The days on this tour have been carefully programmed, however there will be opportunities for tour participants to break from the group to explore their own interests if they so desire. On a number of days the program is scheduled to finish mid/late afternoon thus allowing free time for individual exploration. Evenings have been deliberately left free to allow participants to avail themselves of endless dining opportunities and sample the many performing arts options found in each of the major cities to be visited. The following itinerary describes a range of sites, which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission, which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, musical performance schedules and confirmation of private visits. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D = evening meal. All entrance fees on the official program are included in the tour price.
Palm Springs - 2 nights
Day 1: Monday 30 April, Arrive LAX Airport – Joshua Tree – Palm Springs
- The Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art, Joshua Tree
- Welcome Drinks & light evening meal in Palm Springs
This morning we set out from Los Angeles LAX Airport and travel west along the freeway to the desert resort town of Palm Springs, where we begin our tour of California.
En route we will stop for lunch at an American-style diner before visiting the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Art, Joshua Tree. Created between 1989-2004, on a 10-acre desert site, this unique art environment is the work of Noah Purifoy, a pioneering street and assemblage artist, and a significant contributor to post-WWII African-American art in Los Angeles. This site reflects the edgy and idiosyncratic art culture of the Joshua Tree scene.
On arrival in Palm Springs we check in to our hotel, The Parker Palm Springs, and this evening we gather for an introductory meeting, welcome drinks and a light group dinner together. (Overnight Palm Springs) LD
Day 2: Tuesday 1 May, Palm Springs
- Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center
- Modernist Architecture Tour of Palm Springs led by Robert Imber including interior visits of private homes by famed architects (detailed program to be confirmed)
- Frank Sinatra’s Original Twin Palms Estate by architect E. Stewart Williams (subject to confirmation)
- Welcome Dinner
Established in the 19th century as a railway and agricultural town, Palm Springs became a desert resort in the early 20th century and ‘Hollywood’s Playground’. Hollywood’s ‘two-hour rule’, which required contracted stars to be within two hours of studios, made Palm Springs a convenient retreat. Luxury resorts, private hideaways, golf course and other trappings of Hollywood lifestyle persist, and are evident in street names and Palm Springs’ own walk of stars. The city’s distinctive architectural style – Desert Modernism – adapted European modernism to the desert climate and California’s recreational lifestyle. Pavilion and courtyard arrangements of glass-walled buildings united interior and landscape, as well offering privacy. Today, Desert Modernism is honoured with heritage listings and celebrated by a new generation fascinated by the glamorous, space age elegance of Palm Springs.
We spend the day exploring Palm Springs’ extraordinary modernist legacy with Robert Imber, an expert on local architecture, historian, author and preservationist. Originally from St. Louis, MO, Robert is lifelong visitor and ten-year resident of Palm Springs and has been a vocal and active advocate for architectural preservation for more than twenty-five years. Robert was founding member of the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PSMODCOM), where he serves on the Board of Directors, a founder of ‘Modernism Week’, the annual festival of Desert Modernism, and is executive producer of the documentary, Desert Utopia: Mid-Century Architecture in Palm Springs. Robert was also recently honoured with his own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
Robert will share with us his love of architecture and take us through the city’s diverse neighbourhoods to see distinctive homes by noted architects such as Richard Neutra and Albert Frey, celebrity hideaways, familiar film locations, revolutionary modern tract developments, beautifully preserved commercial buildings and civic buildings that influenced public architecture throughout the world.
We also visit the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, housed in a restored mid-century building by architect E. Stewart Williams, where the museum features exhibitions and programs related to architecture and design. The museum’s collection also includes Frey House II, the historically significant residence in Palm Springs that architect Albert Frey designed for himself in 1963 and bequeathed to the museum upon his death in 1998.
