Sometimes, you have to go inside to find the real hidden gems of a city. Next time you decide to go for a walk around town, check some (or all) of these architectural wonders!
Conservatory of Flowers
Since its founding in 1987, the Conservatory of Flowers has stood as a glass-encased oasis within San Francisco’s bustling urban jungle. The building’s intricate glass-and-metal architecture creates a unique and striking indoor-outdoor experience for any who enter. Sunlight gives each greenery-filled room a warm and welcoming glow; it’s the perfect retreat for a city-tired visitor in need of a natural escape. The design of each room varies, but each features a multitude of plants, flowers, hanging displays, and ponds. It’s so beautiful that many couples in San Francisco choose the Conservatory as a backdrop for their wedding ceremony.
San Francisco Columbarium and Funeral Home
Designed by architect Bernard J.S. Cahill, the San Francisco Columbarium features a breathtaking dome and three floors of ash niches built around a central atrium encircled by intricately carved and designed pillars. Eight symmetrical rooms take up the first floor, each of which is named for a different mythological wind and displays artfully-crafted stained-glass windows. It’s a beautiful place of peace — for the living and dead alike.
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
If you hadn’t realized that the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption was a church, don’t worry — you’re not alone. The building’s odd and almost mechanical shape prompted locals to refer to it as “Our Lady of Maytag.” From the outside, the mid-century modern looks more like a creative sculpture than a place of worship; the church has a square base and a quadrilateral roof that tapers into a point at its top. To make the architecture even more quirky, a fin-like structure protrudes from each of the quadrilateral’s flat sides. Saint Mary’s interior is as odd as its exterior; repeating triangular patterns mark its sloping ceiling, and its gray walls tuck like concrete curtains to reveal windows and allow in natural light.
San Francisco City Hall
This Beaux-arts beauty was first designed by Arthus Brown and John Bakewell in 1915 as a replacement for the San Francisco’s former city hall, which had famously tumbled during the earthquake of 1906. Ever since then, Brown and Bakewell’s design has rendered visitor breathless; the hall encompasses marble floors, soaring columns, and sweeping stairs that seem to drape downward like the train of an evening gown. The building features the fifth-largest dome in the world, and is an aesthetic joy to all who see it; its beauty and elegance have made it a perpetual first-pick spot for couples planning their wedding ceremony.
450 Sutter Medical/Dental Building
The outside of 450 Sutter might look ordinary, but don’t be fooled! The building hides an incredible Art Deco lobby that sports intricately-designed metalwork on its ceilings and light fixtures along with darkly-impressive purple-blue walls and rectangular-pattered floors. Admittedly, the space seems almost too ornate and exciting for the dentist’s office it holds.
Fair warning: the Mechanics Institute’s impressive spiral staircase might make you feel a little dizzy! It’s a wonder to see — if not to climb. The Mechanic’s Institute is also home to the oldest and longest-running chess club in America.