Illuminating San Francisco

Metropolis was in San Francisco for Lightfair International 2002, the annual architectural and commercial lighting trade show, June 2-5 at the Moscone Convention Center. The conference is sponsored by the International Association of Lighting Designers and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

There were more than 400 exhibitors from around the globe with a range of lighting products, many of them, thankfully, emphasizing energy efficiency. Among the products displayed were light sources, luminaire types, mounting devices, sophisticated lighting controls, and ballasts.

Metropolis exhibited with a very vibrant orange and white fabric booth designed by Eventscape and furnished by Design Within Reach. The orange Air Chairs from Magis (designed by Jasper Morrison) and the WOW Table by Italian designer Gruppo Grafite were just right with the brightly colored booth.

Among the products, we liked Lumiere/Cooper Lighting’s Monaco 2001, a tiny little light, or “luminaire,” in lighting design-ese, for outdoor use. The light won the conference’s “Best New Product of the Year” designation. Other promising designs included the Lightedge from Peerless and iColor Accent colored light rods from Color Kinetics, a low-voltage indoor/outdoor light that uses the latest in LED technology for color.

At the close of each day, we took off our badges and turned tourist. Fisherman’s Wharf couldn’t be missed with its cheap souvenir shops. While a true San Franciscan wouldn’t dream of visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, just as a Manhattanite wouldn’t board the bright red double-decker tour buses that cruise our streets, we New Yorkers will gladly tramp around all the San Francisco tourist traps.

We waited to catch the view of Alcatraz and, as we wandered around the docks of Pier 39, an atrocious barking sound led us to the area’s famous Sea Lion community. Of course, we couldn’t pass up a cable car ride down the center of the city, affording great views of San Francisco’s hilly streets and colorful architecture.

The Mission is a favorite neighborhood of mine, with its wide avenues, cafés, thrift shops, and used-book stores that cater to artists, activists and other alterna-types. It seems to be the most progressive neighborhood in the bay area, with a boom of art studio spaces and design stores popping up all along Valencia Street.

I stumbled upon 826 Valencia Writing Project. This storefront is the newest enterprise of Dave Eggers (author of “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and an occasional Metropolis contributor) and friends.

During the last day, I drove through the Castro area, where the historic Castro Theater still lights up the main drag with its neon marquee. I followed the main avenue towards the Sutro Tower and up to Twin Peaks where I saw the entire city-Bay Bridge to Golden Gate, with just enough fog around it to remind me where I was.

Categories: Cities