Saturday, July 10, 2010

An ornate ceiling

A taste of whats to come. San Simeon had some of the most ornate ceilings I've ever seen; Room after room after room. Many are ancient originals shipped from Europe while others are copies made for Hearst and designed by the architect Julia Morgan. This one in a guest house was custom, notice the medallion in the middle? It says San Simeon; Just so you know where you are I guess! Happy Weekend!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The most beautiful room

Throughout my art and architectural history education, I've always heard of the most beautiful room in the world. The pictures are famous, we've all surely seen them: the Roman Pool at San Simeon.Hearst had the indoor pool created between 1927 and 1934 for guests who didn't want to use the now equally famous Neptune Pool which was outdoors. Sadly, most guests chose not to use the indoor pool as its' location was a bit out of the way, located far underneath the tennis courts which were already much lower than the rest of the hilltop estate.The pool still went to good use though, the servants were granted permission to have the pool at their disposal. Some perk! Above is the diving platform. Light streams into the space from a skylight above.The room and pool were styled on the Baths of Caracalla in Rome while the blue and gold mosaics were based on the 5th Century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy. Windows line the room on 3 sides with shaded views of the surrounding mountains while the 4th side (seen in most of these photos) leads to different exercise rooms. Eight copies of ancient Greek and Roman statues were started in 1930 by Carlo Freter in Pietrasanta, Italy in white marble to match the white marble lamps that line the room and estate.The pool itself has a deep flat bottom, perfect for diving, while the area underneath the diving platform becomes more shallow. Not a pool for beginners!The Venetian glass tiles are arranged in a mosaic pattern of marine sea monsters, a popular theme for baths in Roman times. Yes, the gold tiles are actually lined with REAL gold!I loved these white marble pool ladders -identical to the ones up at the Neptune pool. They're a bit more stylish than the stainless steel variety one finds now! Last but not least, the enormous tennis courts which fill the roof of the pool. I hope you enjoyed this opulent peak at the most beautiful pool I've ever seen!
Written permission was kindly granted to post my interior photos of San Simeon on this blog. Please respect that and do not copy without permission. Thanks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


One important detail to any space is lighting. Whether it be outdoor or indoor, why settle for something blah when something fabulous can do the same job? San Simeon was full of interesting lamps -such as the gilded wood figure above in a bedroom suite.
The very streetlamps in Chinatown, San Francisco were works of art. I love the gilded lizard crawling up the green pole! Do those bells actually ring I wonder?
A building in the financial district of San Francisco had heavy bronze caged sconces. They're not messing around!
These poured concrete terms (not caryatids as I originally stated) surrounding the outdoor pool at San Simeon also caught my eye. A simple mold must have been made which was then used over and over again inexpensively with common concrete. Now thats a bright idea!
Many thanks to Sandra Jonas for the designation 'term' on the last lantern.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

San Francisco City Hall

Probably my favorite building in San Francisco proper is City Hall. Completed in 1915 and designed by Arthur Brown, Jr, the building reflects the City Beautiful movement that was sweeping the country at the time. San Francisco was working on a master plan done by architect Daniel Burnham which included this city center which was planned to be completed for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in 1915. You can see where the movement's name came from...strikingly beautiful architecture!The earlier (and larger!) city hall was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, so a strong and fire proof building was desired. Acres of marble and gilded bronze seem to have survived the last century admirably well.The attention paid to the building by Brown is evident - he designed every detail down to the very door knobs and even the typeface of the signage! This makes the entire building read as a cohesive environment rather than seperate pieces.The large interior is sun filled and bright and barely requires any electric lights. Above is the gracious entry hall with a peak into the grand rotunda.The grand porportions of the space represent the importance of government and were meant to impress. The city was making a comeback from its destruction in a big way and this civic center was meant to display the wealth, power and culture San Francisco held claim to. The grand staircase is probably one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, rivaling the Paris Opera House (which I just realized I never blogged about despite taking a thousand pictures of the space last fall!).A few details of the gilded bronze hand railing. While it may not meet current safety codes, I think we can excuse it :-) Thank good ness for grandfather clauses!The soaring atrium almost reads as a grand cathedral. The dome is the 5th largest in the WORLD!The different materials read from darkest at the base (sandstone and marble) to light at the top (painted plaster) , exaggerating the height of the space.Much of the statuary was done by Henri Crenier, an Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained artist.This grand space has been witness to state funerals, weddings (Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe) and even a double murder ( mayor George Mascone and civil rights leader & supervisor Harvey Milk). If you haven't seen the fantastic movie Milk from 2008 about the murder with Sean Penn, definitely check it out; much of the movie is filmed on location.Everywhere you look is a beautiful picture. What a space.
I loved a lot of the local California flavor that was incorporated into the decoration such as these artichoke finials.This statue of Harvey Milk was put in place in 2008; a fitting memorial in a beautiful space.The rest of the building is less grand but no less appealing. I loved the natural light filled wide hallways.These sconces, and all of the building's light fixtures in general, were really fantastic. I noticed that other buildings by Brown, such as the War Memorial opera house directly across the street used the same exact fixtures.The motto of the county is in old Spanish above one of the main entries to the rotunda. It reads ORO EN PAZ FIERRO EN GUERRA or Gold in peace, Iron in war.
Much of the light comes from numerous skylights and light tunnels into the building. This skylight is one that lights the hallways behind the rotunda.
I'm always fascinated by these structural skylights. All of that heavy metal being supported by glass essentially!
Aren't the mail boxes in the entry hall spectacular? Attractive design for everything!
Civic pride is evident: even at night the building is proudly lit. The interior is open to the public and I urge you to visit this fantastic space!