Unbuilt San Francisco: The View from Futures Past is one of four simultaneous exhibitions across the Bay Area examining never-realized concepts for our built environment. The California Historical Society and SPUR have joined together to present an exhibition that not only displays architectural drawings and models but also provides evidence of the civic discourse and powerful forces that led ultimately to the demise, or significant reshaping, of diverse proposed projects.
The subtitle of our exhibition is borrowed from Mike Davis’s landmark book City of Quartz, which imagines the potential of Los Angeles from “the ruins of its alternative future.” We know that there is value to examining the future that almost was, alongside the future that actually arrived. Whether we look back one hundred years or a century forward, this collaborative exhibition supports our missions: the fruitful discussion and debate around issues that impact our future in California.
We join our exhibition partners—AIA San Francisco/Center for Architecture & Design; Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley; and San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library—in this exploration of making and remaking the image of our urban landscape.
Anthea Hartig, Executive Director, California Historical Society
Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director, SPUR
In these galleries we survey three ambitious efforts to reimagine the city of San Francisco and the Bay Area as a metropolitan region—the Ferry Building and plaza, Marincello in the Marin Headlands, and Yerba Buena Center—reaching beyond plans and models to depict the political, social, and economic challenges to each. Throughout, architectural drawings, letters, photographs, artworks, videos, and newspaper clippings represent the voices of advocates and detractors.
Unbuilt San Francisco: The View from Futures Past presents the forms of resistance behind the currency of preserved coastal views: the rising environmental movement of the 1960s that defeated the Marincello proposition, the organized citizenry protesting displacement at the Yerba Buena Center, and the public outcry about transformational plans at waterfront. What is evident is that a history of intense public wrangling over the built environment has conferred a kind-of postscript of leisure. Here, the use-value of parks or plazas becomes as enclosures for types of display, participation, and memory collection.
Cydney M. Payton, Curator