One of the day’s highlights will be a special private tour of Twin Palms, the modernist home designed for Frank Sinatra in 1947 by E. Stewart Williams. Featuring classic elements of Desert Modernism – horizontal lines, glass walls, open plan, swimming pool courtyard – Twin Palms was the backdrop for legendary parties. Our tour will take us in the footsteps of the Rat Pack. E. Stewart Williams (1909–2005) shaped Palm Springs’ architectural style with numerous public buildings, including banks, museums and the Aerial Tramway terminus.
This evening we enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Palm Springs) BD
Los Angeles - 6 nights
Day 3: Wednesday 2 May, Palm Springs – Sunnylands Historic Estate – Los Angeles
- Sunnylands Historic Estate, Rancho Mirage
- Evening Performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry, Los Angeles (2018 program to be announced)
This morning, we transfer by coach to the Sunnylands Historic Estate, on Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage. Designed by A. Quincy Jones, Sunnylands was the winter residence of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg from 1966-2009. Recasting the English-style country estate in Californian terms, Sunnylands couples bold modernist geometry and exposed structure with elegant interiors, museum-quality art works, a private cinema and nine-hole golf course. Artworks by Picasso, Wyeth and Arp sit alongside Tang Dynasty ceramics. The historic residence, where the Annenbergs entertained presidents, royalty, celebrities, and international leaders, was left by them for high-level retreats devoted to international understanding. Our tour will reveal the history and architecture of the estate, along with its art collection and gardens.
Following lunch we continue our coach journey to Los Angeles. Following check-in at the Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza, we take a short orientation walk in the vicinity of the hotel located atop historic Bunker Hill in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Nearby landmarks include the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Broad Art Museum and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels designed by award-winning Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.
Also nearby is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where we shall attend a musical performance. Designed by Frank Gehry, this internationally recognised architectural landmark is home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. (Overnight Los Angeles) BLD
Day 4: Thursday 3 May, Los Angeles
- The Getty Center
- Stahl House (Case Study House #22) by Pierre Koenig
- The Sheats-Goldstein Residence by John Lautner
Today we visit the Getty Center, the world’s largest cultural and philanthropic organization dedicated to the visual arts. Supporting conservation, preservation, art historical research and art museums, Getty Trust activities commenced in 1953. The current Getty museum, designed by Richard Meier, was opened in 1997. The five pavilions of the museum house an art collection ranging from medieval to contemporary art, with significant specialisations in photography, manuscripts and European art. A combination of remarkable collections and intensive research activity delivers exhibitions setting world standards in the museum sector.
The museum is surrounded by gardens designed by Californian conceptual artist Robert Irwin, and combine references to historical traditions in garden design with Irwin’s philosophical interests in time, perception and consciousness. Our schedule will allow time to explore the museum and gardens and lunch at one of its informal terrace cafes.
In the afternoon, we enjoy special access to two legendary LA Modernist homes, the Stahl House (1960) by Pierre Koenig and the Sheats-Goldstein House (1963) by John Lautner. The Stahl House was completed in 1960 and was made famous by architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s night shot of two women sitting in the living room overlooking the bright lights of the city. The Stahl House was declared a Historic-Cultural landmark of the City of Los Angeles in 1999 and is included in Arts and Architecture magazine’s authoritative Case Study House program of exemplary experiments in domestic architecture (Case Study #22). Perched high on a ridge overlooking Sunset Boulevard, the cantilevered patios of the Stahl House have become emblematic of Californian modernism.
