Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pavilions of Japan and France

Located in the Pavilions of the Pacific Basin area, the Japanese Pavilion was comprised of a lagoon, terraced Oriental gardens, and a few buildings. Invoking Japanese traditions ranging from 14th century feudal architecture to Samurai houses to Buddhist temples, the buildings are authentically Japanese. The Pavilion includes a pagoda as well as a drum bridge spanning the lagoon. These two quintessential Japanese architectural traditions continue to support the accuracy of representation of this pavilion. Furthermore, the fact that every single material, including all of the wood for the buildings and all of the rocks found in the garden, was shipped from Japan creates a very realistic image of Japanese architectural traditions, and consequently, Japanese culture. Inside of these buildings, an exhibit demonstrating the process of silk making as well as precious Japanese documents brought over from Japan were found.

A few blocks away, in the Foreign Pavilions area sat the French pavilion. Divided into three main parts, the pavilion strove to represent the Fine Arts, Fashion, and Tourism of France. Fine Arts are represented vis-à-vis sculptures – including Rodin’s “The Shadow” and Bourdelle’s “Carplaux” – tapestries, and thirty canvases. The Fashion section boasted a fine collection of the Musee Carnavalet’s dresses, dating from the Eighteenth century to the current time of the fair. Lastly, the Tourism section displayed large-scale French maps that pinpointed different art objects and historically important sites throughout the country.

While the Japanese pavilion emphasized architectural traits, the French pavilion highlighted different aspects of culture. While it is important to consider the fact that these two countries are on different continents and have quite contrasting histories, traditions, and cultures, the varied presentation of culture is nonetheless intriguing. In thinking about the differences, the Japanese pavilion sets a stage for the viewer to engage with the various aspects of Japanese landscape architecture, creating a unique experience for the visitor that is similar to a Disneyworld effect, in that the viewer feels as though he or she is in a completely different time and place than on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. France’s method of transporting the viewer is achieved indoors, by recreating the museum and salon settings that are quite common and quintessential of French culture. For France, art objects, dresses, and maps play pivotal roles in introducing French culture. Thus, these alternate methods of representing countries highlights the complexities of recreating cultural experiences, a critical element to any World’s Fair.

Works Cited:

Official Guidebook, Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay, 1939.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Treasure Island Plan

The ground plan of the Golden Gate International Expo is more like that of an island plan. Treasure Island was built with the purpose of staging the exposition, and as such, it makes sense that it was very carefully thought out in terms of traffic flow and ultimately, layout.

In order to get to Treasure Island, one needs to either take the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge if traveling by car, or a ferry or boat of sorts if coming in by water. Once one gets on the island, the Administration Building and the Yerba Buena Club are easily accessible on the right, off of The Esplanade. If one goes on the Avenue of Palms instead, it is easy to see the Portals of the Pacific framing the tall Tower of the Sun standing in the middle of the Court of Honor. Emanating from this Court are the long exhibition halls. Surrounding those halls are the different exhibition sites that are less uniformed. And, furthest away from the bridge entrance is significant space that was used as a parking lot. The Golden Gate International Exposition was laid out in a manner that acknowledged the paths visitors would take to arrive, and process throughout, the site.

What is highlighted through this ground plan is the idea that this was a site uniquely used for this exposition. The entire island was built to hold this fair, and so in thinking about laying all of the components out and organizing the different structures, there are a few key takeaways. First of all, the idea that the Yerba Buena Club was conveniently located near the entrance made it accessible for the esteemed visitors of the fair to find their way to the club. Secondly, placing the parking lot on the opposite end of the entrance allowed for less congestion near the actual fair grounds. The idea of the parking lot as a whole represents the more widespread use of automobiles during this time, and the fact that it was necessary to make a trip out to the Golden Gate International Expo – it was not simply a walk away. Lastly and most compelling, the plans clearly indicate the fact that the Tower of the Sun served as the center point of the plan. Not only was it the tallest building, it was in a location that was very visible from around the Bay, and it served as the center of the Court, from which the largest exhibition halls stemmed. Additionally, the fact that the Portals of the Pacific conditioned the visitor for the Tower of the Sun (by framing it) confirms this idea of the Tower’s importance to Treasure Island. Thus, the plan is quite congruent with some aforementioned ideas in previous blog posts concerning the Golden Gate International Expo.

Works Cited:

James, Jack, and Earle Weller. Treasure Island : "The Magic City". San Francisco, CA:

Pisani Printing and Publishing Company, 1941. Print.

