In the late 1960s, when ABC first proposed to built a television tower atop Sutro Hill, many in San Francisco were agast. Sure, you couldn’t get a television signal worth a damn in the city—too many hills—but parking a big assemblage of erector-set towers where everyone in the city would see them? Where they would loom above daily life? Sure, ABC tried to fool everyone with renderings of golden pylons and rotating sky-top restaurants, but nobody bought that Jetsons foolishness.
Today, though, Sutro has lost much of its stigma. In point and fact, today one can find it amongst the most photographed of landmarks in San Francisco. It’s form adorns many a tattooed arm or leg. Its shapes have become laser-cut wood puzzles. It has also, recently, had its form borrowed to become a coat rack.
For me it’s not hard to see why. Bridges were—to make a perhaps somewhat inappropriate remark—my childhood gateway drug into architecture. Girders, pylons, stay cables, and bright painted colors: it’s difficult for me to see ugliness in anything with these characteristics. Perhaps they aren’t charming in the way that all those little ornate Victorians are to so many, but if to charm is to cast a spell, then Sutro Tower has charmed me.
Sutro (Study in Jade Green). 4.75 x 9.75 inches, watercolor on paper, 2016.