Home -> John J. Newbegin -> The Jewel City -> Chapter IV. "The Walled City": Its Great Palaces and their Architecture, Color and Material

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"The Walled City": It's Great Palaces and their Architecture, Color and Material

The central group of Exposition structures really a single vast palace, behind a rampart - Historical fitness of such architecture here - The south facade - Spanish portals of Varied Industries and Education Palaces - Italian Renaissance portals of Manufactures and Liberal Arts, and of the Courts of Flowers and Palms - The Roman west wall - Ornate doorway of north facade Interior courts and aisles - A balanced plan - This the first exposition to adopt the colors of nature for its structures - Jules Guerin's color scheme, designed for an artificial travertine marble - Simplicity of his palette, from which he painted the entire Exposition - Even the flowers and sanded walks conform.

Although there are eight buildings named in the central palace group, these are so closely connected in design and structure that in reality they make but one palace. Here is seen the unity with variety which marks this Exposition above all others. Commemorating a great international event, its architecture is purposely eclectic, cosmopolitan. Under a dominating Moorish-Spanish general form, the single architect of the group, W. B. Faville, of San Francisco, drawing upon the famous styles of many lands and schools, has combined into an ordered and vastly impressive whole not only the structural art of Orient and of the great Spanish builders, but also the principles of the Italian Renaissance and the architecture of Greece and Rome from which it sprang. Thus the group is wholly Southern in its origin. There is no suggestion here of the colder Gothic architecture of the North.

Differing from each other in many details, the eight palaces are alike in their outer walls, their domes and gables, and similar in their entrances. These portals give a distinctive character to each palace. While the palaces differ widely in details of decoration, they all have a common source; they are all Mediterranean, - not all Byzantine, or Roman, or Italian, or Spanish, or Moorish, but some thing of each. The manner in which these forms are carried over from one palace to another, and the almost constant recurrence of some of them, like the Moorish domes at the corners, blends them without jar or break. The great wall, almost blank, except for the entrances, encloses the palaces like a walled city of the Mediterranean or the nearer Orient. Such a walled city it is, with its courts, its avenues, its fountains and pools, all placed in a setting of landscape, sea and sky, that might belong to Spain, or Southern Italy, or the lands of the Moslem.

The broad, unbroken spaces that mark each face of this vast block greatly heighten the illusion. They lend an Old-World aspect, the historical fitness of which must not be overlooked. For these plain surfaces are indeed significant in the celebration of an event which was predicted by the Spanish conquistadors a century before the English Cavaliers and Puritans laid the foundations of our American Commonwealth. Relieved only by the foliage that is finely massed against them, the great blank spaces of the "Walled City" recall the severer side of Mediterranean architecture, just as their gorgeously ornate portals, towers and domes speak of its warmth and color. They are an architectural feature that has traveled far. The unbroken rampart, born of the need of defense in immemorial cities on the east and south shores of the Mediterranean, was carried thence by the Moors to Spain, to go in turn with the conquerors of the New World, and became a characteristic of the civic and ecclesiastical architecture of Latin America. Hence it is not without meaning and reason that this historic architectural form, the blank exterior of the walled city, has found its finest use in the far-western city of St. Francis. Quite apart from their frequent occurrence in the mission architecture of old Alta California, these simple wall spaces well befit the monumental structure that honors an achievement so important to all Spanish America as the Panama Canal.

The southern front of the group, facing the Avenue of Palms, has the aspect of a single palace, opened in the center by the noble Roman arch of the Tower of Jewels, and indented by the Court of Flowers and the Court of Palms. (See p. 18, 88.) Seen across the South Gardens, the whole facade rising from the trees along the wall, is wondrously beautiful. The wall is seventy feet high, topped with a red-tiled roof. The pale green domes over the centers of the palaces are Byzantine, a style much used in the mosques of Islam. The gables are each crowned with a figure of Victory, sometimes called an "acroterium," from the architectural name of the tablet on which it stands. The towers on either side of the entrances to the courts are Italian. The little towers buttressing the domes on the corners of the palaces at the extreme right and left of the front, and from there repeated around the east, west and north walls, are Moorish, with characteristic latticed windows.