Official Guidebook, Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay, 1939.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Phoenix Sculpture

My first blog post highlighted the importance of the Tower of the Sun as the central and emblematic structure of Treasure Island. I mentioned the fact that this iconic tower was adorned with a phoenix statue that sat atop the tower. This statue is one that is interesting in its symbolism and in its relationship to the Golden Gate International Exhibition.

Designed by Malmquist, the sculpture is quite gigantic – twenty feet high. The phoenix itself is an intricate form, and the artistic genius required is thus quite admirable. Given its large size, the detail in the head, neck, and wings confirms the level of complexity encompassed by this structure.

In addition to its artistic merit, this structure plays a significant representative role. A phoenix is said to be an imaginary creature, and in this nature, this opens up the discussion of the symbolism of this statue. There are a variety of theories regarding the iconographic choice of the phoenix. One of these theories is that the phoenix represents victory, and in this way, the Golden Gate International Exposition represents a sustained triumph over the 1906 earthquake and fire. The fact that the fair celebrated the East Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge reaffirms this notion of perseverance and ultimate achievement over hardships that faced the city of San Francisco. Others say that the proportion of the sculpture alone suggests a certain power and dominance representative of the exhibition. At a time where political turmoil plagued the globe vis-à-vis World War II, this phoenix structure celebrated accomplishments in various fields and stood as an optimistic image at the top of the entire island. In a way, it was a symbol for imagining and creating a better future, an implied goal of the Golden Gate International Exposition.

Neuhaus, Eugen. The Art of Treasure Island. Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 1939. Print.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Women's Board

The Golden Gate International Exhibition was notorious for its introduction of a Women’s Board. Comprised of nine women, the Women’s Board was concerned with publicity, buildings, and events related to women’s activities. The Board collaborated with a n Advisory Board in addition to having representatives that each woman was responsible for contacting and representing. This infrastructure allowed the Board to be in contact with over a quarter of a million women whose ideas and opinions were considered. Some of the notable contributions of the Board include the Hall of Flowers, special radio shows, the Yerba Buena Club, the Hostess House, and Woman’s Day.

Of these important components of the exhibition, the radio shows and Woman’s Day are of utmost interest. The Women’s Board coordinated and sponsored twenty-one weekly radio programs. As mentioned in the Technology post below, the radio was one of the most critical innovations that was utilized at the exhibition. The fact that the Women’s Board took this important aspect of the expo and was able to include programming targeted at women is truly remarkable and quite creative. The radio was a vehicle for those women who could not physically be at the fair to listen in on developments and news from the fair from the comforts of their home.

Another interesting bridge between the home and the fair for women was vis-à-vis Woman’s Day. The Women’s Board organized a special day at the Expo, which attracted the most visitors during a week day for the entire fair. On October 25th, women from everywhere came to Treasure Island to celebrate the achievements and impact of the Women’s Board on the Golden Gate International Exposition. The Board arranged for San Francisco schools to be closed so that every mom could attend the exposition. Home economics and radio commentators held food shows and the Yerba Buena Club held an open house. The Day was capped off with a gala and fireworks show – quite fitting given the aforementioned emphasis on lighting at this fair. It can therefore be said that the Women’s Board of the Golden Gate International Exhibition orchestrated the connection between women and the home.

Works Cited:

James, Jack, and Earle Weller. Treasure Island : "The Magic City". San Francisco, CA:

Pisani Printing and Publishing Company, 1941. Print.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Science : The Cyclotron

By no means was the primary purpose of The Golden Gate International Exposition to showcase advances in science. The expo was far more concerned with creating a reason and venue for people from around the world to come together and celebrate diverse cultures and backgrounds. Nonetheless, the exposition highlighted a few scientific achievements.

The headlining act in the realm of science was the University of California’s miniature cyclotron. Cal invested $300,000 total in putting together their science exhibition and they built a 225-ton Berkley engine model for the Golden Gate International Expo.

This cyclotron model afforded visitors the opportunity to smash atoms with the touch of a button. Pressing the button released an electrical impulse that set a number of small spheres in motion in the circular imitation vacuum chamber. These spheres surfaced in order to release a shower of other atomic particles from an elemental target. This model clearly displayed the bombardment that occurs in the real cyclotron. In the actual engine, such a collision is detected and analyzed in order for scientists to better understand the particles that comprise the atom and the forces that hold them together.

