Wordless Wednesday: Golden Gate Bridge via Doyle Drive

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The Presidio Pet Cemetery

Presidio Pet Cemetery sign with Hipstamatic

On this Memorial Day we pay a visit to Presidio Pet Cemetery. It is the final resting place of many beloved animal companions of the military families that lived in the San Francisco Presidio.

Presidio Pet Cemetery GI Pet

Most of the grave markers in the site date back to the 1950s when “the Presidio was home to over 2,000 military families.” It was surrounded by a white picket fence (which still exists today) and shaded by Monterey pines (which do not still exist). The site fell into disrepair in the 1970s and continued to deteriorate, but has been preserved. Today, it sits underneath the reconstructed Doyle Drive / Presidio Parkway that leads up to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Presidio Pet Cemetery and Doyle Drive

The construction on the Presidio Parkway is continuing around the site, indeed one large concrete beam sits inside the area of the cemetery. It is currently closed to visitors while the construction progresses, but it is quite visible from the nearby pathway. Indeed, it seems like it may in better shape now than it was preceding the construction, even if the vegetation is a bit overgrown in places.

Presidio Pet Cemetery GI Pet

Many of the markers are still clearly visible, and speak to the love and warmth these animals brought to their human companions on the base.   Some are very specific, some are more generic like “A G.I. Pet.  He did his time.”  but are touching nonetheless.  There are dogs, birds, hamsters, reptiles, and of course cats.

Presidio Pet cemetery cats

Presidio Pet Cemetery black cat

Thinking about the pets buried here and the bonds they had with their human companions helps one to feel empathy for both human and animal alike.  

I hope the site continues to be preserved and re-opens after the highway is completed.  I am sure I will be back here again.

 

Fun with Highways: The Golden Gate Bridge at 75

Today we at CatSynth and countless others celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tallest suspension bridge in the United States, the second longest, and painted in International Orange, it is instantly recognizable. In a sense, the Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco’s “Empire State Building”. Both are iconic architectural centerpieces that represent their respective cities, and both date back to the 1930s and feature the distinctive Art Deco elements of the era. Both are often present in the background during everyday life of the cities. And (at least for me), they are also places rarely visited except when hosting out-of-town visitors.

But the Golden Gate Bridge is an important practical part of the city. It is a busy transportation carrying US 101 and California Highway 1 north from San Francisco into Marin County and points beyond on the north coast. It is very unusual for a modern roadway in that the opposing lanes are separated only by short poles that are moved to adjust the number of lanes in each direction. It seems a bit quaint, in fact. On the city side, the highway split into a boulevard carrying CA 1 south and Doyle Drive (US 101) until this past month when the latter was demolished. From these points, travelers are dispersed onto the city streets of San Francisco. There is no easy highway or rail connection between my part of the city (near the Bay Bridge) and the Golden Gate Bridge, owing to the city’s hilly geography and quirky political history. As such, I find myself not near the bridge very often except when I need to be. But when I am nearby it is worth stopping to take notice.

This is what we most often see when we look at the bridge, the orange structure partially shrouded or occasionally completely enveloped by another of our famous landmarks, the San Francisco fog. But the interplay of the fog, the bridge structure, and the other natural and human elements of landscape can make for interesting compositions.

With the anniversary upon us, much attention is being paid to the history of the bridge, its engineering as well as the politics and economics surrounding its construction. For me, the most interesting part of the history is the work of Charles Ellis, a senior structural engineer and mathematician. In many ways (including his early academic credentials), he was more mathematician than engineer, and did much of the theoretical work on the design of the bridge with large amounts of detailed mathematics, along the way publishing highly cited works such as “Williot Equations for Statically Indeterminate Structures” in Transactions, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1935. Indeed, he is now recognized as a principal designer of the bridge, but at the time he was not given any credit after being fired by Joseph Strauss, chief engineer of the bridge project. He was only officially given credit in 2007 (as described in this San Francisco Chronicle article).

This film from the time chronicles the building of the bridge, but also exemplifies the mythology that Strauss created around himself.

Nonetheless, the bridge itself opened to huge fanfare, as seen in this Prelinger Archives film:

Another copy of this video can be found here.

The festivities for this year’s 75th anniversary began about a month ago with the demolition of Doyle Drive, the elevated highway connecting to the bridge.