The Palace of Varied Industries, on the extreme right, is made entirely Spanish in its southern front by its beautiful central portal, modeled after the sixteenth-century entrance to the Hospice of Santa Cruz at Toledo. (pp. 18, 37.) Except for the sculpture, in which the Spanish saints have been replaced by figures of industry, the portal is a copy of the original. All the figures are the work of Ralph Stackpole, whose treatment of the subjects, no less than their exalted position in the niches of the saints, has dignified the workman.

On each side of the entrance is the "Man with a Pick." The group in the tympanum represents Varied Industries. (p. 138.) The central figure is Agriculture, the basic food-supplying industry. On one side is the Builder, on the other the Common Workman. Beyond them are Commerce holding the figurehead of a ship, and a woman with a spindle, a lamb before her, typifying the textile industries.

The figure in the keystone represents the Power of Industry. Under the upper canopy is an old man handing his burden to a younger one, the Old World passing its burdens on to the New World. The infant figures come from the Spanish original.

The two lesser portals on the south side of this palace are likewise Spanish. In the grill work of their openings, designed in imitation of metal, as well as in that of the central portal, there is a strong suggestion of the Arabian architecture brought into Spain by the Moors. Indeed, there is something Moorish about the whole work, except that the Mohammedans do not represent living things in art. A passage in the Koran tells devout followers of the prophet that if they should carve or picture a plant or animal they would be called upon at the Judgment to make it real. Sometimes, however, they employed Christian workmen to execute such representations, being quite resigned to let the unbeliever risk damnation.

The bears terminating the buttresses on the walls represent California, and hold the seal of the State. Such buttresses against a plain wall, with a tiled roof, are common in the Franciscan missions of California.

The Palaces of Manufactures and Liberal Arts, on either side of the Tower of Jewels, are alike on the south, and Italian. The Moorish corner domes are omitted here, as the palaces terminate on one side in one of the Italian towers and on the other in the wings of the Tower of Jewels. The central portals are Italian, with tiled roofs and latticed grills, with handsome imitations of bronze work under the arches. The friezes over the arches as well as the figures in the niches are by Mahonri Young, of New York. The frieze represents industries of various kinds, the work of women as well as of men. In the niche on the left is a woman with a spindle, on the right a workman with a sledgehammer. Like Stackpole's figures on the portal of Varied Industries, Young's sculptures are simple and strong. The lion used as the keystone figure of the arch and the lions and elephants alternating as fountain heads in the niches in the wall give an Oriental touch to these palaces.

Of their portals none are more beautiful than those leading from the Courts of Flowers and Palms. All four are finely expressive of the noblest architecture of the Italian Renaissance. They glow with the sunshine and color of Italy. Those entering the Palaces of Liberal Arts and Education from the Court of Palms are identical in design, and seem almost perfect in their harmonious lines and warm color. (p. 88.) The other pair, opening from the Palaces of Manufactures and Varied Industries into the Court of Flowers, are cheery portals, made more domestic in feeling by the loggia between the colonnade and the tiled roof. (p. 85, 100.)

The three portals of the Palace of Education are of the Spanish Renaissance, and the Moorish towers reappear at the corners. The twisted columns of the entrances are Byzantine. The tympanum above the central portal contains Gustav Gerlach's group "Education." (p. 138.) In the center is the teacher with her pupils, seated under the Tree of Knowledge; on the left, the mother instructs her children; on the right, the young man, his school days past, is working out for himself a problem of science. Thus the group pictures the various stages of education, from its beginning at home to that training in the school of life which ends only at death. The cartouche just above the entrance bears the Book of Knowledge, shedding light in all directions, the curtains of darkness drawn back by the figures at the side. The hour glass below the book counsels the diligent use of time; the crown above symbolizes the reward of knowledge. The banded globe over the portal signifies that education encompasses the world.

