As the LGBT Community Center Project nears completion, once again the Fallon Building is becoming a center of attention. Of course, the building's Monte Carlo blue paint job is hard not to notice. When combined with the modern building's red, the color scheme captures an audience from passersby.
"It is in stark contrast to the area. We are seeing a lot more colorful buildings popping up in unsuspected places in the landscape," explained project architect Jane Cee.
Cee and partner Peter Pfau designed the building and advocated for the bold colors that will adorn the inside of the center to be used on the exterior as well. By doing so, the architects felt it would make a strong statement and expected it would elicit strong feelings from the community.
"A lot of people freaked out over the primer color which was an even lighter blue. The Monte Carlo blue is a saturated blue that isn't really used that much," said Cee. "In that way it is a unique blue and the red is an even more striking solid red."
The color scheme is so striking that it will be featured next year in Architecture magazine. A photographer from the New York-based publication is expected to be in town next month to shoot for the magazine spread.
"I showed the color scheme to the editors and they just loved it," Cee said. "They felt it makes a really strong statement as do we for the community. We had been joking around about this book called Chromophobia, so we said let's not be chromophobic with this."
Whether it stems from chromophobia or not, the color scheme does have its share of critics.
"I can only add that the flat clash of colors, while obviously an interpretation of the rainbow flag, only show up the garish clash of architectural styles, taste-free committee group think, and make for a funhouse atmosphere," San Francisco resident Todd Bowers wrote in an e-mail to the Bay Area Reporter.
Those connected to the center say they are not bothered by the criticism. In fact, they say there is a valid reason behind the paint palette.
"We didn't want the building to look like an office building. We knew we wanted to pick bold colors, but we didn't want to go too far," explained Dana Van Gorder, vice president of the center's board.
Van Gorder admitted he had some reservations about the blue color being used, but told the BAR now that the building has been painted, he thinks the color works.
"I have to admit, though I helped choose the colors, I was nervous about using that blue. But I like it, it is a good color," he said. "It is a queer building."
And the eye-catching color is creating a buzz about a building situated blocks away form the Castro and partly obscured by the freeway."
"We wanted to pick a color people would have thought unlikely for a Victorian. Any color that we had chosen would have been controversial on some level," said Van Gorder. "Clearly, we are making a bolder choice that is going to make people have a reaction to it. We are trying to build a landmark building that is highly visible and that people recognize as the LGBT center."
Architect Gerry Takano said the color is not one traditionally associated with the city's Victorians.
"It is clear they intended to make a statement," said Takano, owner of the architectural firm, TBA West, who used to be with the Historic Trust. "I am just really glad that the Fallon Building was saved. That is more important to me than the color of the building."
A board member of the Friends of 1800 Market, Takano lent his technical expertise to the effort to save the Fallon from demolition. As he watches the more modern structure take shape, Takano said he can understand the difficulties the architects faced in designing the project.
"What I feel is, it is a good example of how complex it is to integrate an older building with something that represents the 21st century," he said. "The building is just a building. What happens inside both the old and the new are more important to me."
As the glass siding of the modern building is installed in coming weeks, Cee said the overall color scheme will begin to outshine the separate colors. Due to budget constraints, earlier plans for sliding windows were scrapped for cheaper, colored-glass paneling.
"We wanted something that was sort of interesting but in a way very inexpensive. This is a very economical, creative way to use the color to tie back into the rest of the color scheme of the building," she said.
After checking the building Tuesday morning, Cee said the structure did not suffer any rain damage from Monday's storm. And while there have been construction delays, the center is expected to be ready for staff to begin moving in on November 5 with tenants moving in on November 19. A ceremony to re-bless the building is planned for November 30 with grand opening ceremonies to be held the first week of December.