What I Did on My Vacation
In classrooms across Utah, students are writing essays on their summer vacations. It’s my turn. Self-employed and a business-owner, I have mastered brief, long-weekend vacations. I am sure others in my position are nodding their heads, because being self-employed, you know you have to get away to keep a good attitude, but you can’t stay away too long because there’s no one to mind the store and all businesses are about service.

Photos by Scot Zimmerman

I had two and a half days. I flew to the Bay Area and traveled up Highway 101 to the north end of the Alexander Valley to Cloverdale’s Friday Night Live and Farmer’s Market and Street Fair to see a favorite musician, Roy Rogers and the Delta Blues Band, followed by an elegant poolside dinner with family and friends. Saturday, I reversed the trip on 101 to San Francisco, stopped in Sausalito to meet up with friends and stayed in San Francisco’s Japantown at a newly refurbished hotel followed by more great meals, more time sitting by the water with friends and family, and a stop at an air museum before the return flight.

Twice I passed the Marin County Civic Center, the project I am featuring today. I photographed it for some earlier books. The opening shot is one of my favorite details and it is taken of the ceiling and stairways. In the second photo, you can see the Administration Building’s long expanse nestled into the hillside. The building is easily seen from the highway; just look east in the San Rafael area.

Marin County Civic Center

A little background. The building was under design and construction when Mr. Wright died in 1959. Architects Aaron Green, a former student of Wright, and William Wesley Peters and Taliesin Architects (Mr. Wright’s studio) finished the design. Construction completed in stages: the Administration Building in 1962, the Hall of Justice in 1969, and the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in 1972.

Marin County Civic Center

Architectural historian David Gebhard commented in our book that the complex reflects Wright’s interest in 1930s Streamline Moderne, symbolizing machines taking us to the future. He also notes Wright’s view that in a democracy, what is important are the citizens and their activities, and this view is manifested in the design emphasis on the Board of Supervisors auditorium where decisions are made and the library, which supports an educated voting public.

The glass atrium covers a U-shaped courtyard, which allows office doors to open to the walkway.

Marin County Civic Center

With that in mind, this view from one side looking to the other with a bridge connecting the two sides makes more sense. Note the plantings that give life to the working environment. One of the friends I visited once worked here, and she said the experience of working in these offices is amazing and quite a let-down to return to a standard office.

This is a detail of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium where the design details allude to music and the musical performances. I particularly liked the blue color in the inside of the semi- circular eaves’ cutouts. It looks like a daylight color shift, but it is actually painted blue.

Daylight is drawn in from the skylight. The salmon pink can usually inspire comments from visitors.

Marin County Civic Center

The exterior view of the auditorium shows the walkway near the top that allows performance goers to go outside for fresh air during intermission.

Marin County Civic Center

This water feature is an unfinished part of the design. It was intended to spill over a portion of the building in a waterfall. Nonetheless, it adds to the experience of dining in the cafeteria patio with the sounds of running water and view to water.

I didn’t get off the freeway to examine the building closely, but it looked like it was wonderfully maintained. The campus takes up a great deal of land, intended at the time to make the complex feel suburban rather than urban, and this in itself places its construction decades ago. But the design doesn’t feel very dated. Thanks to Marin County for its excellent care of this important building!


Discover more projects by Frank Lloyd Wright here.