The Sheats Goldstein House, recently bequeathed to the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been characterised as American Organic architecture on the basis of its intimate and dramatic relationship to the topography and sensory aspects of its environment. Its concrete forms have a massive, sculptural effect but the residence remains open to air, space and light. In 1972, businessman and fashion/basketball aficionado James F Goldstein purchased the house and worked closely with Lautner to restore and complete the architect’s vision, and the result – including furniture, rugs, lighting, and windows – is a complete work of art. The site also includes a skyscape installation by James Turrell. The house, like much California modernism, has a theatrical mood and has been immortalised in pop culture through films like The Big Lebowski and fashion shoots by legends like Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton and Michel Comte (as well as ads for Jimmy Choo). (Overnight Los Angeles) B
Day 5: Friday 4 May, Los Angeles
- The Eames House (Case Study House #8) by Charles and Ray Eames
- The Getty Villa
Today we visit a third iconic LA modernist home, the Eames House (1949); (Case Study House #8). The building was designed by the legendary team, Charles and Ray Eames, responsible for numerous innovations in furniture and graphic design, as well as being pioneers in multimedia display. With their own needs in mind – ‘a married couple both occupied professionally with mechanical experiment and graphic presentation’ – the Eames designed a simple platform for work and play, concentration and relaxation, uncomplicated and low maintenance. Their design strives after the modernist dream of the home as ‘background for life in work’. As the Eames Foundation notes, this house epitomises the hallmarks of California modernism, emphasising ‘the guest/host relationship, the honest use of materials, universalising from the specific, and, above all, the learn-by-doing process’.
In the afternoon, we will travel back in time to a first century AD Roman villa at the second of the Getty Foundation’s art museum campuses, the Getty Villa. Modelled after the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy, the Getty Villa incorporates extensive gardens and carefully designed vistas, recreating the experience of a rural Roman estate. The museum displays over 1200 items from a collection numbering 44,000 and traversing a 6000-year period from 6500 BCE to 450 AD. (Overnight Los Angeles) B
Day 6: Saturday 5 May, Los Angeles
- The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Grand Avenue)
- The Broad Museum (opened 2016)
On the doorstep of our hotel are two major art museums, representing the entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit of Los Angeles.
Founded in 1979 by artists, art collectors and philanthropists, the Museum of Contemporary Art (LA MOCA) is dedicated to post-WWII and contemporary art. Ninety percent of the collection has been gifted by private benefactors, with an emphasis on cutting-edge contemporary art. MOCA’s 1986 building was the first in the US designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Often controversial in its exhibitions and management strategies, MOCA is energised by its occasionally contradictory embrace of the formalities of the museum and the ‘go ahead’ attitudes of its entrepreneurial patrons. Recent controversies – a director who had previously run a commercial gallery, sacked curators and resignations by board members – have revealed the frictions between conventional museums strategies and the contemporary ‘experience economy’.
Through their philanthropic foundations and business activities, Eli and Edythe Broad have become among the most influential citizens of Los Angeles. As supporters of LACMA, MOCA, university art museums, education and opera, the Broads have reshaped LA culture and reinvigorated the downtown area. The new Broad Art Museum, opened in 2016, presents works from their collection in a building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (ICA Boston; Berkeley Art Museum). The collection features major works by American and international artists – including Warhol, Rauschenberg, Beuys, Ruscha, Koons, Kruger, Murakami – presented in provocative thematic installations. (Overnight Los Angeles) B
Day 7: Sunday 6 May, Los Angeles
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- Hollyhock House by Frank Lloyd Wright
- Schindler House by Rudolph Schindler
Founded in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) now boasts a collection of over 130,000 items with significant holdings in art of the Americas, Asia and Europe. Laid out in the distinctive campus style of Californian museums, LACMA is a complex of pavilions and plazas, famously located across the street from the La Brea tar pits. LACMA is an encyclopaedic art museum, presenting major exhibitions of European art (with especially strong holding of German expressionism), American art and international contemporary art. The museum’s extensive collection of Californian design complements our visits to modernist homes.
The Hollyhock House, which we next visit, was the first house Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Los Angeles, part of a performing arts complex commissioned in the early 1920s by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall for an incredible 36-acre hilltop site on the Hollywood/Los Feliz border. Built between 1919 and 1921, it represents Frank Lloyd Wright’s earliest efforts to develop a regionally appropriate style of architecture for Southern California. Wright himself referred to it as California Romanza, using a musical term meaning ‘freedom to make one’s own form’. He was however often away during construction, working on the Imperial Hotel in Japan, and building was mostly overseen by project manager Rudolph Schindler. In 1927, Barnsdall donated the property, with the surrounding 12 acres, to the city of Los Angeles, and following years of closure, the Hollyhock reopened in February 2015 with a beautiful, painstaking restoration that has brought many of its public spaces back to their 1921 magnificence.
