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The Architecture and Landscape Gardening of the Exposition

The Architecture & Landscape Gardening

When San Francisco was destroyed by fire in 1906, many people predicted that the city would never be rebuilt. A great number of men and women packed their goods and chattels and hastily bade farewell to the still smoking ruins of a City That Was, firmly believing that destiny had determined that it should remain forever buried in its own ashes.

There was another class of men and women who were optimists. They predicted that the city would be rebuilt, but that it would require from twenty to thirty years.

There was still another class of men and women who knew by observation that it required no more time to build ten buildings than one, provided the Spirit of Energy and Determination existed, to fortify the desire.

We all know now that the Spirit of Energy and Determination did abound in San Francisco - that the City did not remain buried in its own ashes, and that it did not require from twenty to thirty years to rebuild it. The City was not only rebuilt in less than ten years, but, in addition thereto, an International Exposition, surpassing all previous Expositions, was built by its people.

San Francisco wisely selected for the location of this International Exposition what seemed to many to be an impossible site, for it was disorderly and uninteresting to look at. But the site was appropriately situated on the shores of San Francisco Bay - beautiful in its surroundings and most convenient alike to its citizens and visitors. It consisted of a pond and a strip of waste land and marsh land, apparently destined to remain unfilled and unorderly for years to come. The People of Energy, Determination and Desire have also made this strip of waste land permanently available.

The arrangement of this Exposition is distinctive because of its Court Plan. Eight Palaces seemingly constitute a single structure, containing five distinct courts or places for large public gatherings, which are open to the sky.

This colossal group of buildings, consisting of the Palaces of Education, Food Products, Agriculture, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Transportation, Mines, and Varied Industries, is terminated east and west by Machinery Hall and the Palace of Fine Arts. To the south of this group, and on the lateral axis of the two end courts, are the Palace of Horticulture and Festival Hall. This group of eight buildings, with its Tower of Jewels, and the separate buildings, Festival Hall, the Palace of Horticulture, the Palace of Fine Arts and Machinery Hall, constitute the main structures.

The buildings and gardens of Foreign Countries and of the States of the Union adjoin, at their western termination, the thirteen main structures erected by the Exposition Company. Still further west, are the Livestock Barns and Poultry Houses. The Aviation, Military and Polo Fields, including the Race Course, occupy the extreme end of the site. The amusement section, "The Zone," extends for a distance of seven city blocks eastward from the main group.

President C. C. Moore of the Exposition first appointed an Advisory Architectural Board, in the fall of 1911, consisting of Messrs. Willis Polk, Clarence R. Ward, John Galen Howard, Albert Pisses and William Curlett. This Advisory Board was succeeded by an Architectural Commission, consisting of Messrs. Willis Polk, Chairman, Clarence R. Ward, W. B. Faville, George W. Kelham, Louis Christian Mullgardt (all of San Francisco), Robert D. Farquhar of Los Angeles, McKim, Mead and White, Carrere and Hastings, and Henry Bacon (all of New York); Messrs. Bakewell and Brown and Bernard R. Maybeck were subsequently commissioned as Exposition Architects. The first named nine architects constituted the permanent Architectural Commission which recommended to the Board of Directors the General Plan of the Exposition, which was substantially followed as a guide to the results accomplished.

Three important elements in the design of an Exposition are represented by Planting, Sculpture, Color and Decoration. The Chiefs of these Departments were selected by the Architectural Commission at its second conference, August, 1912; John McLaren, of San Francisco, was appointed to the important position of Landscape Engineer; Karl Bitter and A. Stirling Calder of New York were appointed chief and assistant chief of the Department of Sculpture; Jules Guerin, of New York, became chief of the Department of Color and Decoration. The Chiefs of these departments attended the architects' conferences and collaborated in their deliberations.

Another very important element in the design of this Exposition was represented by the Department of Travertine Texture, for the proper manipulation of colored plastic materials to give correct surface expression to all buildings and sculpture. This department was placed under the direction of Paul E. Denivelle of New York. The element of Texture as embodied in the construction of this Exposition, has again emphasized its general importance in plastic architecture.

