San Francisco City Hall

Probably my favorite building in San Francisco proper is City Hall. Completed in 1915 and designed by Arthur Brown, Jr, the building reflects the City Beautiful movement that was sweeping the country at the time. San Francisco was working on a master plan done by architect Daniel Burnham which included this city center which was planned to be completed for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915. You can see where the movement's name came from...strikingly beautiful architecture!The earlier (and larger!) city hall was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, so a strong and fire proof building was desired. Acres of marble and gilded bronze seem to have survived the last century admirably well.The attention paid to the building by Brown is evident - he designed every detail down to the very door knobs and even the typeface of the signage! This makes the entire building read as a cohesive environment rather than seperate pieces.The large interior is sun filled and bright and barely requires any electric lights. Above is the gracious entry hall with a peak into the grand rotunda.The grand porportions of the space represent the importance of government and were meant to impress. The city was making a comeback from its destruction in a big way and this civic center was meant to display the wealth, power and culture San Francisco held claim to. The grand staircase is probably one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, rivaling the Paris Opera House (which I just realized I never blogged about despite taking a thousand pictures of the space last fall!).A few details of the gilded bronze hand railing. While it may not meet current safety codes, I think we can excuse it :-) Thank good ness for grandfather clauses!The soaring atrium almost reads as a grand cathedral. The dome is the 5th largest in the WORLD!The different materials read from darkest at the base (sandstone and marble) to light at the top (painted plaster) , exaggerating the height of the space.Much of the statuary was done by Henri Crenier, an Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained artist.This grand space has been witness to state funerals, weddings (Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe) and even a double murder ( mayor George Mascone and civil rights leader & supervisor Harvey Milk). If you haven't seen the fantastic movie Milk from 2008 about the murder with Sean Penn, definitely check it out; much of the movie is filmed on location.Everywhere you look is a beautiful picture. What a space.
I loved a lot of the local California flavor that was incorporated into the decoration such as these artichoke finials.This statue of Harvey Milk was put in place in 2008; a fitting memorial in a beautiful space.The rest of the building is less grand but no less appealing. I loved the natural light filled wide hallways.These sconces, and all of the building's light fixtures in general, were really fantastic. I noticed that other buildings by Brown, such as the War Memorial opera house directly across the street used the same exact fixtures.The motto of the county is in old Spanish above one of the main entries to the rotunda. It reads ORO EN PAZ FIERRO EN GUERRA or Gold in peace, Iron in war.
Much of the light comes from numerous skylights and light tunnels into the building. This skylight is one that lights the hallways behind the rotunda.
I'm always fascinated by these structural skylights. All of that heavy metal being supported by glass essentially!
Aren't the mail boxes in the entry hall spectacular? Attractive design for everything!
Civic pride is evident: even at night the building is proudly lit. The interior is open to the public and I urge you to visit this fantastic space!

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