Above each of the flanking portals is an inset panel representing the Teacher, a woman at the left, a man at the right. The man looks toward the woman, thus signifying that the world is no longer dependent on man alone.

Turning the corner, the entire west wall of the palaces becomes Roman to accord with the Roman Palace of Fine Arts across the lagoon. The characteristic features are the Roman half-domes above the entrances, and the sculptures repeated in the niches of the walls. (p. 119.) On this side, the Palaces of Education and Food Products are alike, except for a slight difference in the vestibule statuary and the fountains.

On the great Sienna columns beside the half-domes stands Ralph Stackpole's "Thought." The semicircle of female figures in the vestibule of the dome of the Palace of Education, bearing in their hands books with the motto "Ex Libris," though the preposition is omitted, represents the store of knowledge in books. The similar array of men bearing wreaths of cereals in the half-dome of the Palace of Food Products signifies the source of vigor in the fruits of the soil. The simple Italian fountains in the vestibules, the work of W. B. Faville, are decorative and beautiful.

The alternated groups in the niches along the wall are "The Triumph of the Fields" and "Abundance." This is well called archaeological sculpture, for the emblems are from the dim past, and can be understood only with the help of an archaeological encyclopaedia. In the first are the bull standard and the Celtic cross, which were carried through the fields in ancient harvest festivals. In the second, the objects heaped around the lady suggest abundance.

The north facade of the palace group is an unbroken Spanish wall, blank, except for the four beautiful and identical sixteenth-century portals. (See p. 43.) This magnificent decoration, suggestive of the finest work in rare metals, is, in fact, called "plateresque," from its resemblance to the work of silversmiths. The figures looking out on the blue water that reaches to Panama and the shores of Peru, are historical. In the center is the Conquistador. Flanking his stately figure on each side is the pirate of the Spanish Main, the adventurer who served with but a color of lawful war under Drake, the buccaneer that followed Morgan to the sack of Panama. (p. 44.) These statues are by Allen Newman.

Every man jack of the eight pirates on the four portals is apparently bow-legged. There is a vast space between the knees of these buccaneers of Panama, but when you look more closely it is hard to decide whether those pirate knees are really sprung, or whether it is the posture of the figures that suggests the old quip about the pig in the alley. The sculptor has at least given to the figures a curious effect of bandy legs. The feet are set wide apart, the space between and behind the legs is deeply hollowed out, and the rope which hangs from the hands curves in over the feet to add to the illusion. There used to be a saying that cross-eyed people could not be honest. Similarly, perhaps, Newman thought the appearance of bow-legs would increase the villainy of his pirate. Certainly, no such blood-curdling ruffian has been seen out of comic opera.

The east wall of the palace group becomes Old Italian, to harmonize with the Roman architecture of the Machinery Palace opposite. The portals suggest those of ancient Italian city walls. In the niches stands Albert Weinert's "Miner," here used because the Palace of Mines forms one half the wall.

In the long avenue that runs east and west through the center of the group, the unity of the eight buildings becomes more apparent as we view the noble arches which join them, and note the character of their inner facades. Education and Food Products are alike in the walls and portals fronting on the dividing aisle. The Spanish architecture of the south facade of Education is here carried over to Food Products. Similarly, the avenue between Mines and Varied Industries is the same on both sides, carrying out the Old Italian of the east front, and with The Miner repeated in the portal niches of both palaces. The avenues leading from the Court of the Universe to the Court of Ages and the Court of Seasons have been variously called the Aisles of the Rising and the Setting Sun, or the Venetian and Florentine Aisles. Their four walls are in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and show a diaper design similar to that on the Italian towers of the Courts of Flowers and Palms.

