For architecture enthusiasts who would be visiting San Francisco, the Civic Center is a one-stop destination that includes several classical-inspired buildings standing side by side modern edifices. It play host to many of San Francisco?s biggest government and cultural organizations.
The Civic Center Area was conceptualized after majority of San Francisco was reduced to rubbles by the great earthquake of 1906. After the devastation, there was a need to create a new setting for the city?s government institutions and Beaux-Arts style, which was the predominant architectural paradigm during that time, was top-of-mind. The mastermind behind the initiative was then San Francisco mayor ?Sunny Jim? Rolph who won in the 1911 elections. He placed the establishment of the new Civic Center as one of his top priorities. The first structure which was the Civic Auditorium was finished by four years after he was elected in 1915 and the other structures quickly followed suit.
San Francisco?s Civic Center is designed around a mammoth symmetrical square known as the Civic Center Plaza. The Civic Auditorium is located on the south of the plaza and on the west side is arguably the most notable building within the Civic Center, the castle-like San Francisco City Hall one of the biggest city halls in the United States and the world.
The Civic Center Plaza is bordered on the east by the magnificent Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Main Public Library created in 1995. In the middle of these beautiful structures is the Pioneer Monument sculpted by Fran Happersberger. Created in 1894, it is one of the few buildings which withstood the powerful earthquake of 1906 and shows a bust of California encircled by different statues which include a Spanish monk, gold miners and an Indian.
As mentioned, the Civic Center and the Civic Center Plaza are flanked by several beautiful works of architecture. One of these is the 3,146-seater War Memorial Opera House which has been the headquarters of the San Francisco Opera Company from 1932. It is one of the buildings that were constructed when the Beaux-Arts style was declining in the United States and was conceptualized by G. Albert Lansburgh and Arthur Brown. Nonetheless, the War Memorial Opera House is a sight to behold with its cavernous arch-headed windows and breathtaking Roman Doric pillars. The interior of the building is as just as lovely with cascaded staircases, gold-plated statues, imposing chandeliers and coffered ceilings.
Another notable structure within San Francisco?s Civic Center is the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall and is one of the most recent additions to the plaza finished in 1980. Upon completion, it gave the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra a permanent headquarters. It does not sport the classical Beaux-Arts style, but instead boasts of a more modern, streamlined design and can seat up top 2,700 spectators. The symphony hall also houses five manual pipe organs. It is also popular among sculpture enthusiasts because of Henry Moore?s ?Large Four Piece Reclining Figure? found within the perimeters of the performance complex.
Rounding up the notable structures found in San Francisco?s Civic Center Plaza is the Earl Warren (California State) Building which is named after United States Chief Justice Earl Warren. It is designed utilizing the American Renaissance Style and it fa?ade is cladded with terra-cotta and gray California granite. The original building was six stories high and the building was augmented with two new wings in the 1930s. Its exterior is also embellished with Italian Renaissance decorative elements.
The strategic location of the San Francisco Civic Center makes it a famous venue for several festivities and street parties such as the St. Patrick?s Day parade, the San Francisco LovEvolution party and San Francisco?s Gay Pride Parade. There are also two campuses located at the Civic Center namely The Art Institute of California ? San Francisco and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
San Francisco?s Civic Center was named as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.