An Elegant Space Fallen from Grace @ the Westfield San Francisco’s Rotunda

I used to praise the beautifully preserved rotunda and the space underneath it at the San Francisco Westfield Mall. It was amazing how the construction of this massive downtown mall managed to preserve the rotunda and how it generously provided a quiet and somewhat meditating space that was free of shopping activities. I thought maybe the developer cut a sweet deal with the city to provide this space in return for something lucrative.

But after my recent visit, I guess it wasn’t the case for this “privately-owned private” space. The space has been turned into a café area run by Le Boulange which is now a Starbuck-ized franchise. The transparent glass on the rotunda has been covered to make it into a background for some laser or light show. As a result, the original kind of larger-than-life experience has been ill-transformed into another shopping square footage filled with a sense of cheap and low-taste. In the end, the Westfield San Francisco is just another mall.

the sun-lit space before the conversion

the sun-lit rotunda before the conversion

856 market st, san Francisco – 3:03pm, nov 25, 2012


Beer Belly Houses of Pidemont St, San Francisco

These single family houses on this block of Pidemont Street at Ashbury Terrace neighborhood all share a common feature – a living room protruded from the middle of the facade like a beer belly. This feature has added a focal point to the otherwise boring box layout of the house. This elongated portion of the house also helps accommodate the garage underneath so it can fit more than a Smart car.

pidemont street at ashbury terrace, san francisco – 3:28pm, nov 6, 2012

pidemont street

A Nicely Landscaped Target’s Parking Lot in Daly City

This big-box Target store has one of the best landscaped parking lot I have ever seen in a strip mall. I am not sure if any of the trees in the lot were originally there since they look kind of new and small. But it is nice that they made an effort to green the lot. Interestingly the many trees in front of the store actually helps the mall blend into the trees-scape in the background.

target store in daly city, california – 12:35pm, 28th oct, 2012

Has a Battle On Negative Diversity in San Francisco Just Started at Harvey Milk Plaza?

Just a couple days ago, the official in charge of the Harvey Milk plaza at the Castro MUNI Station removed all the benches along the wall so that the homeless can no longer sleep or congregate there. I am not sure what most people think of that but aesthetically the plaza looks much better with only the plain curving wall and it doesn’t smell as bad anymore. To be honest, it is weird that the homeless is actually gone at the moment because they can easily sleep on the ground too and there is nothing the official can do about it.

Is removing the homeless going to happen along all the MUNI lines? And is the next round against beggars and pigeons happening soon? I start to wonder what if this crusade against the homeless is just the beginning of a larger war on the undesired groups or so-called the negative diversity in San Francisco…

harvey milk plaza @ castro muni station – market st and castro st, san francisco

Elevating a Neighborhood Simply By Placing a Pair of Classical Pillars

The classical pillars at the corner of Ashbury Street and Pidemont Street have always attracted my attention when I get off the 33 bus right at this intersection. It is very interesting how functional these simple pillars actually are. First, with the inscribed words “Ashbury” and “Terrace” on each of them, these pillars serve as a symbolic portal or an orientation mark informing visitors that they have arrived at Ashbury Terrace.

Secondly these pillars act like a visible “no trespassing” sign. With the fancy-looking big Victorian homes in the background, the use of classical language in the design and layout of the pillars has quite successfully sent out a message that Ashbury Terrrace is an exquisite neighborhood. If you don’t belong, please don’t come in.

Also, by making these pillars looking monumental, this Ashbury Terrace situated on top of Asbury Street has further elevated itself as a landmark or an important historic place. And of course you have to pay big buck to live in a historic neighborhood serving only the privileged ones. Seriously for what these pillars can do psychologically, they are totally worth the price. I am surprised they are not put everywhere.

corner of ashbury street and pidemont street, san francisco

From City Beautiful Plaza to BMX Racetrack @ SF Civic Center

I used to think that the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza is kind of dull and boring since there is not much action going on there usually unless there is a protest. But that thought went away immediately after I saw that how the plaza was transformed into a BMX racetrack!

For a long weekend in San Francisco, the BMX people actually created artificial mud hills and several seating pavilions at the plaza. I bet the person who designed the City Beautiful plaza a hundred years ago would never predict that happening. It also got me to believe that the greatest achievement of the City Beautiful movement was the creation of huge public open space in the heart of American downtowns. These open spaces, though usually monumental-looking, offer a venue for parades, concerts, celebrations and basically any events. The sky is the limit for using these open spaces.

civic center plaza (facing city hall) on a “regular day”

civic center plaza (facing united nation plaza) on a “regular day”

civic center plaza, san francisco