Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A Pagoda in Hayes Valley



There used to be a double-decker freeway that ran like a gash through San Fracisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. For decades, it was where the crack dealers, streetwalkers, murderers and other human mold would hang out.

One of the happier byproducts of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was that it weakened and destroyed three astonishingly ugly double-decker freeways, one in Oakland, one along San Francisco's Embarcadero, and this extension of 101 that ran at a 45 degree angle through the Hayes Valley. Since nothing gets changed very quickly or easily in San Francisco, most of the land where the freeway once stood in the Hayes Valley is still being used as makeshift parking lots for opera employees, SF school district employees, and so on. Finally, a plan for our horrifyingly car-centric culture was finally settled upon which involved building a large, surface boulevard on Octavia Street, ending at Hayes Street in a block-long park.

Well, it's just opened for business, and the park is graced by one of the most wonderful pieces of public art I've ever seen, a beautiful and mysterious pagoda created by the artist David Best and a small army of volunteers out of scrap wood. They were paid by the Burning Man group called the Black Rock Arts Foundation and if they do nothing more than sponsor this piece, they've done their job.

What's most extraordinary, however, is that there are benches to sit on that will shelter you from the sun, allow you to contemplate the Buddha in your brain, or just sit and eat some food. Just about every public space in San Francisco lately has been designed to be as uncomfortable as possible to make sure that the homeless don't have a place to sit or sleep. Take Civic Center, for instance, where all the benches have been removed and the deep window sills of Superior Court have metal spikes on them so nobody will sit or sleep on them. But The Pagoda Has Benches!

It was designed to be a temporary structure without any enameled finishes, and it will stand for about three months. Do check it out before it disappears, at the corner of Octavia and Hayes right across from Marlena's gay bar and Flipper's restaurant. In fact, I'm hoping Marlena and her coterie of drag queens manage to put on a special show (I'm thinking "Turandot") before the end of the pagoda's run.















9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the new blog! and great photos of the not Burning Man temple. toi-toi-toi.

the straight portuguese said...

way to go, congrats on the blog.
it was good to see you too.
txau

Sam said...

I guess San Rafael's loss is Hayes Valley's gain.

Conrgats on theblog and the pictures! Sorry i haven't had a chance to see you yet. But you managed perfectly well without me. I went straight from one lot of crazy hours to another with the merest breather in between. Yes, i am still at work now waiting for a render right now...

Eddie said...

big ups, mike. another sf voice is on the scene.

i was just checking out david best's beautiful piece a couple days ago. i'm hopeful this a sign of good things to come (assuming no one torches it before the end of it's 3 month residence).

jedwards said...

hey sf mike: jedwards here (hmb)- glad to see you start up a local blog thingy. let's try and get unca drifty to make his way out west this summer to join local gilly heads for a brew...you on?

jedwards said...

oops, hit send too soon. shots of this piece are fantastic. last years burning man stage (similar to this beauty), was helped along by an artist friend from alaska - mavis - a basket weaver. her photos of the site are exceptional. the detail is similar to hayes street temple. gotta get up to the city to see it now. thanks for posting this.

sfmike said...

Thanks for the kind words from everyone, and jedwards I'm always ready to join anyone for a brew. By the way, Driftglass I adore, but Steve Gilliard just gets too relentlessly angry for me these days, and there seems to be something weird going on in his household. When he and Jen went after the PETA people a week ago and started hysterically attacking their own commentators who didn't agree with them, I decided I'd had enough.

But please, call if you get to San Francisco. My name is Michael Strickland and I'm in the phone book.

Gordon said...

Saw your comment at Shakey's Sis. This is fun. You'll like it. I'm a couple hundred miles east of you and use the EssEff Chron in my posts sometimes. I'm also an asshole and call SF "Frisco" and the "Bayarrhea". Later. :)

shuna fish lydon said...

This is what I love about blogs. I saw this structure from far away one day at o'dark hundred hour, bleary eyed and trying to pay close attention to the latest Octavia detour. I thought, what is that beautiful thing?

Thank you so much for these detailed photos and information. I will be passing along this site to many of my friends who also delight in temporary art.