The Marina

The north side of the main group is flanked by a greensward, called the Marina, which skirts the bay. This enormous green carpet is bordered by walks and roadways. The Marina affords excellent opportunity for thousands of people to view special attractions offered daily along the waterfront. War vessels and pleasure crafts are always just beyond the low Marina wall. An uninterrupted view of the bay and its northern coast line of hills and mountains, extending from the Golden Gate, west to east, as far as eye can reach, is here obtained under most favorable conditions. No one will ever forget the wonderful panorama which this Exposition faces.

The South Gardens

Flanking the south side of the main group is the marvelous Avenue of Palms, which appears to have existed always. It was established A. D. 1914, by John McLaren, Landscape Engineer, as part of the most colossal system of successful transplanting ever undertaken in the history of the world. The South Gardens adjoin the Avenue of Palms and extend to the Exposition enclosure along the south boundary line, where a wall fifty feet high and ten feet wide has been erected of a solid green moss-like growth, studded with myriads of tiny pink star-like blossoms. This great wall is perforated by simple arched masonry entrances, leading rough the richly planted foreground formed by the South Gardens.

Basins of reflecting blue waters extend to the right and left of a central fountain of colossal proportions. The basins themselves are punctuated at their east and west ends by fountains of subordinate size, back of which are Festival Hall to the right and the Palace of Horticulture to the left, as we enter the green wall portals from the city of San Francisco beyond. To the south and west of the Foreign Countries, States Buildings and Gardens, a graceful contour of hills extends, sloping onward to Golden Gate, and having a coxcomb of pine and eucalyptus. Broad vistas of city, forests, water, hills and mountains present themselves at every point. Gray, green, blue and lavender vistas come into view through portal, colonnade, and arch.

The Palace of Fine Arts

This impressive unit faces the rising sun with its colorful facade. The plan of this composite structure suggests the Star and Crescent of Mohammed. The architecture shows a free interpretation of early Roman forms. It is, in fact, a purely romantic conception by Architect Maybeck, entirely free from traditional worship or obedience to scholastic precedent. Its greatest charm has been established through successful composition; the architectural elements have been arranged into a colossal theme of exceptional harmony, into which the interwoven planting and the mirror lake have been incorporated in a masterly way. The entire composition bespeaks the mind of a romanticist, whose productions are swayed more by nature's glories than by scholastic tradition.

The Palace of Horticulture

The appearance of this building so clearly expresses its purpose that a definition of style promptly suggests the title of Horticultural Architecture. Its decorative spire-like finials resemble the cypress and poplar. The clusters of floral ornaments and festoons reflect one of the fundamental purposes of decorative glory to which all plant life has been decreed. The bulblike glass dome is like an enormous dewdrop of beautiful proportions and iridescent color. All this beauty was conceived by Architects Bakewell and Brown, who have given full evidence of their appreciation of the purposes to which this Palace was assigned.

Festival Hall

This structure counterbalances the Palace of Horticulture at the east end of the South Gardens. Mr. Farquhar's interpretation of Italian Renaissance in this interesting building is replete with charming detail; it is truly expressive of its festival purposes. It is seen to best advantage when reflected in the South Garden Pool, from the circle surrounding the Fountain of Energy, and from the Court of Flowers.

The Palace of Machinery

This colossal structure of Roman type was designed by Architects Ward and Blohme. It dignifies the east end of the main composition in a most impressive manner. Its general character is similar to the Roman baths of Caracalla. The vestibules are particularly impressive, when viewed longitudinally. The interior Roman vaulting, formed by myriad trusses, is similarly impressive in form and scale to the interiors of renowned existing Basilicas. The surrounding tree, shrub and flower planting along the simple outer walls is rhythmically consistent with the Roman niches and entrances and lends added charm to the dignity of this tremendous structure. The cornices are especially noteworthy in their detail, scale and proportion.

