Mission Revival in the Presidio

Many of the train stations I had sketched recently were designed and built in a Spanish Mission Revival style: Burlingame, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara. Truly the best way to understand an architectural style or architect is to sit in front of a building and sketch it.

And so, on a Friday afternoon, I headed to the Presidio, in the northwest corner of San Francisco, to sketch one of the finer examples of Spanish Mission Revival in the City of Saint Francis. I was also getting back into the habit of doing an after work sketch, which is a great way to decompress from the week’s work.

My subject was Fort Winfield Scott and the buildings that lined the parade grounds. These were the army barrack buildings built between 1910 and 1912 as the headquarters for the Coast Artillery District. I walked around the semi-circle of buildings until one spoke to me. It really wasn’t too hard because it was the only building with a hawk at its height.

An adult red-tailed hawk using building 1202 to survey the parade ground for gophers.

I set up my sketching chair on the parade ground and started to sketch building 1202. This was a former Army barrack built in 1911, and housed up to 95 to 109 soldiers.

I framed in the lovely lines of the barracks and added the red-tailed hawk at the top of the curve. The raptor flew to the field, this time coming up with only grasses in its talons. The hawk flew off only to appear later at the top of the flag pole at the edge of the grounds.

Building 1202 now houses the Presidio Graduate School and the World Economic Forum. Both sound a bit mysterious. People kept coming and going from the building. Some where getting on their bikes to ride home. A young woman bikerider stopped and asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was drawing the building and noted that that it was beautiful. She replied that she was “spoiled” to work in the building. These are the nice little conversations you frequently have when urban sketching, it really seems to take out the threat and the isolation of being in the city when people see your sketching.

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