I grew up in Amsterdam and lived there till I was 17. Since then, I have lived in several places near large cities, but not actually in a city. I lived in the Bay area in the early 90s and I now live 45 minutes outside of Denver.
Two weeks ago, I had to travel to San Francisco to apply for my passport. I am a Dutch citizen and for retaining that privilege, I get to make that journey every five years to renew my passport.
My fiancee, Monika, and I had arranged to stay with her best friend who lives in San Francisco’s Castro District and were very excited for our trip, but an unfortunate flight booking mishap had Monika and I traveling 12 hours apart.
When I arrived in San Francisco by myself, it was definitely a shock to my—what have become over the last ten years—delicate Colorado senses. So many things are vastly different than the small town I live in now.
It took about two hours for me to start feeling at home. I love that feeling of anonymity when you are in a large city. It nostalgically reminded me of when I lived in Amsterdam and my brother and I would spend our summer vacations going all over the city, doing everything and nothing at once. San Francisco has that same hustle and bustle of hundreds of people rushing to get to work—cars, busses, and trams fill the street with noise, color, and smells. Everyone is on a mission and intent on getting their task completed in record time.
In contrast to Amsterdam, where trams are updated and replaced every decade or so, San Francisco has directed their efforts towards maintaining the old trams, both cable cars and streetcars. The iconic cable car system is a US National Historic Landmark and still operates three lines.
The F Line of streetcars uses exclusively retired cars from San Francisco’s fleet and over the years have collected streetcars retired from municipalities around the world which have kept the original city name painted on the side. They are both operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway, but the F Line receives restoration support from a nonprofit organization.
San Francisco has great diversity in its location on the bay. Within a short walk from downtown, there is the great San Francisco Bay trail that snakes along the beach through Great Meadow Part at Fort Mason, Marina Green, Crissy Field, and to the Golden Gate Bridge.
One of the things I appreciate about larger cities is the contrast between the new buildings and the ones that have been in place for centuries. A great example is the Contemporary Jewish Museum (2008) by Daniel Libeskind and the St. Patrick Church (1851) next to it. It is refreshing that the old and the new exist adjacent to each other and the new buildings not be forced to comply to old standards, building methods, and form.
Buildings like the De Young Museum are about the experience of the user, the expression of the art, the progression through the spaces, and maximizing the way current building systems can make this work.
They are non-conforming in every way: material form, transparency, and connection. As a designer, I have always greatly appreciated clients who are willing to let things other than the program influence the shape of the architecture.
Interpretation of existing forms that are then filtered through the mind of an artist can be so dramatic and spectacular. One such public art piece is near the Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco. In this piece, the artist took inspiration from the rugged, organic forms of barnacles and gave them a modern twist. Much of the original form has been stripped away, however, the essence of the barnacle is maintained, and one could argue, enhanced.
I had a great time people-watching and merging myself with the fabric of the city; a chance to disappear and be anonymous. We walked almost 30 miles in the two days we were there and saw amazing street art, murals, spent time at the De Young museum, walked to the Golden Gate Bridge, and enjoyed the city and all it has to offer.
about Marcel. . .
As an Architectural Designer at WORKSHOP8, Marcel is currently serving as the designer and project manager for the Stanley Marketplace and creating rehab drawings for a permanently supportive housing project in Longmont.
Marcel and his fiancee Monika Bunting tie the knot on July 26th. [/one_half_last]