[Photo by toyzrus8 on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

The old highway had elements such as metallic beams in the International Orange color that connected it to the bridge, and it definitely looked to be of the same vintage. It is being replaced by the new Presidio Parkway that will more gracefully connect to the surrounding parkland but also contain the iconic orange color and architectural elements to connect it to the bridge.

Today’s festivities include a planned fireworks display at the bridge. Perhaps most notably there is an ongoing art exhibit at Fort Point called International Orange in which several prominent artists present works inspired by the bridge. I am hoping to see this exhibit soon (perhaps on a quieter day when I can observe the pieces in detail). I did see a preview recently at one of last weekend’s art fairs where Anandamayi Arnold wore one of her dresses for the exhibit, appropriately colored in International Orange. I am also inspired by the concept of this project and the mathematical work of Ellis described above to try my own hand at a creative piece in honor of this occasion.

Please join us in wishing the Golden Gate Bridge a happy 75th Anniversary!

Wordless Wednesday: Central Freeway

Fun with Highways: California Highway 114 (?)

I find myself on US 101 at least once a week for work, heading south from San Francisco to Palo Alto. A couple of weeks ago a started noticing a new route marker in a construction zone near East Palo Alto for Highway 114.

Highway 114? I did know there was such a thing. It turns out it is in fact a define short route along Willow Road between 101 and CA 84, leading to the Dumbarton Bridge, as described at cahighways.org.  It is only about one mile long.

I was also not familiar with 109, which runs along University Avenue in East Palo Alto but is unsigned.

So I wonder why 114 suddenly became signed as a detour route during this construction project? Is it perhaps a legal requirement, or maybe it will be signed in the future?

Sonja Navin and Mike Kimball

I recently visited two openings for artists I met at Open Studios last fall and whose work reflects my interests in highways, architectural images and the urban landscape. The artists take very different approaches, and the shows were in very different parts of the city – but having both openings on the same night was a great opportunity to see them together and simultaneously reflect upon the city itself.

First, I stopped in the relatively quiet West Portal neighborhood for a show at the Greenhouse Cafe featuring Sonja Navin. Navin draws on her architectural background to capture familiar images of the city in her paintings. Perhaps the most “familiar” image was the King Street off-ramp from I-280 in her large painting entitled 280.

[Sonja Navin. 280. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]

Navin experienced this interchange the way many of us do, i.e., being stuck in traffic, and thus had the opportunity to visualize it in detail. She also had a painting East on N which featured a familiar view along the N-Judah metro line in the Sunset district.

Although her subject matter is often architectural in nature, her painting style features large brush strokes and irregular areas of color rather than the straight lines and precision of architectural drawings. She also had several figurative paintings, and some such as In The Haight combine both character and street elements.

Navin’s exhibition, which also features artist Kacie Erin Smith, will be on display at The Greenhouse Cafe, 329 West Portal Avenue in San Francisco through April 30.


After brief ride over Twin Peaks, I found myself descending into the Mission district for an opening at City Art Gallery, where I was particularly interested to see new works by Mike Kimball.

Like Navin, Kimball’s interpretation of the urban landscape distills it down to basic elements, but his prints and paintings feature very clean lines and simple geometric shapes. One example is his Maritime Plaza, which I immediately recognized (it is a favorite out lunch spot of mine).

[Mike Kimball.  Maritime Plaza.  Image courtesy of the artist.  (click to enlarge.)]

Like the building it represents, the image is framed by the triangules and X-shapes of the seismic bracing. This was one of the first buildings to use this technique, which is now a familiar site on buildings in the Bay Area.

In Division Street, Kimball represents another familiar sight from daily life, the interchange of I-80 and US 101 that sits above Division Street in SOMA. The image is composed of very simple curves and lines and solid colors, from which one can distinguish the elevated structures of the highway and the shadows they cast, as well as details such as the markings (and probably graffiti) on the sides of the trailers.

[Mike Kimball.  Division Street.  Image courtesy of the artist.  (click to enlarge.)]

Trucks and trailers also feature prominently in Kimball’s work. His “Truckograph” series features a similar graphic quality to Division Street. His larger work Meditations on a port looks at the stacks of trailers at the port as an abstract collection of boxes. Kimball bridges the industrial and abstract in this work – close up, one can see the writing and metal texture, but from a distance one simply sees the colored squares.

Kimball’s current exhibition will be on display at City Art Gallery, 828 Valencia Street, through March 28.

