Polk by Geary by Van Ness by Cedar
Eventually this will become medical offices; part of a greater hospital complex for the Polk Gulch/Cathedral Hill neighborhood. For unlike other parts of the Tenderloin, there’s a purposefulness behind this stretch of seven blighted storefronts. The buildings wait, dreaming of wrecking balls and the grandiose plans of developers. Patient, quiet dreams obscured behind layers of plywood and the drab, mismatched tones of graffiti abatement paint.
Which is exactly why I love this doomed little block.
Last month I was fortunate enough take a special tour of Grace Cathedral’s catwalks. I’m absolutely terrified of heights but as this tour isn’t normally offered to the public I had to accept. WOW… Designed in 1928 and completed in 1964, the cathedral was built in the French Gothic style which means it’s all about grandiose heights and soaring columns and cloud-brushing spires. I managed to complete the tour with no fewer than two minor panic attacks which is actually impressive, all things considered. Despite shooting with a broken flash and a finicky light meter I managed to capture a few highlights from the tour.
View Urban Camo Seed Bombs in a larger map
I love using maps to visualize data. It’s often the only method that allows me to see/think through my spatial blind spots. So of course I had to throw my Urban Camo Seed Bomb data into Google Maps to help gain perspective on future placement sites. Turns out that using Google Street View in my neighborhood is FASCINATING. I blame the rain, my various winter colds, and the resulting cabin fever for this newfound interest in digital urban explorations. Google Maps Hole!
So after thoroughly exploring the pixelated contours of this particular Map Hole I’ve found some special tidbits and interesting urban puzzles worthy of sharing. Consider this the best of the weird from Fruitvale and Google.
I love the Grand Lake Theater. Oakland has some beautiful buildings and some exquisite theaters but I only have eyes for the Grand Lake. It’s the sign that does it for me – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more spectacular sign in my life. Brimming with grandeur it speaks of a time when movies were Important and seeing them was Special. A time before the multiplex and artificially buttered popcorn and watching Netflix in your underwear. Classic, sophisticated, and BRIGHT it’s quite the piece of work.
Per the Grand Lake’s Wikipedia page:
The sign mounted on top of the Grand Lake Theater is the largest rotary contact sign west of the Mississippi River. It measures 52 feet (15.85m) high by 72 feet (21.95m) wide and consists of 2,800 colored bulbs and was designed by Theodore Wetteland. The firing sequence is controlled by a device much like a music box. The sign is typically lit Friday and Saturday, from dusk until the start of the last show of the night.
Obviously a sign of that scale will leave an impression on a neighborhood. So I walked around Lake Merritt and up the commercial corridors of Grand and Lakeshore to count the murals depicting the Grand Lake Theater. On my walk I found four.
I love this sign.
It’s decay and it’s color contrast and it’s geometry and it’s everything.
But looking at it closely; doesn’t that octagonal frame seem awfully fancy for a one hour photo shop? And the two arched frames to either side; those were definitely custom, right? So where did they come from?
In general, I’m not a fan of stencil art. I find it aesthetically beautiful but technically and conceptually dull. However, I’m not so snobbish that I can’t fall in love with random examples of the genre. A great example of a stencil piece I LOVE is this site specific installation on 16th Street between Hubbell and 7th. The mirroring of the tile work, the purposeful framing, the reclaiming of disused space – I tip my hat to whomever made this piece. Despite it’s roughness it’s quite clever – I’m a sucker for clever.
Looking at it, I wanted to know more about the tile work it mirrored. Was it part of a now-demolished building? Was it someone else’s playful intervention in the space? What exactly did that now-demolished building look like? Was it someplace important or interesting or beautiful? So off to the internet I went. And then suddenly – map hole.
Instagram pictures from the block around my building. Oh Fruitvale, why must you be a dumping ground for all of Oakland’s questionable furniture and tragic bits of street dada?
The zombie apocalypse is now.
Shark vs. Jet Ski
Pedovan Still Life
The other weekend I went to Sunday Streets in the Bayview district. I have a soft spot for the Bayview; probably because it reminds me of my own neighborhood in Oakland. There’s a symmetry between the two – in the sagging Victorians and the underused industrial spaces, in the treeless sidewalks and the pitted streets and the patina of socio-economic neglect. There’s also a certain quiet stoicism to both neighborhoods. A feeling that the streets are patiently biding their time; waiting, disinterestedly, for their potential futures to manifest.
Or not. Underprivileged and overexploited light industrial/mixed use neighborhoods will always exist. The name may change but there will always be a “Bayveiw”.
I came away from Sunday Streets having found two random spots that spoke to me. Generally I don’t photograph people and I don’t photograph Big Important Buildings. I’m drawn instead to small details and tiny tensions and stories that trail off without…………… Both these sites fit that criteria; although in my opinion the photographs themselves fall a bit short artistically. Continue reading
Crocker Building, 2 Post Street
And here I thought the key to success was either failure, preparedness, hard work, positive thinking, or self confidence. Or perhaps the key to success is using full-frontal nudity to spread your message. Oh sexually suggestive architecture, don’t ever change.
Finally someone left the gate unlocked! As seen in this blog post, there’s a very intriguing Owl Cigar sign overlooking this alley. Wrapping around two sides of 921 Post Street, I’ve had trouble pinpointing where this sign was originally meant to be viewed from. The back side of the sign isn’t visible from Post, isn’t visible from Geary, and is only vaguely visible from Hyde. So where was it meant to be viewed from?
Peekabo, I sorta see you. As shot from Hyde