In an artistic sense, this group is incomplete without the Palace of Fine Arts on the west and Machinery Hall on the east. (p. 105, 106.) Balancing each other in the general scheme, they form the necessary terminals of the axis of the Exposition plan. This matter of balance has been carefully thought out everywhere, and affords a fine example of the co-operation of the many architects who worked out the vast general design. The Courts of Seasons and Ages are set off against each other; the Courts of Palms and Flowers weigh equally one against the other; the Arches of the Nations not only balance but match; even the Tower of Jewels, which is the center of the whole plan, is offset by the Column of Progress. In the South Gardens, the Palace of Horticulture is balanced against Festival Hall.

Color and Material. - All other Expositions have been almost colorless. This is the first to make use of the natural colors of sea and sky, of hill and tree, and to lay upon all its grounds and buildings tints that harmonize with these. Jules Guerin, the master colorist, was the artist who used the Exposition as a canvas on which to spread glorious hues. Guerin decided, first, that the basic material of the buildings should be an imitation of the travertine of ancient Roman palaces. On this delicate old ivory background he laid a simple series of warm, yet quiet, Oriental hues, which, in their adaptation to the material of construction and to the architecture, as well as in their exquisite harmony with the natural setting, breeds a vast respect for his art.

The color scheme covers everything, from the domes of the buildings down to the sand in the driveways and the uniforms of the Exposition guards. The walls, the flags and pennants that wave over the buildings, the shields and other emblems of heraldry that hide the sources of light, draw their hues from Guerin's plan. The flowers of the garden conform to it, the statuary is tinted in accordance with it, and even the painters whose mural pictures adorn the courts and arches and the Fine Arts Rotunda were obliged to use his color series. The result gives such life and beauty and individuality to this Exposition as no other ever had. It makes possible such beautiful ornamentation as the splendid Nubian columns of the Palace of Fine Arts, and the glories of the arches of the Court of the Universe. (See frontispiece.)

Go into that Court on a bright day and take note of the art that has made Nature herself a part of the color plan. From a central position in the court, where one can look down the broad approach leading from the bay, Nature spreads before the beholder two expanses of color, the deep blue of salt water sparkling in the sun, and the not less deep, but more ethereal, blue of the California sky. With this are the browns and greens of the hills beyond the bay, and, nearer at hand, the vivid verdure of lawns and trees and shrubs. All these the designer used as though they were colors from his own palette. To go with them in his scheme he chose for pillar and portico, for the wall spaces behind, for arch and dome, for the decorations and for material of the sculptures, such hues that the whole splendid court and its vistas of palaces beyond blend with the colors of sea and sky and of green living things in a glorious harmony.

Such a view of the heart of the Exposition at its best compels recognition of Guerin's skill in color. It needed a vivid imagination to realize the possibilities of the scene, and visualize it. It required infinite delicacy and a fine sense of the absolute rightness of shade and tint to produce such harmonious beauty. The mere thought of it is a lesson in art.

The decision of the architects to develop the theme of an Oriental walled city, and the natural setting of the site, Mediterranean in its sea and sky, led Guerin to select Oriental colors. Aiming at simplicity, he decreed that not more than eight or nine colors should be found upon the subdued palette from which he would paint the Exposition. Then he took into consideration the climate and atmospheric conditions peculiar to San Francisco. Every phase of sky and sea and land, every shadow upon the Marin hills, across the bay, was noted in choosing an imitation of natural travertine for the key color of the Palaces.

This is a pale pinkish-gray-buff, which may be called old ivory. It is not garish, as a dead white would be, especially in the strong California sunlight, but soft and restful to the eye. It harmonizes with the other colors selected, and, most important of all, it avoids a certain "new" effect which pure white would give, and which is deadly to art.