Wordless Wednesday: San Bruno Avenue

Fun with Highways: The Alemany Maze

We return to a favorite topic here at CatSynth with a highway interchange that we know quite well.

The Alemany Maze is the large interchange in southern San Francisco between US 101 and Interstate 280. It derives it’s name from Alemany Boulevard, which runs parallel to 280.

In the upper-left corner of the interchange is a large lot that is home to the Alemany Farmers Market, which has been operating at this location since 1947. I wish it wasn’t only on Saturdays (indeed, it would be great if it operated on a weekday evening to pick up fresh ingredients for dinner on the way home from work). Beyond the lot is 5lowershop (pronounced “flower shop”), where I performed two years ago at the headphone festival. I will be performing there again in October.

The section of the I-280 north of the interchange is the last double-decker freeway in the Bay Area.


[photo by /\/\ichael Patric|{] on flickr]

In the years since the infamous collapse of the I-880 Cypress Freeway in the 1989 earthquake, the other double-decker freeways have been torn down, leaving only this far less controversial section of I-280. You can read more in this article.

Whenever I drive to work (sometimes I take BART), I pass through this interchange on I-280. Besides it’s largeness and the annoyance of having to change lanes just to up against the freeways and the ramps.

Indeed, the houses along Boutwell St lie in between 101 and the ramp to 280, which seems like a somewhat surreal place to live. Similarly, I see these and other houses on the top of the hill on Charter Oak Avenue (north of 280) when driving south:

The houses on Charter Oak are actually on a steep hillside, so are somewhat sheltered from the freeway, though they also have a rather direct view of the double-decker section.

All these houses are part of the Bayview District of San Francisco (also known as the Bayview-Hunters Point District), which extends east from 101 to the bay. I can only imagine that these house all pre-dated the construction of I-280, which was built in the late 1960s. More information on the history of I-280 can be found at California Highways.


Primary Highways: Oregon

Our series returns to the west coast, and to a state I know from personal experience. I have traveled through the western part of Oregon multiple times. It is a state that at first glance has much in common with northern California, politically and geographically, but has its own unique characteristics.

Traveling north on I-5, one crosses an arbitrary line the separates the spectacular landscape of far-northern California from the spectacular landscape of southwestern Oregon. The highway weaves through the mountains and valleys of the Cascade Range, including numerous volcanic (or formerly volcanic) peaks.

At the town of Medford, one can continue north, or take a detour east on state highway 62 to Crater Lake. Crater Lake fills a caldera in the Cascade Range, and is the deepest lake the United States. It's circular shape is quite distinctive, as are its internal landmarks, including Wizard Island (the pointy island to one side of the lake), the “Old Man of the Lake“, and several volcanic formations. I had the opportunity to visit Crater Lake many years ago.

More recently, I traveled the other route from Medford, on I-5 north to Portland, while I was on tour last October.

We experienced Portland's famously variable weather. Fortunately, many of the city's attractions are indoors. This includes Powell's Books. I could have spent the whole day in the Pearl Room, which contained the art and architecture offerings, as well as their extensive rare book collection.

Portland also has abundant public art. Across from Powell's is this “brush,” a noted landmark:


[Click to enlarge]

This building brings to mind the city's nickname, Rose City.


[Click to enlarge]

These are only a few of the photos I took while on tour. Please visit the original article for more images, including the intriguing “recursive elephant” sculpture (and the hidden cat).

Portland is someplace I could see living, and indeed the idea crossed my mind during my period of unemployment last year. Ironically, it was en route to Portland that I took the fateful phone call that led to my current job and new life in San Francisco.

We also performed in the coastal town of Astoria, which can be reached by traversing the coast range or traveling along the Columbia River on US 30. This is actually the western end of US 30, which starts at a junction with our friend US 101.


[Click to enlarge]

Astoria was cool and rainy and very green, as one would expect along the northern Pacific coast. The people we met there were also very welcoming to a group of Bay Area musicians playing weird experimental music. Again, you can read more about our visit at the original tour article.

I have never been to the eastern part of Oregon, which is a very different place altogether. I am quite intrigued by the descriptions of part of eastern Oregon as a desert landscape. But it seems like one has to be very motivated to visit, as it is far less populated and less accessible via major highways. The east-west divide also seems to extend to politics, with western Oregon being more liberal in the “northern California” sense, and eastern Oregon being more conservative. I wonder how this divide is going to play, at least in the media, given the patterns of this election…

Wordless Wednesday: Unfinished