Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Search Challenge (1/13/16): When & whither these buildings?

As I strolled through San Francisco... 

... I was surprised to find some really interesting buildings.  That, in itself, isn't odd--San Francisco is full of interesting and odd buildings--but this particular cluster of buildings looked to be some kind of small cluster of Streamline Moderne buildings.  Did I find a previously unknown example of this particular style of architecture that was popular in the 1930s?  

Here are the pictures I took.  What would you think when you walked down the street past these?  Would they attract your eye the way they did mine? 

Naturally, when I got home, I did a little SearchResearch, and was really surprised by what I found! 

What's more, in walking around near these buildings I found a few other things worthy of note.  (And I thought, what a great Challenge! So far as I know, these aren't exactly on anyone's tourist route of San Francisco, although perhaps they should be.)

So, for today, I have 3 research Challenges for you: 

1.  When were these buildings constructed?  Are they, in fact, from the era of Streamline Moderne?
2.  What's the controversy around these buildings? 
3.  As I kept walking in this neighborhood, near this building cluster I accidentally discovered a mural by a very famous muralist.  (Seeing it was one of those shocking moments:  That's HERE?? You're kidding!)   What is the name of the nearby mural?  Who painted it? And how far is it from these buildings?  
4.  Extra credit:  If you figure out the mural, you'll find this one easy... Very near the mural is a sculpture that is a reduction (in scale) of a VERY large sculpture that once appeared on Treasure Island.  What's the name of that sculpture (and hence, of the smaller version) near the mural?  

I'll save you the study of extracting the lat/long, it's:  37.728161, -122.451303

This Challenge is a study in linking data from the cues you can get from the images, to the clues for the next Research Challenge in the chain of questions.  

I hope you enjoy researching this as much as I did walking around and discovering beautiful things in the city.  

Let us know your answers in the comments below--and when you write up your solution, be sure to tell us HOW you got from step-to-step.  

Search on! 

(And welcome back to SearchResearch:2016!  The project I mentioned working on is still in progress.  Stay tuned.)  


  1. 1) They were built during the 2000s (and the center opened in 2008). No, they are not from the era of Streamline Moderne.
    2)These buildings are rusting and falling apart even though they are relatively new.
    3) The mural has been realized by Peter VandenBerge. Its title is Jungle Scene and it is displayed on a concrete wall of the Center (no distance from the buildings, it's the same place!)
    4) Killer Whale sculpture by Robert Howard

    1. Thanks, Paola -- Can you tell us how you found the mural and sculpture? What queries did you do?

  2. I searched for Orfalea Family Center and found that it was part of the City College of San Francisco. When I checked their website I found the link for the Diego Rivera mural.

    When I searched for history city college of san Francisco I found the following link which referred to the buildings as “bungalows.”

    In spite of Conlan’s best efforts, however, student enrollment in the late 1950’s and during the 1960’s far outpaced the classroom capacity of the campus’ permanent buildings. As a consequence, in the fall of 1955 the first six temporary classroom bungalows arrived on campus, each with the capacity to seat 45 students. By 1970 there were 40 of these “temporary” bungalows. Because of very large student enrollments, most still remain in use.

    Subsequent searches for bungalows CCSF were fruitless. The only controversy is that they are somewhat obsolete and not “green.”

    When I search for CCSF and streamline modern I found that one building on campus is designated Streamline Moderne, but this is not one the ones you saw.

    I spent about an hour on this and don’t have more time to devote to it, but I am sure others will complete the answers.

    1. nice find on the CCSF Mission Campus Streamline building - too bad there isn't a better view from Maps Street View… seems like an excellent example of the style
      and shared the economy of construction ($225,000 in 1937) that the Ocean Campus buildings Dan photographed tried unsuccessfully to employ.
      kinda jarring mixed in with the old Vics along Bartlett St.
      CCSF/Mission Campus
      similar to the SFPL photo

  3. I looked for "orfalea family center san francisco" in Google. There, I found this book: where I read the story of the site and the fact that there's a mural there.

    I performed some other queries with "Vandeberge San Francisco" and "Vandeberge Orfalea mural" but none of them gave me access to the title of the sculpture. Thus, I tried a more precise query on the site of the CCSF (vandeberge via Google) and this gave me access to a series of documents where the name of the sculpture was mentioned, as well as its position.
    After that, I made a Google Maps research to be sure that CCSF Child Development Center and Orfalea were at the same place.

