Category Archives: Architecture & Art

Featured Photo: Silent Sentries

Featured Photo: Silent Sentries (Barcelona, Spain)

One of the highlights of our Barcelona trip was a visit to the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya, housed in the magnificent Palau Nacional at the base of Montjuic Mountain. Oblivious to both the pigeon atop her head and the stately palace directly behind her (as well as artist Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia to the distant right), the statued woman stares intently toward the more modern architecture that has risen before her.

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Spelled Out in Gothic Barcelona

Even amidst the brain fog that will drift into any 25-hour day it was unlikely we would forget we were in Barcelona last summer. And these bold metal letters near the Catedral de Barcelona were solid proof that our city amble was no dream. Rich with the Roman remnants of a 2000 year history, Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) remains the heart of this lively Spanish city.

The ancient section is a labyrinth of narrow streets punctuated by courtyards and placas -larger squares that are hubs of activity and commerce. Our day’s exploration took us first through the Portal del Bisbe, a city entrance dating back to the time of Emperor Augustus.

From there we found the Placa del Rei and ambled on to the Placa St. Miguela. Eventually, at sunset. we arrived at the 15th century church Santa Maria del Pi where age-old histories infused the medieval architecture with a haunting sort of beauty that made the afternoon an almost otherworldly sort of experience. An evening of sushi and wine on our seventh floor balcony primed us for the next day’s explorations.




Landmark Design with a Point

Transamerica building; looking up

One of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks, the Transamerica building rises to a majestic point 850 feet above the surrounding streets. While the futuristic building is an urban eye-catcher from any angle, the natural beauty of the Pacific impacted its design. In the late 60’s the city planning commission nixed a requested 300 additional feet that might have compromised views of the Bay from Nob Hill.

View of Transamerica building and Coit Tower from Pier 39

The 212 foot spire pyramid shape was also designed with a view towards allowing light and air to reach the streets below in the manner of a towering tree in a city park.

Transam triangles

A prime example of the marriage of design and effective earthquake engineering, its exterior quartz panels are constructed for lateral movement in the event of seismic activity. A 52-foot deep foundation of steel and concrete allowed the building’s upper floor to sway nearly a foot and withstand the World Series Quake of 1989.

transamerica building

It takes all of a thirty-day month to wash its 3,768 windows. Surprisingly, only two elevators reach its 48th floor, but then there’s only so much room at the top  —2,025 cozy feet of space to be exact. The observation deck was closed after 9/11, but four cameras were installed to allow access to a “virtual observation deck” via monitors in the building’s lobby 24 hours a day.

The Transamerica building is both a landmark with a view and a landmark that is a view  —from almost any point in the San Francisco area.

San Francisco Things To Do

The Hotel Vitale-Embarcadero has views of both The Ferry Building and the waterfront and is within walking distance of San Francisco’s most impressive skyscrapers.


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