Art Deco Architecture in the San Francisco Bay Area (1995).

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16 Responses to San Francisco’s Art Deco

  1. Sally Greene says:

    I am thrilled to have found your blog and incredible Art Deco photographs while searching for images of the 450 Sutter Street Building in San Francisco. Are your photographs available for sale or display? Please advise.

    • I’m delighted that you found me. If you want more information about the sale of my work, please click on my Homepage where you’ll find my e-mail address. Please send me a more detailed inquiry. Thanks for the comment and visit.

  2. Great post, Sally. The Art Deco hotel you photographed is the Marriot, known as “The Jukebox” to the construction workers in The City.

  3. Geoff says:

    Deco is one of my all-time favourite design periods 🙂

  4. blueberriejournal says:

    That is a very interesting post, thanks. My favourite pic is No. 6, it is amazing.

  5. I’m with you, all of the photos are wonderful! San Francisco is my favorite city. I have been enjoying your photo’s.

  6. I too love Art Deco. Your photos are wonderful and reflect the feeling of the period. If i was pushed for a favourite it would have to be the last one.

  7. marialla says:

    Beautiful stuff. This is what I like about blogs, the internet and people communicating this that and the other thing – there is so much in the world that we simply cannot image or see, not only in terms of what Mother Nature has to offer ( and that is simply oodles) but also what mankind has been able to do with the materials available to him/her. Sure there is lots of ugly stuff -more than enough to go around – but there is really an incredible amount o absolutely breath-taking beauty, I’ve been watch the original KUNG FU series lately and one thing strikes me as quite appropriate here – (this not an exact paraphrasing) – and that is that the blind master, in response to Grasshopper’s concerned question regarding good and evil, said that in order to tell what is good you have to have evil so it is true with many opposing things. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but without ugliness, how would we recognize beauty???
    I like all the pictures but my two favourites are the first one of the door and then the view from the observation deck of the Coit Tower. Thank you for the views and keep up the good work!!!

  8. Gracie says:

    These are some amazing architecture, very impressive! Love how you’ve captured as much details as possible, Sally! Thank you for sharing your trip with us 🙂

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