Unusual and brilliant designs in San Diego!

San Diego-Tijuana has become a finalist for the World Design Capital in 2024. The two cross-border cities together have made the first ever binational bid for this international honor, which is bestowed by the World Design Organization.

According to their website, the World Design Organization evaluates “use of design to drive economic, social, cultural, and environmental development.” When you include the terms social and cultural, doesn’t that cover just about everything?

As I walked down Broadway this morning, I saw the street banners in the next photograph…

…and an idea suddenly popped into my brain.

Over the years Cool San Diego Sights has documented all sorts of interesting, unusual and brilliant designs: in art, in fashion, in architecture, in furniture, in quilts . . . you name it!

Not all of the fantastic designs you’ll see in the upcoming links originated locally. But many did!

Click the following links for fascinating photos and descriptions:

Architecture inspired by nature . . . and UFOs!

Malcolm Leland’s modernist designs in San Diego.

Kids create Minecraft-style Mona Lisa mural!

Cleverly designed furniture is surprising, playful art!

A visit to the California Surf Museum!

Amazing life-size cardboard superhero sculptures!

An amazing cube, like real Space: full of stars!

A 180 ton teddy bear made of boulders!

Museum exhibit shows evolution of fashion.

The fantastic, amazing Harper’s Topiary Garden!

Salk Institute architect Louis Kahn: an amazing exhibit!

Print Culture exhibit at San Diego Central Library.

Early American quilts: amazing color and patterns!

Ray Bradbury and crazy Horton Plaza.

Unfolding Humanity appears at Maker Faire!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Unusual sculptures rise above Spanish Village!

Check out these unusual, wildly creative sculptures. They were recently placed on columns near the center of Spanish Village Art Center’s large outdoor patio. I had to stop in my tracks to look up during my Saturday walk through Balboa Park.

These five unique pieces are the work of two artists in the San Diego Sculptors Guild, which is located in Spanish Village. I’ve identified the artists in the next photo caption.

I don’t know if there’s a unifying theme. But this art does makes you look twice, to say the least!

From left to right, the sculptures are: Cupid’s Hammer by Sergey Gornushkin, Pinocchio by Yuriy Akopov, Holy Surf by Sergey Gornushkin, Seal the Deal by Yuriy Akopov, and Gotem by Sergey Gornushkin.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Two unusual water towers in North Park!

Strange to say, but one of the most iconic landmarks in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood is a gigantic water tower.

Even stranger, should you wander around North Park, you’ll discover not one water tower, but two! The one is absolutely enormous, but the other is much smaller–and in fact isn’t a genuine water tower at all!

I took photos of the mini-water tower several weeks back. Drivers coming down Interstate 805 might glimpse it by looking up as they pass north of El Cajon Boulevard. It’s located at the intersection of Meade Avenue and Boundary Street.

The smaller tower is actually an AT&T cell tower that was erected several years ago. North Park signs on the disguised antenna greet alert travelers coming in either direction down the freeway. I was surprised to find a small, somewhat neglected garden beside the unique cell tower.

The genuine, gigantic, historic North Park Water Tower is over 140 feet tall. It stands near North Park Community Park just south of El Cajon Boulevard and was built in 1924.

According to this article, there were claims that it was “largest elevated tank in the world” when constructed, and held more than one million gallons of water but now is decommissioned and empty since the 1990s.

Today the tall North Park Water Tower is an iconic landmark that can be seen from many city blocks in every direction. Its unique design and historical importance has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Eerie, mysterious night photos downtown!

The photographs that follow are mysterious. Many are eerie. All were taken at night in downtown San Diego.

About half of these images were captured this evening after nightfall, as I walked from the Gaslamp Quarter toward Cortez Hill. Other photos (such as the one with the moon) have been sitting in my computer for a long time. I was waiting for an appropriate theme.

I must say San Diego has come back to life after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. This evening I saw crowds converging on the San Diego Symphony’s new Shell on the Embarcadero, conventioneers partying and enjoying a sunset view from atop the San Diego Convention Center, and large Friday night crowds walking through and dining in the beautifully lit Gaslamp Quarter.

But even when surrounded by a bright whirl of life, one can find strangeness lurking in the dark…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Hotel San Diego sign at Liberty Station.

If you’ve ever entered Liberty Station by turning down Dewey Road from Rosecrans Street, you might’ve glimpsed a very unusual sight. On the left, beyond some trees, an enormous sign is lying on the ground!

Last weekend I walked down a footpath behind Officer’s Quarters D of the old Naval Training Center San Diego for a better look. Quarters D until recently was the home of SCOUT. It is now home of Banyan Tree Educational Services.

The huge sign lying strangely on the ground once belonged to the Hotel San Diego. For many decades the neon sign was an iconic sight on Broadway in downtown San Diego. The large hotel was demolished in 2006 to make way for a new federal courthouse.

I myself stayed in the hotel a little over twenty years ago, when I moved to San Diego, and I remember seeing this landmark sign on the historic building.