Outer Walls of the Group of Eight Palaces

The impressive simplicity of the outer walls is enhanced by a succession and variety of portals, niches and arcades of Spanish and Italian origin of great beauty. The simple dignity of the plain travertine wall surfaces is heightened by tile-covered cornices terminated by pavilions. A rich foreground of rhythmic planting of trees, shrubbery and flowers, emphasizes the unity of the eight palaces, the corporate purposes of which have been so successfully interpreted by Architects Bliss and Faville.

The typical domes surmounting the eight palaces also express the similarity of purpose for which these palaces are intended. In depicting the industrial arts, these domes lend an Oriental expression to the entire composition, consistent with the citadel character of the general scheme. The banner poles, with their Oriental streamers, and the illuminating standards, set in the foreground planting of the outer walls, lend a consistent festive character to these long facades.

The Tower of Jewels

The appellation "of jewels" became an addition to the original title, after the Tower was thus gorgeously arrayed. The Tower was contemplated in conjunction with the main group of palaces, as a clue to the composition, and as of vital importance to the general plan. Its composite architecture can best be defined as of White and Yellow Race derivation. It clearly indicates a mingling of the architectural characteristics of the people of the entire world, as the architects, Carrere and Hastings, probably intended. It gives definite expression to the international purposes for which this Exposition is designed. The jewel enrichments add effectively to its Oriental regal display. The Tower constitutes an indispensable integral in the unit composition. It appears to best advantage under the mysterious effects produced by Mr. Ryan's night illumination.

The Court of the Four Seasons

This dignified, restful court of Roman classic character, designed by Architect Henry Bacon, expresses the Season theme perfectly. The alcoves, which symbolize the Four Seasons, are admirably conceived in their relation to the entire composition. The arched side approaches of the colonnades and the colossal Roman niche at the south end together form a glorious composition which has been greatly enhanced by the arrangement of planting by Mr. Bacon.

The Court of the Universe

This colossal court of oval form, including the Avenue stretching to the Marina, is fundamentally Roman in architectural character, the style being largely attributable to its splendid Colonnade and Triumphal Arches. Its architectural style is also sympathetic to the Orient of the Far East along the Mediterranean, owing to its domed pavilions. The oval Sunken Garden is thickly planted with Hydrangeas, which constitute one of the most gorgeous displays at the Exposition. The Tower of Jewels and the Column of Progress at the North and South ends of this wonderful Court serve as integrals. McKim, Mead and White are the architects of this most important of all the Courts.

The Courts of Flowers and Palms

These two delightful courts, designed by Architect George W. Kelham, are like great alcoves in the south wall of the main group. The Court of Flowers faces Festival Hall, whereas the Court of Palms faces the Palace of Horticulture. Each court is flanked at its outer angles by towers, which form an indispensable element in the south facade and in the courts themselves. The general style is Italian Renaissance, suggestive, in the detail of its decoration and planting, of the symbolic intent of these courts. They are an important factor in the south facade of the main group.

The Court of Ages

This court is designed as an historical expression of the world's growth from infancy. It consists of a continuous arcade and vaulted ambulatory along four sides, and an altar-tower on its northern axis.

The decorative motives employed on the surrounding arcade are of conventionalized forms of prehistoric plant and animal life, expressive of evolution. The altar-tower and fountain symbolize the human and animal passions of the theme.

The Gothic type of architecture of this court has not been accredited to any preceding period. Its general character supposedly resembles Spanish or Portuguese Gothic more closely than any other known style.

The Court, including its avenue extending to the Marina, was designed and modeled by the writer of this article, Louis Christian Mullgardt.

Over six hundred acres are comprised in the elongated site on which the Exposition stands. Millions of people from all parts of the world have made pilgrimage to this realm of phantasy, and many thousands more are on their way, determined to bask in the radiance of Good Will toward All Mankind, which this Mecca of Peace, Enlightenment, Beauty, and Inspiration for a better and greater future gives forth. Its purposeful influence is destined to serve perpetually beneficent cause in the furtherance of unified international humanitarianism after the ephemeral vision of this Phantom Kingdom has vanished.

L. C. Mullgardt.

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