The actual atom smashing cyclotron developed by the University of California was likely a contributing factor in developing the technology that led to the creation of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped five years later at the end of World War II. In this vein, it is almost a bit ironic that the main event at the science exhibition at this International Exposition later led to much conflict.

James, Jack, and Earle Weller. Treasure Island : "The Magic City". San Francisco, CA: Pisani Printing and Publishing Company, 1941. Print.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 4: Technological Advances

As with most World Fairs, the Golden Gate International Exposition sought to showcase the latest technological advances, especially at this time in which the world needed reasons to celebrate. This expo featured a variety of technological achievements. Among these, a miniature cyclotron (which enabled visitors to push a button and smash atoms on a small scale), Hoover vacuum cleaners, Remington-Rand typewriters, and Addressograph-Multigraph business machines were displayed. The mechanics exhibit showed a bullet and ball meeting without fail, which revealed some insight on muzzle velocities of guns and the math exhibit highlighted the new idea that curved surfaces might be generated by a system of straight lines. While the aforementioned components were indeed revolutionary, there are two very notable contributions to the Golden Gate International Exposition in terms of technology.

The first one is General Electric Company’s powerful international broadcasting system that was originally known as W6XBE and later changed to KGEI to stand for GE International. This was a high frequency, short wave station that had a profound impact on the world fair; this transmitter allowed unprecedented international interactions. Millions of people across the world – from Latin America to Asia to South Africa – were able to tune in to the fair and listen to different bands, shows, and comments from world dignitaries. This device was thus very much aligned with the goal of universally uniting people and trying to promote world peace during this turbulent time.

The second major element that distinguished the Golden Gate International Expo was that of light. The expo housed the largest light in the world, which was used to showcase a “phantom house” built of plate glass and part of the General Electric exhibit. Additionally, the advanced lighting fixtures on the exterior of the buildings made Treasure Island look as if it were an “iridescent jewel” as they lighted it up in a manner that made it look like quite the spectacle.

Works Cited:

Bowman, Jim . "International Broadcast Station KGEI." San Francisco Radio - KGEI History. Bay Area Radio Museum , n.d. Web. 2 Oct 2011. .

Dickerson, A.F., and H.E. Mahan. "Painting the Golden Gate International Exposition with Light." Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. 59.12 (1940): 738-746. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.

James, Jack, and Earle Weller. Treasure Island : "The Magic City". San Francisco, CA: Pisani Printing and Publishing Company, 1941. Print.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 3 : Diego Rivera's Mural as Lense for Race & Ethnicity

The formal theme of the Golden Gate Expo was the “Pageant of the Pacific,” a theme which allowed for this exposition to synthesize European, Eastern, and Latin American cultural influences depicted through architecture, landscape, and art. The influence of Pacific Rim cultures set the tone for this exposition as it permeated throughout the fair.

This idea of uniting races and elasticities is not only exemplified in the diverse architectural styles and different pavilions at the fair, but through a special mural. Diego Rivera, the famed Mexican muralist and painter was asked to come to the Golden Gate International Exposition to paint a mural about “Pan-American Unity.” The mural was made up of ten panels mounted on movable steel frames.

The fact that San Francisco invited a Mexican artist to contribute in this way confirms the idea that one of the main goals of this fair was to celebrate diversity and imagine the possibilities of an eclectic America. By using the cultures of the Pacific Rim as subject matter, Rivera literally paints a picture of this imagined future. He states

"My mural which I am painting now -- it is about the marriage of the artistic expression of the North and of the South on this continent, that is all. I believe in order to make an American art, a real American art, this will be necessary, this blending of the art of the Indian, the Mexican, the Eskimo, with this kind of urge which makes the machine, the invention in the material side of life, which is also an artistic urge, the same urge primarily but in a different form of expression."

While Rivera refers specifically to the end goal of creating new artistic styles, this overarching notion can also be applied to other realms which contribute to broader end goals.

Works Cited:

"Hard Times, High Visions: Golden Gate International Exposition Exhibit Items ." University of California, Berkley , 2001. Web. 23 Sep 2011.

Marnham, Patrick. Dreaming with his eyes open: a life of Diego Rivera. Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.

"Pacifica II : A Project to Revitilize Pacific Unity ." Diego Rivera and The Golden Gate International Expo. N.p., 03/24/2011. Web. 25 Sep 2011.

Rivera, Diego, and Dorothy Puccinelli. Diego Rivera: the story of his mural at the 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. San Francisco : s.n. , 1940