Lately the word “icon” has been regarded as trite, and many are steering away from using it when writing about architecture. But that is almost an impossible task when talking about the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the weekend the iconic bridge turned 75, and Californians celebrated the occasion with a grand fireworks display that lit up the San Francisco skies. To further commemorate the milestone, The Atlantic’s Jon Christensen interviewed the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic John King and the California Historical Society’s executive director Anthea Hartig.
King and Hartig both brought insightful yet varying opinions to their answers, offering a full critique of the Golden Gate, the bridge, and the surrounding city. For instance, when Christensen asks if either of them agrees with the argument that the Golden Gate didn’t need a bridge, both offer compelling, but opposing, arguments.
Hartig: I do. Seeing Ansel Adams' photographs and the beauty of the gate before the bridge, I can see that. It was one of California's natural glories. Do you, John?
King: Not really. Call me old-fashioned, but the notion that a place should be frozen in time and be the same as when you first encountered it is quite romantic but not necessarily a way to build a region. There's a certain glory and accomplishment in the bridge.
Christensen, Hartig, and King talk about everything from favorite their stories about the bridge, to the romantic notion behind its presence, and of course its infamous “hot vermillion paint job.” Now, 75 years later, the bridge that almost wasn’t still symbolizes the American Dream.