UNBUILT SAN FRANCISCO

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The Chinese Garden, from the Yerba Buena Gardens Master Plan
The Chinese Garden, from the Yerba Buena Gardens Master Plan, n.d. [circa 1969], The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania by the gift of Lawrence Halprin
Benjamin H. Swig, Hotelman and Financier, Posing with Associates and Sketch of Plan
Benjamin H. Swig, Hotelman and Financier, Posing with Associates and Sketch of Plan for Redevelopment of Downtown City Blocks, courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
Ira Nowinski, Demolition of the Milner Hotel, Fourth and Mission, 1974
Ira Nowinski, Demolition of the Milner Hotel, Fourth and Mission, 1974. Courtesy of the artist

CURRENT EXHIBITION

UNBUILT SAN FRANCISCO: The View from Futures Past
Curated by Benjamin Grant and Cydney M. Payton

September 6, 2013 – December 29, 2013

Click here to view the Unbuilt San Francisco exhibition slideshow

CHS and SPUR join AIA San Francisco / Center for Architecture & Design; Environmental Design Archives, College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley; and San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library in Unbuilt San Francisco, a five-venue exhibition examining visions of the urban landscape in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The twentieth century saw both a series of ambitious efforts to reimagine the city of San Francisco and the explosive growth of the Bay Area as a metropolitan region. In Unbuilt San Francisco: The View from Futures Past, the California Historical Society and SPUR present some of the most revealing episodes in these distinct but related streams of civic discourse through projects that were proposed but never realized. Concern with a particular site, problem, or opportunity often spans a period of decades and presents a window into a city's changing attitudes, politics, and values. Every bit as much as the cities we build, the cities we imagine and reject reveal the collective creativity of the urban project and the imperfect civics of place-making.

The subtitle of our exhibition, The View from Futures Past, is borrowed from Mike Davis's landmark book City of Quartz (1990), which imagines the potential of Los Angeles from "the ruins of its alternative future." We know that there is value to examining the future that almost was alongside the future that actually arrived. Whether we look back one hundred years or a century forward, this exhibition advances fruitful discussion and debate around issues that impact our future in our region and our California.

In the galleries of the California Historical Society, we survey three ambitious efforts to reimagine the city of San Francisco and the Bay Area as a metropolitan region—Marincello, Yerba Buena Center, and the Ferry Building—reaching beyond plans and models to depict the political, social, and economic challenges to each. Throughout, architectural drawings, letters, photographs, artworks, videos, and newspaper clippings represent the voices of advocates and detractors. Through these sites, we see the built environment of today as a collected history that is still building.

This exhibition has been generously supported by our funding sponsors: Adolph S. Rosekrans, Inc. Architects, The Bland Family Foundation, Carey & Co. Inc., Cody Anderson Wasney Architects, Environmental Science Associates (ESA), Matthew Adams, Webcor Builders, and Yerba Buena Community Benefit District.

In-kind support is being provided by our partners: Center for Architecture + Design (CAD), American Institute of Architects, San Francisco (AIASF), Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley (EDA), Hafner Vineyard, Lagunitas Brewing Company, One Brick, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), San Francisco Heritage, San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), Sherwin-Williams, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, and Vignette Wine Country Soda.

Institutional support to CHS is provided by: The Barkley Fund, The Bernard Osher Foundation, Hearst Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, The James Irvine Foundation, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

PERMANENT EXHIBITION

Visit the California Historical Society Gallery at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The CHS Gallery is part of the permanent exhibition Art of the West, which showcases the dynamic and evolving world of art that springs from the cultural practices of some of the many peoples who have shaped the American West. The CHS Gallery features selections from CHS’s fine arts and costumes collections that are permanently housed at the Autry. This collaboration has assured the exhibition and conservation of significant works of art from the CHS Collection by some of America’s best known nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists (including Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and Maynard Dixon) as well as turn-of-the-nineteenth-century costumes. The Art of the West exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how shared values and interests have inspired artists from different cultures and times to create distinctive, powerful works that speak to their experience of the West as both a destination and a home.

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