Nearby is Rudolph Schindler’s own masterpiece. Secluded behind a screen of tall bamboo shoots in West Hollywood, the Schindler House, also known as the Kings Road House, may be considered the first home ever built in the Modernist style. Designed in 1921, the house was the shared vision of Schindler and his wife Pauline and was conceived as an experiment in communal living to be shared with another couple, Clyde and Marian Chace. The architect’s use of tilt-slab concrete construction (highly innovative at the time) and an informal studio layout, set it apart from its contemporaries and the design would set the tone for other Modernist residential design for decades. (Overnight Los Angeles) B
Day 8: Monday 7 May, Los Angeles
- The Huntington Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
- The Gamble House by Greene & Greene
For today’s visit we will travel a short distance inland to Pasadena. The Huntington Art Gallery was founded in 1919 by Henry Huntington, a businessman with extensive interests in rail, utilities and real estate. Huntington’s personal passions extended to art, books and gardens, all of which are on offer at the gallery.
The art collection focuses on 18th and 19th century European art, and includes Gainsborough’s much-reproduced Blue Boy. In addition, the museum holds works by Renaissance masters (Lippi, Bellini) and the American greats (Copley, Cassat, Eakins, Peto, Hopper). The art museum continues to expand, with the 2016 opening of an extension displaying 700 examples of American painting, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metal, needlework, and other related decorative arts, from the Jonathan and Karen Fielding collection, widely regarded as one of the most significant of its kind in the United States.
The library comprises 6 million volumes, including the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, and a world-class collection of the early editions of Shakespeare’s works.
Set in 120 acres of botanical gardens the Huntington estate encompasses more than a dozen specialised gardens, among them the Desert Garden (one of the world’s great collections of succulents), the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Chinese Garden. The camellia collection is one of the largest in the country. Other important botanical attractions include the Subtropical, Herb, Jungle, and Palm gardens.
Charles Sumner Greene (1868-1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870-1954) trained in architecture at MIT before moving to Pasadena in the 1890s. Inspired the nature of the West, influenced by Japanese art and mindful of medical theories linking good health to well-designed living quarters, the brothers developed an architecture seeking a harmony of nature, spirit and well-being. Their American version of the European Arts and Crafts movement was immensely popular; the team completed 150 projects between 1902-10. Within American architecture, they were hailed for establishing a ‘new and native beauty’; reflecting American materials, craft skills and domesticity.
The Gamble House in Pasadena, California, is an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture. The house and furnishings were designed by architects Greene and Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company. Regarded as an Arts and Crafts masterpiece, the house is noteworthy for its intricate use of multiple woods, used in carefully orchestrated arrangements exploiting their different colours and tones for subtle effects. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1978. (Overnight Los Angeles) BL
Cambria - 1 night
Day 9: Tuesday 8 May, Los Angeles – Hearst Castle – Cambria
- Hearst Castle, San Simeon
We depart Los Angeles early this morning and travel north towards San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway One), a spectacular route of rugged coastal landscape shaped by the Pacific Ocean.