Paul Deniville, who had already developed a successful imitation of travertine, was engaged to make the composition to be applied over the exterior walls. This is a reproduction in stucco of the travertine marble of the Roman palaces of the period of Augustus. This marble is a calcareous formation deposited from the waters of hot springs, usually in volcanic regions, and is common in the hills about Rome. It often contains the moulds left by leaves and other materials incorporated in the deposit. These account for the corrugations of the stone when it is cut. In California, as in other regions where hot springs are found, travertine is not uncommon. It is found notably in the volcanic district of Mono County, and elsewhere, sometimes in the form of Mexican onyx, which is only a translucent variety of the same marble. In its reproduction here the marble has been imitated even to the natural imperfections which roughened the Italian stone. In the concave surfaces of the ornamentation the color has been deepened, so that it appears sometimes as a rich reddish brown. All this enhances the antique effect, making the palace walls and columns still more like those of the old Roman construction.

Besides the travertine the eight other colors employed are:

1. French Green, used in all lattices, flower tubs, curbing of great plats, where it complements the green of the grass, In the exterior woodwork and some of the smaller doors.

2. Oxidized Copper Green, a peculiar mottled light green. All the domes, except the six yellow ones in the Court of the Universe, are of this light green. It forms a sharp contrast with the blue sky and a pleasing topping to the travertine walls.

3. Blue Green, found in the ornamentation of the travertine, and in the darker shades at the bases of the flag poles. These first three colors, all in tones of green, are regarded as one unit in the spectrum of nine colors allowed by Guerin.

4. Pinkish-Red-Gold, used in the flag poles and lighting standards only. It is a very brilliant and striking pigment, and is always topped with gold.

5. Wall-Red, used in three tones. They are found in the backgrounds of the colonnades, courts and niches, on the tiled roofs, and in the statuary. These reds run from terra-cotta to a deep russet, and predominate in the interiors of the principal courts.

6. Yellow-Golden-Orange, largely used in enriching the travertine and in enhancing shadow effects. It is found in the architectural mouldings and in much of the statuary. The following rule was adopted in regard to the coloring of the statuary: That which is high off the ground, that is, the figures surmounting the domes and spires, is of golden yellow, while that close to the eye of the beholder is of verde-antique, a rich copper-green streaked with gray, and much is left in the natural travertine tint.

7. Deep Cerulean Blue and Oriental Blue, verging upon green, are used in the ceilings and other vaulted recesses, in deep shadows, in coffers and in the background or ornamentation in which travertine rosettes are set in cerulean blue panels. It might be called electric blue. It is brilliant and at the same time in harmony with the other colors.

8. Gray, very similar to the travertine.

9. Marble Tint, spread over the travertine in places with a transparent glaze.

10. Verde-Antique, really one of the many shades of green - a combination of the copper-green and a soft gray, and therefore not to be counted as one of the nine cardinal colors. It simulates corroded copper, and has faint yellow and black lines.

With the gamut thus restricted by the taste and discrimination of a master, the decorators and artists were strictly limited to the nine colors named. No one might use other than cerulean blue, if he employed blue at all; no other red than the tone popularly known as "Pompeiian" has been admitted in the scheme. In this red the admixture of brown and yellow nullify any tendency towards carmine on crimson. The French and the copper greens and the intermediate shades approved by Guerin are the only greens allowed.

Here is seen the great advantage of a one-man idea. No other exposition was ever so carefully or successfully planned in this particular. There is no court of one color clashing with a dome, palace or tower of conflicting tone, whether near by or at a distance. All is in harmony.

Working with Guerin, John McLaren, in charge of the landscape gardening, so selected the flowers which border the paths and fill the parterres that they too conform to the color scheme. Though three different complete floral suits are to be seen at the Exposition in three periods, each one accords with the hues of wall and tower, completing in harmony the effect of the whole. The pinkish sand spread on the paths and avenues to harmonize with other ground colors was not always tinted. Some one had noticed that the white beach sand at Santa Cruz turned pink when heated. Seizing upon this fact, McLaren and Guerin used it to give a final touch to their scheme of color. They drew another lesson from the washerwoman. A familiar laundry device was used to give sparkle and brilliance to the waters of the pools and lagoons. They were blued, not by dumping indigo into the water, but by tinting the bottoms with blue paint.

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