March 15, 2011

early morning, Palace of Fine Arts, S.F.


click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, a relic of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, recently got some restoration work done to it's crumbling exterior, including some new landscaping.



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

HISTORY
The Palace of Fine Arts was one of ten palaces at the heart of the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, which also included the exhibit palaces of Education, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Varied Industries, Agriculture, Food Products, Transportation, Mines and Metallurgy and the Palace of Machinery. The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who took his inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture in designing what was essentially a fictional ruin from another time.

While most of the Exposition was demolished when the Exposition ended, the Palace was so beloved that a Palace Preservation League, founded by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, was founded while the fair was still in progress.

For a time the Palace housed a continuous art exhibit, and during the Great Depression, W.P.A. artists were commissioned to replace the deteriorated Robert Reid murals on the ceiling of the rotunda. From 1934 to 1942 the exhibition hall was home to eighteen lighted tennis courts. During World War II it was requisitioned by the Army for storage of trucks and jeeps. At the end of the war, when the United Nations was created in San Francisco, limousines used by the world's statesmen came from a motor pool there. From 1947 on the hall was put to various uses: as a city Park Department warehouse; as a telephone book distribution center; as a flag and tent storage depot; and even as temporary Fire Department headquarters.

While the Palace had been saved from demolition, its structure was not stable. Originally intended to only stand for the duration of the Exhibition, the colonnade and rotunda were not built of durable materials, and thus framed in wood and then covered with staff, a mixture of plaster and burlap-type fiber. As a result of the construction and vandalism, by the 1950s the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin.

In 1964 the original Palace was completely demolished, with only the steel structure of the exhibit hall left standing. The buildings were then reconstructed in permanent, light-weight, poured-in-place concrete, and steel I-beams were hoisted into place for the dome of the rotunda. All the decorations and sculpture were constructed anew. The only changes were the absence of the murals in the dome, two end pylons of the colonnade, and the original ornamentation of the exhibit hall.

In 1969 the former Exhibit Hall became home to the Exploratorium interactive museum, and in 1970 also became the home of the 1,000 seat Palace of Fine Arts Theater.

Today, Australian eucalyptus trees fringe the eastern shore of the lagoon. Many forms of wildlife have made their home there including swans, ducks (particularly migrating fowl), geese, turtles, frogs, and raccoons.

[ source: Wikipedia ]



click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

DESIGN
Built around a small artificial lagoon, The Palace of Fine Arts is composed of a wide, 1100 foot pergola, an arch formed by rows of Corinthian columns framing a wide walkway, around a central rotunda situated by the water. The lagoon was intended to echo those found in classical settings in Europe, where the expanse of water provides a mirror surface to reflect the grand buildings and an undisturbed vista to appreciate them from a distance.

Ornamentation includes Bruno Louis Zimm's three repeating panels around the entablature of the rotunda representing "The Struggle for the Beautiful" symbolizing Greek culture. While Ulric Ellerhusen supplied the weeping women atop the colonnade and the sculptured frieze and allegorical figures representing Contemplation, Wonderment and Meditation.

The underside of the Palace rotunda's dome features eight large insets, which originally contained murals by Robert Reid. Four of the murals depicted the conception and birth of Art, "its commitment to the Earth, its progress and acceptance by the human intellect," and four depicted the "golds" of California (poppies, citrus fruits, metallic gold, and golden wheat).

[ source: Wikipedia ]



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2 comments:

Scott said...

I like these. I love the contrast between the green and the orange on that top one. Nice shots.

photowannabe said...

Thanks for all the historic research you shared. I had lost track of a lot of that. Great shots of the arches and detail.
Hope your week is going well Don.

 
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