Friday, November 14, 2014

Note to Self: Smoking is a Good Thing

San Francisco Panorama
Wikimedia Commons: Adbar (Own Work)
111 Sutter
Wikimedia Commons: Sanfranan59 (own work)
Yes, I know you have just read the title and are probably thinking that I am completely off my rocker, but I can promise you that the following will be…well…you’ll just have to wait and see. I recently had the privilege of traveling to San Francisco and taking part in an architecture walking tour. Because I am aware of my audience, I am a little hesitant to note that this tour was more like a “lets-walk-until-your-limbs-fall-off” tour. However, I must add that this educational walk was one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had in my life. All jokes aside, the goal of the tour was to discover the gems and hidden treasures of San Francisco concerning architecture.
While I did feel like I was dancing in a gold mine as our guide shot out facts about several architecture wonders around the city, I shouted “EUREKA” when I came across 111 Sutter. Built in the year 1926, in French Romanesque elegance, 111 Sutter served as an office building. At the time of its completion, 111 Sutter was unique and controversial because its design employed a characteristic European style, which was taboo for an office building during the time. However, this French Romanesque building had more secrets than it cared to share. To uncover them, let’s travel back to the year 2005.

Lobby ceiling inside 111 Sutter
SF Gate: Darryll Bush
Imagine you are commencing your daily cleaning routine of the foyer’s ceiling (quite black in color). Suddenly, beyond the black film you notice a faint color? Could it be? But this ceiling has always been black? Or has it? 111 Sutter’s biggest secret, its gold nugget is revealed. Thousands of toothpicks (yes, the ones you clean your teeth with) were used to uncover a gorgeous and altogether symbolically painted ceiling inside the great French Romanesque building. To stand under such an old painting, which was just been uncovered recently, felt like I had gone back in time. And what do you think that lovely black film was? You guessed it (or maybe you didn’t). It was smoke from nicotine filled cigarettes and cigars. During the 20th century, smoking inside a building was quite popular, and as result, the smoke collected around the painting, obscuring and hiding its beauty. But like a gem lost under seas of dirt, the painting was protected from deterioration until its discovery in 2005. Who new such a harmful substance could lend such a gentle hand to the environment. Maybe…smoking isn’t such a bad thing after all.


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