    For the whale sculpture, it was mentioned in the same book, I just looked for the name of the sculptor in Wikipedia to be sure it was the correct one.

    Finally, for question 2, at first I thought about a scandal concerning construction and/or architecture. As I could not find any references to it in the book, I performed a Google query using the words "orfalea family center for child development buildings" and I was able to find this article among the first results.

  4. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone. Super interesting as always.


    [coordinates] and photo adding "orfalea family center " on Google Photos.

    [define Streamline Moderne]
    Streamline Moderne, or Art Moderne, is a late type of the Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s.

    [orfalea family center judson ave]

    Lawsuit filed over Child Development Center repair

    [famous mural judson ave san francisco] [mural near orfalea family center judson ave]

    Diego Rivera mural

    [san francisco sculpture intext:"Treasure Island"]

    [city college of san francisco sculpture treasure island]

    These murals were originally part of the Golden Gate International Exposition’s Art in Action show in 1940 on Treasure Island before they were moved to the college.

    1. [Diego Rivera mural San Francisco]

      SF is home to three of his masterpieces including the first one he finished in the United States. Even though they are often referred to as murals, they are actually frescos. The difference is that frescos take a special skill set and are difficult to create, but the vibrancy of their colors lasts forever."...The most magnificent, yet overlooked Diego Rivera mural in San Francisco is the piece entitled the Pan American Unity...You will find this piece in the Diego Rivera Theater on the campus of the City College of San Francisco...He was commissioned to complete this one during the Golden Gate International Expo on Treasure Island (less than a mile east of San Francisco)...."


      This ten-panel mural marks the last time Rivera was in the United States, having completed it in November of 1940. Almost like an exhibit himself, Rivera was on display as he painted, and was awarded a generous $1,000 per month as well as $1,000 for travel expenses during his stay while completing the work.

      [killer whale sculpture san francisco] after reading Paola's answer.

      What happened to the neat animal sculptures that were at the old Academy of Sciences in San Francisco?

      Went to primary source remembering Dr. Russell's Search Lessons and Skeptical Dan

      [sculpures intext:"Treasure Island" site: ]

      Unveiling of Pacifica Statue


      1. When were these buildings constructed? Are they, in fact, from the era of Streamline Moderne?

      Originally designed by Project FROG, who specializes in green buildings, the structures were finalized back in January 2008. " “At the beginning it was complex because different organizations were involved, separate contractors and too many hands.”"

      Even when has curving forms it is not from 1930.

      2. What's the controversy around these buildings?

      Bad conditions and now with legal issues.

      3. As I kept walking in this neighborhood, near this building cluster I accidentally discovered a mural by a very famous muralist. (Seeing it was one of those shocking moments: That's HERE?? You're kidding!) What is the name of the nearby mural? Who painted it? And how far is it from these buildings?

      Pan American Unity by Diego Rivera.

      4. Extra credit: If you figure out the mural, you'll find this one easy... Very near the mural is a sculpture that is a reduction (in scale) of a VERY large sculpture that once appeared on Treasure Island. What's the name of that sculpture (and hence, of the smaller version) near the mural?

      A: Pacifica; 8-foot replica of "Pacifica," which was an 80-foot monumental sculpture from the 1940 World's Fair on Treasure Island. This replica is Mr, DeGuarda's gift to CCSF.

    2. Still need to visit Remmij urls. Jon, thanks for commenting about Pacifica 2.

      When reading the Challenge for the first time, thought "Treasure Island", was related to this Treasure Island.

      [pacifica treasure island]
      A New Style of Architecture
      Designed by Californians

      Pacifica Treasure Island.

      [treasure island intext:california around "Robert Louis Stevenson"]

      Robert Louis Stevenson’s California

      [san francisco treasure island name origin]

      Treasure Island, San Francisco, Wikipedia.

      Tall towers, gigantic goddesses and dazzling lighting effects turned the Island into a "Magic City."