Perched high above the village of San Simeon atop a hill he called ‘La Cuesta Encantada’ (the Enchanted Hill), is Hearst Castle, the 165-room estate of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), upon whom Orson Wells modelled Citizen Kane (1941). We spend the afternoon visiting one of the last great estates of America’s Gilded Age and a monument to wealth. Hearst inherited a vast ranch of 250,000 acres established by his father, George Hearst, a wealthy miner. Whilst on a European honeymoon with his bride, Millicent Wilson, Hearst determined to build a grand house on the ranch. He commissioned the famed San Francisco architect, Julia Morgan, to design his mansion in 1919. By 1947, Hearst and Morgan had created an estate of 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. The estate’s main house, ‘Casa Grande,’ and three guesthouses, are in the Mediterranean Revival style; Casa Grande’s imposing towers were inspired by a Spanish cathedral. We visit the house, which displays Hearst’s magnificent art collection, and explore its wonderful garden. Majestic Coastal Live Oaks and California Bays, native to the hilltop, are carefully integrated into the garden design. These and other large trees, such as Italian Cypress and Mexican Fan Palms, help to integrate the scale of the towering main house with the smaller scale of the surrounding gardens and guesthouses. William Randolph Hearst wanted a garden that displayed a profusion of blooms throughout the year and plant species that bloom during each of the different seasons were carefully selected for its beds. These include bougainvillea, tulips, hyacinths, gladiolus, lilies, dahlias, asters, geraniums, lantana, petunias, pansies, sweet peas, hollyhocks, marigolds and carnations.
We spend the night at the nearby Cambria Pines Lodge, set on 25 acres of landscaped gardens, secluded pathways and rare Monterey pine trees. (Overnight Cambria) BD
Monterey - 2 nights
Day 10: Wednesday 9 May, Cambria – Big Sur – Monterey
- Lunch at the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar Restaurant, Big Sur
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
Today we follow the Big Sur Coast Highway, one of America’s most scenic drives which extends from San Simeon north to Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey. On this unforgettable stretch of coastline, redwood groves reach skyward, the Santa Lucia Range plunges into the Pacific Ocean, and waves are beaten to froth on ragged rocks.
En route, we enjoy lunch at the cliff-hugging Post Ranch Inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The original architect and visionary of Post Ranch Inn is Mickey Muennig. A native of Joplin, Missouri, G.K. (Mickey) Muennig studied and worked with Bruce Goff at the University of Oklahoma, where he was drawn to the principles of “organic architecture.” Muennig was captivated by the wild beauty of Big Sur during a visit in 1971. He decided to stay and became the area’s leading architect. Muennig’s vision for Post Ranch Inn embraced luxury, sustainability and the natural beauty of the site itself. His dramatic structures eschew the straight line, mirror the coastline, encircle the trees and maximise the views. Muennig’s work has been shown in museums in the U.S. and Europe, and featured in numerous international publications.
We then continue our drive north to Monterey where we shall spend the next two nights. On arrival, we visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Situated on the former site of a sardine cannery, this is arguably the most sophisticated aquarium in the world; it is certainly one of the largest. Its many vast tanks are constantly fed by fresh seawater that is pumped from the Bay. We will have time to view its exhibits and watch the otters being fed before we check in to our hotel located next door to the Aquarium on Cannery Row. Once named Ocean View Avenue, this waterfront street officially took on its nickname ‘cannery row’ in honour of John Steinbeck, who used it both as the setting for his great 1945 novel and also for his Sweet Thursday (1954); the last cannery closed here in 1976. (Overnight Monterey) BL
Day 11: Thursday 10 May, Monterey
Today we meet Bernard Trainor and spend the day visiting private gardens and landscape projects by his studio Bernard Trainor + Associates in the Monterey Bay and Carmel area.
Drawing on almost thirty years of passionate commitment to the study and practice of landscape design, Bernard Trainor is the founding principal and design director at Bernard Trainor + Associates Landscape Architecture in Monterey California. Throughout the years, he has completed four academic landscape and design programs, practiced professionally in three countries, and Bernard continues to lecture extensively on the subject of Landscape Design throughout the world.
Raised on the Mornington Peninsula along Australia’s rugged south-eastern Coast below Melbourne, Bernard developed a lasting awareness and appreciation of the natural landscape that led to horticulture and design studies at Melbourne’s Homesglen College. Following his apprenticeship with a local parks department, he then received a scholarship which allowed him to move to England to study under the famed plantswoman and garden designer, Beth Chatto. Her regionally appropriate planting design further developed Bernard’s design philosophy and the direction of the landscapes that followed. In the years that followed Bernard completed a Diploma of Landscape Design while studying at the English School of Garden Design at Chelsea Physic Garden.
