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THE PALACE OF FINE ARTS

IF circumstances were just a little friendlier to me not so many years ago, I could’ve been an architect. Or a sculptor perhaps. Not that I’m complaining for I couldn’t be any happier with what I’m into right now.

It’s just that I so dig architecture my love for it never waned through the years. There was a time when I even felt like I was a reincarnation of Elizabeth Wilbraham. That peculiar feeling did not last though, so I was convinced that it was just another flight of my imagination. But what still lingers up to now is my admiration to the great works of magnificent architects of all time.

I’d like to say the 15th and 17th centuries in particular were the golden years of architecture during which the Renaissance concept evolved. In my humble opinion (anyone is free to disagree, just make sure you let me know and use the Comments page below), the Renaissance era is the finest of all eras. It was during this period when designs in architecture focused on symmetry and showcased proportion with the use of colonnades, pillars and domes – truly a breath of fresh air from the more dramatic Gothic and the complexities of medieval buildings.

Whenever I hear the word “Renaissance” the very first thing that pops in my head and obviously on top of my “favorites” list (at least when it comes to architecture) is none other than St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican. The Louvre in Paris is a favorite, too. And let us not forget the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in Florence whose octagonal dome is purely magnificent.

But there is one monumental structure that is also worth mentioning and that is San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts.

The Palace of Fine Arts, which put San Francisco’s Marina District on the map, perfectly reflects the classic, artistic Renaissance era. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck who took inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture. However, what made the Palace different from the three structures I mentioned previously was the fact that it was constructed solely as an exposition piece for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition whose purpose was to celebrate the completion of Panama Canal. This exposition was a huge success it showed the world that San Francisco had risen from the ashes after the devastating 1906 earthquake. Among the 10 similar exhibition structures, the Palace of Fine Arts was the only one not torn down after the exposition. It captured the heart of everyone that a Palace Preservation League was founded to preserve it long before the exposition ended and while all the other palaces were demolished.

Nestled around a small artificial lagoon, the structure is composed of a central domed rotunda with archways framed with Corinthian columns. On each side of the cupola are columns echoing the Greek architectural design and serving as walkway towards the rotunda. At nighttime, the lagoon provides a romantic mirror-like reflection of the Palace. It has also become home to geese, ducks, swans as well as migrating fowls and other animal creatures.

Currently, the grand dome is a favorite venue to interactive science museum and the Exploratorium. It remains a popular attraction for tourists and locals, and one of the most favorite spots for weddings and wedding party photographs.

How to get there: 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco, CA 94123 (Marina District)


The lagoon which is home to swans, geese and other migrating animals


A closer look at the cupola


The columns serving as walkway


Roman and Greek-inspired colonnades


The interior of the rotunda dome


Pillars and columns


The plaque on the ground beneath the dome


Architect Bernard Maybeck, a 1951 Gold Medal of Honor awardee: “The success of the Palace was due… to the presence near the rotunda of trees, flowers and a water feature…”

2 Comments
  1. The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco is an architectural wonder. Usually you would see this type of architecture only in European countries. It’s nice to have one here in San Francisco. Thanks for capturing its magnificence.

  2. The vicinity of the Palace of Fine Arts has been a favorite area for lovers. I saw a lot of couples having their wedding pictures or what they call “engagement shots” taken within the Palace grounds. Unfortunately, we haven’t discovered the Palace yet when my wife and I got married, so we had our engagement shots at some other place.

    If you want to have some peace, or just want to relax and refresh your mind, i highly recommend that you go to the Palace of Fine Arts.

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