  5. 1) The buildings were the CCSF Orfalea Family Center (as shown in the picture), which was a childcare facility as far as I can tell. It seems as if the children have been moved to a different facility for now. They were constructed around 2005, not original Streamline Moderne.
    2) They are rusting even though they're relatively new, and there was a lawsuit between the college and the construction company about their deterioration.
    3) The Pan American Unity mural by Diego Rivera is installed in the Diego Rivera theater, also on the CCSF Ocean campus right next to those buildings.
    4) The original sculpture and its smaller replicate are both named Pacifica.

    First I searched Google images for Orfalea Family Center, because it's a unique enough name that I figured it would bring up some relevant results, and the buildings are unique enough that they are easy to identify in pictures. The sixth result was a picture from this article: The Guardsman seems to be the official newspaper of CCSF so this article is likely fairly accurate. This gave me the answers to #1 and #2.
    Next, I searched for CCSF Ocean campus to find out where it was located (because I failed to read the whole post and missed the coordinates at first. Oops). I poked around in this area on Google Maps to check if there were any user photos of murals because I had assumed the mural was outside. I saw Westwood Park and thought an outdoor mural is likely to be installed in a park, so I searched Google for mural westwood park. This was the first result: One of the reviews explains that the mural is inside the Diego Rivera theater on CCSF Ocean campus. I decided to go to the CCSF Ocean homepage (first result for CCSF ocean campus) and luckily there is a link to the mural project right on the homepage: -> This confirmed #3.
    Finally, I had no idea where to start on the statue so I decided to read the FAQ about the mural on the CCSF page. The FAQ mentions that a man named Sal Deguarda appears in the mural and is trying to recreate the Pacifica statue! I searched for Pacifica statue and ended up at this page which appears to confirm the location and presence of the smaller replica: Mr. DeGuarda's website is no longer available, but the Wayback Machine shows that he was really trying to get the statue rebuilt at original scale on Treasure Island!

    It took me exactly half an hour to find this info, and almost as long to write it up. :)

  6. good luck with the keynote & happy XVI
    Greetings - am a bit/lot rusty after the pause - feel like I need mass quantities of St. Jacob's oil
    a favorite and highly touted product used/endorsed by Capt. Paul…
    Neuralgia Man
    out of the Duke Library

    St. Jacob's Oil endorsement

    the text it is from:
    also a good read

    …think Ramón and Ali pretty much have the answers to the challenge, but I'll throw in an ancillary bit or two.

    first, a detour —

    … was wondering, in the wake of Capt. Boyton, if you had the option to be ONLY one or the other, would you opt for 'Capt.' or 'PhD' Russell?
    something to contemplate as you transit the country.
    (btw, Paul would be upset at the spellin' - the extra "n" in the title and body of the text… "BOYTON, damn it, man" direct quote from the seance)
    fwiw: immensely enjoyed Ramón's find of the The Milwaukee Journal - Sep 24, 1949 article
    The thought of the nexus of Boyton, Chief Gaul & Chief Rain In The Face, who was purported at one point to be the man that killed Gen. George Custer and his brother, Thomas,
    (and supposedly ate his heart) blows my mind! As does Sitting Bulls explanation of Capt. P.B.s rubber suit…
    "…with Sitting Bull, who proceeded to explain to his braves why Boyton could stay afloat.
    It was simple the chief said: Boyton was empty inside—hollow as a rotted stump. Therefore
    he floated on the surface just like an empty can of army beans. Much farther down river, Boyton
    and Creelman spent an evening with another famous man—Jesse James."

    thought this was equally delightful and insightful -
    A Night With Paul Boyton (describes Little Mine)
    one other:
    surviving 85' waterfalls & crowds of ~ a million in Paris…"For the last portion of his European tour, Boynton crossed the Strait of Gibraltar from Tarifa to Tangiers and in August of 1878, Boynton swam the Seine from Nogent to Paris. When he arrived at the French capital, the New York Times correspondent estimated the crowd at nearly one million."

  7. 1. & 2. [orfalea family center building history] finds

    Sept 2013: First para: Buildings are less than 6 years old. Shoddy construction and poor maintenance are the suggested causes of their rustiness and general decrepitude. Buildings design finalised Jan 2008. Project Frog designed it and many more similar. For some reason the rusty scrap of the OFC is not shown on the PF WWW site.