After practicing landscape design in Australia and Britain, Bernard relocated to California in 1995 to head a San Francisco landscape design firm. The geographical diversity of his educational and work experiences cultivated a deep appreciation for California’s unique regional qualities and culture. “Whilst traveling I have discovered my favourite art, architecture and landscapes are deeply connected to the place from which they have ‘grown’.” As founding principal and design director, he is involved with his studio team on every landscape project, from conception to completion. The studio’s award-winning projects, ranging from town-scaled gardens to extensive rural properties, have been featured in books and publications throughout the world including the New York Times, Vogue Living, Garden Design, and numerous other publications. Bernard is passionate about designing regional-appropriate landscapes and “applies simple, understated frames to rugged natural panoramas, the better to bring them into focus”. (Overnight Monterey) BL
San Francisco - 5 nights
Day 12: Friday 11 May, Monterey – Stanford – San Francisco
- The Hanna House by Frank Lloyd Wright, Stanford (subject to tour schedule confirmation in early 2018)
- Cantor Arts Center & Rodin Collection, Stanford
We depart this morning for Palo Alto where we first visit Hanna House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Stanford Professor Paul Hanna and his wife, Jean. This was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first work in the San Francisco region and his first work with non-rectangular structures. The house is recognised as a National Historic Landmark.
Begun in 1937 and expanded over 25 years, this is the first and best example of Wright’s innovative hexagonal design. Wright had become interested in creating elegant and affordable homes for the American middle class, believing that this would lead to a more harmonious, enlightened society. A long-term collaboration between the Hannas and Wright resulted in an unprecedented design: a house based on hexagonal geometry, with no right angles in the floor plan. This radical experimentation allowed Wright to explore open planning. Hanna House was a turning point in his career, leading to ideas later explored in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The house was restored following severe damage in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and reopened to the public in 1999. The wonderful garden is also being restored, beginning with the replanting of its built-in brick planting boxes and freestanding containers. The second phase will restore the wonderful Japanese-style garden that frames the cascade fountain.
We then transfer to the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Founded along with the university itself in the 19th century, Stanford’s art museum has survived multiple earthquakes, neglect and closure. In 1999, with the support of Iris and B Gerald Cantor, a new art museum was opened. Like many university museums in the USA, Stanford boasts an extensive and encyclopaedic collection, ranging across ancient, modern and contemporary art, as well as African, Oceanic and Native American items.
A highlight of the Cantor Arts Center is its collection of 200 works by Auguste Rodin, reflecting the Cantors’ deep involvement with this artist. As a young stockbroker, B. Gerald Cantor came across a small Rodin sculpture in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. In 1946, while still in his twenties, he began acquiring small works by Rodin. With the formation of the Cantor Foundation in 1978, Iris and Bernie, worked closely with the Rodin Museum in Paris, commissioning bronzes from plasters in the archive as well as funding the operation of the museum itself. Using their collection and foundation resources, the Cantors systematically developed scholarship, exhibitions and promotions of Rodin’s oeuvre. With the opening of the ground-breaking Rodin Rediscovered exhibition in Washington (1981) it could be said that the Cantors have driven that rediscovery.
On arrival in San Francisco in the late afternoon, and time allowing, we shall take a short orientation walk in the vicinity of our hotel in Union Square. (Overnight San Francisco) B
Day 13: Saturday 12 May, San Francisco
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA)
- Yuerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
- Walking tour of San Francisco’s Financial District
San Francisco has a distinctive cultural character, emerging from key moments in its history. The city’s cultural diversity arises from its earlier history as a Spanish colony and its prominence as a maritime city, making for extensive connections into Oceania and Asia. In the post-WWII period, this cosmopolitanism sustained underground cultures, such as the Beats and later the hippies. Today, San Francisco’s long tradition of liberal social values is both complemented and challenged by the rise of IT economies in the area, making rapid growth in wealth and tensions arising from urban change.
