Many people travel to California so that they can experience the grandeur of the Bay Area’s scenic geography, human-made wonders, or to immerse in the unique San Francisco social scene. As there are so many options to consider, we’re presenting them in a series; this is Part 2, Engineering and Art. So, grab a backpack, some non-disposable water bottles (and an extra layer) and head out to a few unique locations, rich in culture, beauty, and history. Please note that we are not compensated in any way to advocate these locations.
Alvord Lake Bridge
The Alvord Lake Bridge was the first reinforced concrete bridge built in America. Constructed in 1889 by Ernest L. Ransome, an innovator in reinforced concrete design, mixing equipment, and construction systems, the bridge was designed as a single arch 64 feet wide with a 20-foot span. The face of the bridge was scored and hammered to resemble sandstone, the interior features calthemite “stalactites” (concrete derived secondary deposits) which have subsequently grown after the initial construction. The bridge was designated a civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1969. While Alvord Lake (actually a lakette) may not be the most picturesque location, the history, architecture, and engineering significance of this bridge is worth the hike when visiting Golden Gate Park. https://sfrecpark.org/parks-open-spaces/golden-gate-park-guide/
Museum of Craft and Design
This small venue has rotating design-focused exhibits governed by their manifesto: “You question the conventional notion of art. You are inspired by creativity that stirs the soul. And you value designers, makers and artists who are risk takers and seek to inspire the world. Visual culture thrives at the Museum of Craft and Design. We bring you the work of the hand, mind and heart. We are building a path to the future of creative expression.” Check out their website for hours and directions for using public transportation. https://sfmcd.org/visit/
Audium Theater of Sound-Sculptured Space
Do you close your eyes at a concert and let the music find it’s resting place somewhere inside you? Then you will love the Audium Theatre of Sound-Sculptured Space. The show is performed once every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night to a maximum number of 49 attendees. Attendees sit in concentric circles enveloped by speakers built inside of sloping walls, a floating floor, and a suspended ceiling. The “conductor” uses any combination of the 169 speakers, sculpting the sound through direction, speed, movement, and intensity. Oh, one other thing, the performance takes place in total darkness. http://www.audium.org
Walt Disney Family Museum
You may be wondering if Disney is engineering or art; in our opinion, the franchise is another example of the “bridge” between the two. “Walt Disney Imagineering” is the creative group responsible for the design, engineering, production and installation of Disney’s Theme Parks, attractions, and resort projects around the world. Facilities Operation Services (FOS) is the group responsible for maintenance, engineering, and renovations. Imagineering makes the magic, and FOS makes the magic work. The Disney Museum is located at the Presidio and is an excellent stop after you walk across the GGB. There are rotating exhibits, galleries, and talks, providing an insight into the creative process. https://www.waltdisney.org/
Characterized as “a mad scientist’s penny arcade, a scientific funhouse, and an experimental laboratory all rolled into one,” the Exploratorium is the prototype for participatory museums around the world. For 50 years, the Exploratorium has been intertwining art and science to inspire curiosity and understanding.
It was founded by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer (younger brother of renowned physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer) who conducted research on aspects of nuclear physics during the time of the Manhattan Project and made contributions to uranium enrichment. The Exploratorium first opened in 1969 at the Palace of Fine Arts; on April 17, 2013, the Exploratorium reopened at Piers 15 and 17 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Can’t get there in person? No problem, they also stream live webcasts and are building a virtual museum in Second Life. https://www.exploratorium.edu/
We find this funny and odd since it seems like you can watch anything on your phone. But the idea of peering into a side of a building is so inventive! Peephole Cinema displays avant-garde and silent films, each a few minutes in length, 24/7 through tiny peepholes in public spaces. Peephole Cinema San Francisco is run and curated by Sarah Klein on the side of a Victorian Cottage in the Mission District (280 orange Alley, between Valencia and 26th). An additional cinema is located at the San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 1. stopandgoshow.com