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Palace of Fine Arts/Marina

Pros: Remarkably renovated architectural gem
Cons: The only remaining building from the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915
Best For: A late afternoon promenade around the lagoon

Palace of Fine Arts

Architect Bernard Maybeck (1862-1957) designed the Palace of Fine Arts to appear as a crumbling Roman ruin within a natural landscape. The backdrop was the 625-acre Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, a world's fair celebrating the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1513), the opening of the Panama Canal, and the meteoric rebirth of the city of San Francisco following the devestating earthquake and fire of 1906.

The Palace was to be a temporary structure, as were all the world's fair buildings, framed in wood and covered with staff, a burlap and plaster-type fibre. However, due to the efforts of Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the Palace Preservation League was established, and decades-long efforts to save Maybeck's palace have finally come to fruition.

In January, 2011, SF celebrated the completion of a 7-year, $21 million dollar project, a public-private partnership between the city and the Maybeck Foundation. Restoration included seismic upgrades, new entrances, pathways, replacement of the rotunda floor and roof of the dome, and a beautifully landscaped remodel of the lagoon.

Originally designed to exhibit the work of contemporary artists, the building has had its share of unusual occupants over the span of nearly a century. Between the years of 1934 and 1942, the interior sported 18 lighted tennis courts. Today it houses the Exploratorium, the Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception. In 2013 this museum will move to larger quarters at Pier 15 on the Embarcadero.

Late afternoon or early morning are the best times to stroll the promenade and admire the Palace of Fine Arts from many angles. Make sure your camera battery is all charged up!

Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon Street
San Francisco 94123