Presidio Branch Library - San Francisco
The Presidio Branch Library on Sacramento Street is my neighborhood library and I've loved it since I moved into the neighborhood. The building was built in 1921 with Carnegie funds by the beaux arts trained architect Albert Lansburgh. This year the library re-opened after a $4M renovation. The renovation left both the interior and exterior largely intact with no obvious trace of the work completed - probably a good thing.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I read the novella "Trout Fishing in America" by Richard Brautigan, a San Francisco author who died tragically young. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was a frequent visitor to this library and used it as a setting for his 1970 novel "The Abortion". A few years ago they had an exhibit of his work, letters, and relationship with the library.
Drawing by Andrea Palladio
Presidio Library Architect Albert Lansburgh followed the trend at the time of incorporating "classical" architectural elements into public buildings. In this case, he was clearly looking at works by the great Renaissance Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Palladio is perhaps one of the most influential architects of all time as his work has inspired buildings around the world for over 500 years.
The often copied palladian arch featured a central arched opening with two small side openings separated by columns. The renaissance palladian arch is actually derived from earlier triumphal arches as seen in the Roman Forum two thousand years ago. The drawing at the left is the palladian arch drawn by Palladio for the Basillica in Vicenza that was completed in 1617. Like all "good" architects, I traveled to Vicenza to see the master's work.
San Francisco didn't have the funds to cover the entire front with a granite faced palladian facade like the Basillica, but as is common in many public buildings, they put it where they thought it counts the most. Set against a brick background, this singular element contrasts nicely. For a neighborhood library, it's pretty grand.
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