San Francisco: Beyond the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic American landmark, is visited by over 10 million people each year and boasts the feat of being the most photographed bridge in the world.

With competition in a colossus 83 thousand tons of steel, it is little wonder that the Bridge’s surrounding structures are often overlooked. However, the Golden Gate Bridge is in no way San Francisco’s only architectural treasure. In this article, I will cast light on the many great structures in San Francisco that should not be cast to the periphery during your holiday.

Visitors may flock to the staggering feat of engineering, but San Francisco is also home to a number of other gem that are definitely worth a stop in any trip. The mix of cultural influences on the city’s construction and its ever-evolving arts movements have in fact imbued San Francisco with a distinctively eclectic  architectural style.

From the blue walls of the Contemporary Jewish Museum to the eco-design of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco is more than just a city with a bridge.

Grace Cathedral

Constructed during the San Francisco Gold Rush of 1849, Grace Cathedral  proudly stands in the Nob Hill neighbourhood of the city as an active place of worship for a diversifying congregation, almost as diverse as the architectural appropriation the Cathedral claims. Visitors are greeted by the Ghiberti Doors, a masterpiece of engraving and bronze copied from the Florentine original created by the eponymous genius of the Italian Renaissance, the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. The inside is even more impressive due to the grandiose indoor labyrinth that spans the Cathedral’s floor.

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Due to a window Inspired by the Rose Oculus  triumph of the Gothic Giant, Paris’ ‘Chartres Cathedral’, the indoor labyrinth is hit with a  kaleidoscopic illumination and aptly offers a “mirror for where we live our lives” to those who walk its path.

The Palace of Fine Arts

Less than a few minutes walk from the Golden Gate Bridge, is the Palace of Fine Arts. The romantic building suitably is a building is  favourite for wedding photography and a staple in the repertoire of movie backdrops. Whilst the Bridge dominates the city’s northern tip and buzzes with a never-ending stream of traffic, the Palace of Fine Arts sits aside a tranquil lagoon as an icon of the Beaux-Arts architectural movement.

Palace of Fine Arts

Built in 1915 to stage the Panama-Pacific Exposition honouring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the Palace is centred by a large rotunda and Grecian-inspired friezes.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Taking his inspiration from the Hebrew phrase, L’Chaim! meaning “To life!”, architect Daniel Libeskind responded to his commission of designing the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s new home, in doing so he transformed the existing Pacific Gas & Electric Power Substation with a unique vision.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

The Museum unveiled its new design in 2005 and, with Libeskind’s angled outer walls and metallic blue coating, soon established itself as one of San Francisco’s most iconic buildings. 

Inside you’ll find over 10 thousand square feet of exhibition space and a grand lobby of towering brick walls and skylights.

AT&T Park

Baseball and architecture may seem like strange bedfellows but San Francisco’s AT&T Park dispels any doubts about the linkage of America’s favourite sport with structural design.

AT&T Park

Home to the San Francisco Giants, the ballpark sits on the city’s waterfront and houses an 80-foot Coca-Cola bottle and giant statues of famous players as well as the baseball pitch itself. Even the cheap seats offer unparalleled views over the China Basin – just don’t get too distracted from the game; you could miss a ‘home run’.

California Academy of Sciences

Claiming to be the greenest museum on the planet, the California Academy of Sciences took nearly 10 years and $500 million dollars to construct. It features a “living roof” seeded with over a million native plants and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the Golden Gate Park.

The Living Roof

Architect Renzo Piano sought to celebrate the union between technology and art in the design and bring a celebration of science to the public.

Even if breath-taking architectural feats aren’t your thing, the Academy still houses a 3D lecture theatre, natural history museum, aquarium, planetarium and a four-storey rainforest.

San Francisco is a truly modern and diverse City and offers another side of the coin to California than just the L.A. lifestyle that is perpetuated in the media. It is a shame that in such a wealthy City, the Golden Gate Bridge is what seems to resonate the most on a global scale. In fact, the Bridge merely acts as bookends in your entry and departure from a City that is undoubtedly the destination of one of your most ‘Golden’ holidays.