San Francisco’s museums reflect this diversity, with strong collections of Asian art, a deep tradition of experimentation, a commitment to cultural inclusiveness and significant new philanthropy supporting ambitious museum expansion.
Today we will visit the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA), now the largest modern and contemporary museum in the US. Founded in 1935 as the first modern and contemporary art museum on the West Coast, SF MOMA achieved its first purpose-built home with the 1995 Mario Botta building. Following a $650 million capital campaign, SFMOMA opened an extension in 2016, tripling the size of the museum. Already holding major works by prominent modern and contemporary artists, a succession of major gifts has given SF MOMA a remarkable new capacity to represent recent art. Among many strengths, SF MOMA offers; one of the first established collections of digital and new media art, the finest collection of Japanese photography outside of Japan, over 6000 works relating to modern and contemporary architecture, major holdings of recent German art.
Aside from its remarkable collections, SF MOMA has instituted innovative outreach and participation programs using digital and online resources. During our visit we will have the opportunity to view great art and also to see how museums are meeting audience expectations and the demands of technology in the twenty-first century.
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is a different kind of cultural centre, reflecting San Francisco’s long commitment to cultural diversity, liberal values and activism. Defining itself as a ‘citizen institution’, is a platform for multiple activities – art, performance, film, writing – which seeks to reach beyond its wall, engaging with communities and contemporary social challenges. With no permanent collection, the YBCA focuses on thematic and single-artist programs linking art, moving image and performance. Opened in 1993, and situated across the street from SF MOMA, the YBCA seeks to inspire creativity and social movements. This ambition is summed up in its motto, ‘Center for the art of doing something about it’.
The nearby Financial District features some of San Francisco’s most famous downtown buildings, unique open spaces and historic landmarks, including One Bush Plaza, also known as the Crown Zellerbach Building, designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill. One Bush Street is widely recognised as a classic example of the International style of architecture. (Overnight San Francisco) B
Day 14: Sunday 13 May, San Francisco
- De Young Museum of Fine Arts
- Afternoon at leisure
The story of the de Young Fine Arts Museum reflects key elements of the cultural development of San Francisco. Commencing as the Fine Arts pavilion of an 1895 international exposition in Golden Gate Park, it linked international perspectives with commercial and cultural ambitions. Earthquake damage, a perennial challenge in California, forced an early closure and prompted the construction of a new building, with successive expansions, which was again damaged in a 1929 earthquake. A subsequent De Young building was also hit by an earthquake in 1989. The current de Young, designed by the Swiss team Herzog and de Meuron (Tate Modern), was opened in 2005. Now the sixth most-visited art museum in North America, the de Young features distinctive perforated copper cladding and extensive landscaping that integrates the building’s sculptural forms with the environment. Special commissions by Andy Goldsworthy and James Turrell also explore the relationship between the formality of museum spaces and the shifting effects of nature.
Currently the de Young’s collection exceeds 27,000 works of art and is renowned for its holdings in American art of all periods, including painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and works on paper; the art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; and costumes and textiles representing a wide variety of Eastern and Western traditions. Reflecting the strong craft tradition in California, the de Young holds a textile collection of over 13,000 items and the premier collections of contemporary craft in the United States.
The afternoon is at leisure and you may wish to further explore Golden Gate Park, which includes The San Francisco Botanical Garden featuring an Australia garden designed by Bernard Trainor and a Californian native garden, as well as the California Academy of Sciences designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. (Overnight San Francisco) B
Day 15: Monday 14 May, San Francisco
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Golden Gate Bridge
- The Presidio National Park
Our first destination this morning is the Muir Woods National Monument; an ancient forest of giant Redwoods just a few miles north of the city. Named for John Muir, the pioneering environmentalist and advocate of national parks, this site features diverse flora and fauna, including magnificent old growth redwoods. Muir said of the woods, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world”. Another attraction: no mobile phone reception.
