Palace was not designed as 'a Valentine for San Francisco.'
Maybeck visualized its colonnade streaming with people, finding
a reward within the great doors."
task of creating a Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific
International Exposition fell to the architect Bernard
R. Maybeck, then fifty years old and known for his innovative
ideas. Setting to work on this new project, he chose as
his theme a Roman ruin, mutilated and overgrown, in the
mood of a Piranesi engraving. But this ruin was not to exist
solely for itself to show "the mortality of grandeur
and the vanity of human wishes .... " Although it was
meant to give delight by its exterior beauty, its purpose
was also to offer all visitors a stimulating experience
ticket. Click for larger view.
playing host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The
Fair, which opened on February 20, 1915, San Francisco was honoring
the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama
Canal; it was also celebrating its own resurrection after the
shattering earthquake and fire of 1906.
Aerial view of Expo grounds. Click
for larger view.
The problems of choosing the exact site in the city had finally
been overcome and groundwork had been going on for some time.
Last of the buildings
to be erected, on the lagoon and close by a group of Monterey
cypresses, was Maybeck's Palace of Fine Arts. With its exhibition
hall to house the work of living artists (dominated by the Impressionists),
its colonnade, and its rotunda -- plans for all of which had dazzled
the Commissioners when the huge brown-paper sketch was put before
them -- it fulfilled the architect's dream: it was as beautiful
reflected in the water as it was against the sky. And when the
Palace was completed (Roman in style although a freely-interpreted,
purely romantic conception, and Greek in decorative treatment)
its exceptional harmony gave it instant appeal to the public.
1998, The Exploratorium