    Oct 2008 was the grand opening. [OLC SF opening] finds

    What: Grand Opening Celebration of the Orfalea Family Center

    When: Thursday, October 30, 2008
    4:00-6:00 PM

    Where: Orfalea Family Center (Ocean Campus @ Judson/Gennessee)

    Please join us at the Grand Opening Celebration of the Orfalea Family
    Center on Thursday, October 30, 2008 from 4:00-6:00 PM at the Ocean
    Campus. The ceremony will begin at 4:00 PM, and will be followed by a
    ribbon-cutting, and tours of the new child care center. All are urged to

    3. Diego Riveira painted the mural Pan American Unity in the Diego Theatre a few minutes walk from OFC. [mural near OFC] also provides a nice campus map. And explanations of the various themes. I can well imagine you were astonished to see it.

    4. [Diego theater statue] finds Wikipedia entry for Pacifica. Pacifica was a statue created by Ralph Stackpole for the 1939–1940 Golden Gate International Exposition held on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. Stackpole's largest sculpture, it towered 81 feet (25 m) over the entrance to the Cavalcade of the Golden West in the Court of Pacifica. The Court of Pacifica was dedicated to the heroic explorers of Pacific Ocean territories. Pacifica was the theme statue for the exposition, representing world peace, neighborliness, and the power of a unified Pacific coast

    Pacifica II
    Currently, a non-profit organization called The Pacifica II Statue Project is working to recreate and resurrect Pacifica on Treasure Island.[2] There is currently an 8-foot (2.4 m) replica of Pacifica at City College of San Francisco Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan Avenue in the garden next to the Diego Rivera Theater.

    A grand Challenge. jon

  8. Anne and Deb here. This challenge took us a while. Actually found the mural answer first by doing a search on city college of san francisco and finding the link to the school's website. There was a link on that webiste for mural so we clicked on that and found the answer that it is a mural by Diego Riveira called Pan American Unity pretty easily. Did several searches on Orfalea Family Center and found some interesting information on Paul Orfalea who donated the money. Turns out he was the founder of Kinkos. It was only when we added the word buildings to Orfalea family center search that we found the guardian article others found which described the history of the buildings as well as the problems with their construction. They were finished in 2008 so not from the era of streamline moderne which is from the 1930's. Hoping to do more searches but we've been super busy! Hopefully we're back in the swing of things!

  9. More stuff: [project frog] found which explains the company goals:

    The company was founded in 2006 in response to the proliferation of portable buildings in California’s K-12 education system. Project Frog wanted to create bigger buildings that weren’t limited to the size of the truck they would roll in on, provided more light for a better learning environment, required less energy to operate, and would outlast the 20-year expiration date on most portables. To do it, the company uses innovations such as higher-performance materials; bigger clerestory windows, to provide more natural night in their structures; and Lantana Luminaire fixtures for more energy-efficient lighting. Selling the building in its component pieces and flat-pack shipping (just like furniture from Ikea) means bigger buildings can be shipped on the same flat bed trucks. How FROG got its name

    Witnessing the devastation and aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in the United States confirmed for Miller that better buildings also needed to be constructed quickly. “That was the birth of Frog”—Flexible Response to Ongoing Growth—Miller told GreenerBuildings magazine. “Frogs are green. They only jump forward and—one of my favorites—each frog is a prince with the message, ‘Do not be afraid of what’s not familiar.’ Because if you embrace it, it is a prince.

    What the benefits were (same source)

    A reporter for Forbes magazine described the result: “They snap together for a not bad look, as if a bunch of Swedish designers got hold of a really big Erector set.”Quentin Hardy, “Ideas Worth Millions,” Forbes, January 29, 2009

    Initially "Customers were pleased with the buildings’ performance. Project Frog’s purchase price was 25–40 percent lower than traditional construction. Operating costs could be as much as 50–70 percent lower than conventional or trailer construction. The new Frog Zero units could claim 75 percent energy demand reduction through use of occupancy and daylight sensors, smart wall panels that absorbed and reflected light, natural light optimization, glare control, superior air quality, microclimate customization through advanced climate control technology, and enhanced acoustics. Carpeting and interiors were screened for toxicity. Conventional portables typically were equipped with pressed-wood furniture, vinyl walls, and new paint and carpet; these alternatives were superior to standard options, which could release invisible toxic gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).?

    There is a pix of the Orfalea Center when new (same source)