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On the Marina
Along one of the corridors we passed, enjoying the richness of the coloring and the beauty of the great lamps in a long row, then out into the wide entrance of the court to the Column of Progress.
"I wonder if that column would be there now," said the architect, "if Trajan had not built his column in Rome nearly two thousand years ago. The Christianizing of the column, by placing St. Peter on top instead of Trajan, is symbolic of a good deal that has gone on here. But we owe a big debt to the pagans, much more than we acknowledge."
When I expressed enthusiasm over the column the architect ran his eye past the frieze to the top. "In the first place, that dominating group up there ought at once to express the character of the column. But it doesn't. You have to look twice and you have to look hard. One figure would have been more effective. But there is a prejudice among some sculptors against placing a single figure at the head of a column, though the Romans often did it. But if a group had to be used it could have been made much clearer. Now in that design MacNeil celebrated the Adventurous Archer in a way that was distinctly old-fashioned. He made the archer a superman, pushing his way forward by force, and by the dominance of personality. And see how comparatively insignificant he made the supporting figures. The relation of those three people implies an acceptation of the old ideals of the social organization. MacNeil had a chance here to express the new spirit of today, the spirit that honors the common man and that makes an ideal of social co-operation on terms of equality."
At the base we studied the figures celebrating labor. "Konti is a man of broad social understanding and sympathy," said my companion. "But picturesque as those figures are, they're not much more. They give no intimation of the mighty stirring among the laborers of the world, a theme that might well inspire the sculpture of today, one of the greatest of all human themes."
From the Column of Progress the Marina drew us over to the seawall. "The builders were wise to leave this space open and to keep it simple. It's as if they said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, we have done our best. But here's Mother Nature. She can do better.' "
To our right stood Alcatraz, shaped like a battleship, with the Berkeley hills in the distant background. To the left rose Tamalpais in a majestic peak.
When I mentioned that there ought to be more boats out there on the bay, a whole fleet, and some of them with colored sails, to give more brightness, the architect shook his head.
"The scene is typically Californian. It suggests great stretches of vacant country here in this State, waiting for the people to come from the overcrowded East and Middle West and thrive on the land."
Our point of view on the Esplanade enabled us to take in the sweep of the northern wall, with its straight horizontal lines, broken by the entrances to the courts and by the splendidly ornate doors in duplicate. Of the design above the doorway the architect said: "It's a perfect example of the silver-platter style of Spain, generally called 'plateresque,' adapted to the Exposition. Allen Newman's figure of the Conquistador is full of spirit, and the bow-legged pirate is a triumph of humorous characterization. Can't you see him walking the deck, with the rope in his hand? It isn't so many generations since he used to infest the Pacific. By the way, that rope, which the sculptor has made so realistic and picturesque at the same time, reminds me that a good many people are bothered because the bow up here, on the Column of Progress, has no string. The artistic folk, of course, think that the string ought to be left to the imagination."
In the distance, to the west, we commented on the noble outlines of the California Building, an idealized type of Mission architecture, a little too severe, perhaps, lacking in variety and warmth, but of an impressive dignity. The old friars, for all their asceticism, liked gaiety and color in their building.
As we were about to start back to the Court of the Universe the architect reminded me of the two magnificent towers, dedicated to Balboa and Columbus, that had been planned for the approach to the Court of Four Seasons and the Court of Ages from the bay side, but had been omitted to save expense. They would have given the Marina a far greater
splendor; but they would have detracted from its present simplicity.