We next return to San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Presidio National Park. In 1776, the Presidio was established as Spain’s northernmost outpost in the Americas. It then served as a Mexican fort from 1822 until 1846, when it became a premier U.S. Army post. When decommissioned in 1994, the Presidio was reconfigured as an urban national park, offering extensive recreational facilities and dramatic coastal views while also supporting museums, public art and community activities. As a multi-use national park, the Presidio now offers, among many other attractions, nature walks, large-scale public artworks by Andy Goldsworthy, military and naval history displays, a traditional letterpress printery and the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Our visit to the Presidio is an opportunity to explore contemporary approaches to the landscape, encompassing engagement with nature, history and regional culture. It is also an opportunity to see how San Francisco understands itself, as a scenic landscape, as a frontier city with a multi-layered history, and as a creative and experimental culture.
Depending on the weather, your interests and your stamina, a visit to the Presidio could take in:
- Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire, a 100-foot-tall sculpture built from Monterey Cyprus
- Artists’ book at the Arion Press
- A scale model of Walt Disney’s original Disneyland
- A stroll on one of twelve walking trails
- Photography at one of eight scenic outlooks, including Golden Gate Overlook and the edge-of-the-continent Pacific Overlook
(Overnight San Francisco) B
Day 16: Tuesday 15 May, San Francisco – San Rafael – Sonoma – San Francisco
- Marin County Civic Center by Frank Lloyd Wright, San Rafael
- The Donnell Garden by Thomas Church & House by Austin Pierpont, Sonoma
In our final survey of the Californian landscape we will explore spaces natural and spaces architectural, spaces civic and spaces domestic.
We begin with Frank Lloyd Wright monumental Marin County Civic Center, completed 1962-69 after the architect’s death. Always determined to integrate architecture and landscape, Wright designed a building emphasising the expansive valleys of California, crowned with domes echoing the surrounding mountain peaks. Geometric rhythms, elaborately patterned grille work and material textures alluding to natural materials are all typically of Frank Lloyd Wright’s oeuvre. The gold domes hint at a taste for the exotic and oriental that was a persistent undercurrent in his architecture. Wright’s use of pattern, colour and geometry makes for an exotic and strangely futuristic building; a striking evocation of California’s embrace of nature, craft and high technology. Housing numerous civic services – county administrative, financial and community services departments, human resources, a library and art gallery – the commission also allowed Wright to pursue his goal of an architecture supporting integrated social activities.
Following lunch in downtown Sonoma, we visit the Donnell Garden designed by Thomas Church and arguably his best-known creation. Thomas Church (1902-1976) was a defining force in the development of the ‘California Style’ of landscape design. Widely published, he began practicing when the neoclassic movement was still the style of choice. Thomas’ education at University of California, Berkeley and Harvard School of Design, along with his travels to Europe, instilled in him a sense of classical form. Church is known, however, as one who opened the door to the modern movement in landscape architecture with what came to be known as the ‘California Style’ in the more than 2,000 domestic and public projects he designed. This style in particular features the use of asymmetrical plans, raised planting beds, sitting walls and timber decks.
The Donnell Garden, also known as ‘El Novillero’, is a marvellous example of the curvilinear abstract style and, in the words of the Oxford Companion to Gardens ‘one of the most significant gardens of the twentieth century'; it may well be the most photographed. The house and garden sit in the Sonoma Hills with a fine prospect over California. The swimming pool at the centre of the garden is set in paving and decking, framed by live oaks. Though often described as ‘free-form’, the swimming pool is V-shaped with radial curves. The design recalls images from cubist and surrealist paintings. (Overnight San Francisco) BL
Day 17: Wednesday 16 May, Depart San Francisco
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Your final morning in San Francisco is at leisure to enable you to pursue your own interests. You may wish to explore the city’s magnificent museums and galleries, such as the Museum of Asian Art, one of the greatest Asian collections in the world.
Participants returning to Australia on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to San Francisco International Airport this evening. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in the USA. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B