A walk around SF this weekend garnered a new appreciation. This city seems to continually surprise me, and to that I am grateful. Our first stop was the Art Institute at 800 Chester. I had been around North Beach many times, never knowing I was minutes from a Diego Rivera mural. As we climbed the hill to just about its crest, I noticed a Spanish Colonial Revival-style building inhabiting the corner lot, siting gracefully among the Victorian homes. We entered the building at center on axis with the open air courtyard. The entrance itself lends a european feel as you arrive beneath a colonnade where artwork hangs playfully on the perimeter walls. To the left is the Diego Rivera gallery where in 1931 he painted “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City”, featuring himself and his wife Frida Kahlo, as well as other key city officials and architects of the time. Within the gallery were fantastically oversized whimsical characters, one that you might see in a children’s book.
I had overheard that the views on the terrace were amazing, one of the many reasons I wanted to take my husband, as he is quite keen on panoramic birds-eye views. Although the views were stunning, my surprise came with the 1969 béton brut style expansion done by English-born architect Paffard Keatinge Clay. The subtle Spanish style stucco finish, with regular bays and symmetry juxtaposed to the rawness of the cast-in-place timber framing, the theater of construction, further strengthened by the linear jutting of the lecture hall, are dichotomies in style and fashion; however, sit in complete harmony and composition.
So the next time you are in the area, and are in need of a relaxing day, take a book to the terrace and soak up all that is San Francisco…. and don’t forget to check out the Diego Rivera, it won’t disappoint.