The Hotel San Diego was built in 1914 by John D. Spreckels to accommodate visitors arriving for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. Learn more about it and see historical photos here.

Why is this large, rusting sign now lying on some grass at Liberty Station? It was preserved with the intention of restoring it for display in the garden behind Officer’s Quarters D. Read more about that here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The surprising old Ramona Town Hall.

During my recent visit to Ramona, I walked down Main Street past the old Town Hall building and took a few photos.

Several plaques on the stately building provide a glimpse of its rich history. I was completely surprised to learn that Ramona Town Hall isn’t made of brick, but of adobe made to appear like red bricks!

As you can see for yourself, the appearance is convincing!

According to the Ramona Chamber of Commerce website, which includes a couple of historical photographs: “The Town Hall has served as the town’s first library, first movie theater, first high school, first bank, dance hall, justice court, and the birthplace of several of the communities’ service groups, including the Masonic Lodge, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Volunteer Fire department. Additionally, the Town Hall has hosted a wide variety of events, including Temperance Meetings, Turkey Days, Voting Polls, 4-H Youth Meetings, Miss Ramona Contests, Political Meetings, Community Theater; Silent Film Festivals, Town Hall Days, etc..”

A description on the above plaque begins:

Dedicated on Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1894, this building was given to the townspeople of Nuevo (as Ramona was then known) by rancher and financier Augustus Barnett and his wife Martha. Feeling that the local schoolhouse was not a proper place to hold dances and other social events, Barnett donated $17,000 in gold coin to erect a building that could serve as the social center for the community as well as host a library.

Ramona Town Hall was designed by noted San Diego architect William S. Hebbard. Built of adobe with brick veneer in the Romanesque/Mission Revival style, it is considered one of the largest freestanding adobe structures in the southwest…

Another surprising discovery during an ordinary walk!

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Unexpected movie star in the Gaslamp Quarter!

San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter has attracted celebrities from all around the world, particularly during big international events like Comic-Con. But did you know there’s one movie star that calls the Gaslamp home?

Walk down Fifth Avenue past the 7-Eleven and you’ve spotted a “movie star” that has appeared in two films. The convenience store occupies the 1930 Manila Cafe building, which was used as a “backdrop for scenes in the movies In God We Trust, with Marty Feldman, and Writer’s Block, with Morgan Fairchild.” That’s what a corroded historical marker by the 7-Eleven’s front door reads!

According to this article, the old Manila Café building has been occupied by a variety of restaurants over the years, and by a billiard hall during World War II. In 2014 the exterior was renovated, but the roof with its red Spanish tiles and Asian contours, and the building’s distinctive upper story, haven’t changed.

Have you watched either movie? Have you spotted San Diego’s “famous” Manila Cafe building in the background?

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The historical Carriage Works building downtown.

There’s an unusual old building in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter called the Carriage Works. You can find it at the corner of Fourth Avenue and G Street.

If the Carriage Works with its wide arched doorways appears different from other historical buildings in the Gaslamp, that’s because it used to be a place where San Diegans would go to purchase horse-drawn buggies and wagons!

Today the Carriage Works is home to music venues and eateries including GARAGE Kitchen + Bar, Tin Roof, and The Shout! House.

I took these photos about a month ago. You can see how outdoor dining areas were set up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also photographed a plaque that provides a brief description of the building’s history.

Carriage Works, 1890

Constructed to house the wholesale business of Todd and Hawley, which operated here until 1902. Their stock was purchased by Lyons Implement Company, which carried a complete line of Studebaker vehicles, including buggies and wagons. Along with Lyon, San Diego Gas & Electric, San Diego Farm and Dairy Supply, a tent and awning company and the Volunteers of America have occupied the building.

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La Vida es un Sueño (Life is a Dream) in Barrio Logan!

Life is a dream.

That is the message of a very cool mural I spotted in Barrio Logan at the corner of Logan Avenue and Sampson Street last weekend. The mural appears to be titled La Vida es un Sueño.

I’m not sure who created this rather unusual, dreamy street art. There’s a bit of stylish script near the bottom of the artwork, but whether it’s graffiti or a signature, I can’t tell. The mural seems a bit faded so it might be a few years old.

If you know who the artist is, please leave a comment!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

An unusual Old Master mural in Normal Heights!

An unusual mural was painted in Normal Heights this year. It can be viewed on Adams Avenue, in a nook where this Prince mural used to be, and across from this Kobe Bryant mural. It was painted by local street artists Hasler and Shark, who also created the nearby Kobe Bryant artwork.

I say this mural is unusual, because street art is usually more like graffiti or contemporary artwork–abstract, extremely bold, and with a typically rebellious vibe. One doesn’t expect to see the recreation of a traditional Old Master painting.

The image that dominates this mural is of Italian artist Caravaggio‘s religious painting Saint Jerome Writing, 1605–1606. Words spray painted in the background are the Caravaggio quote: “All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but bagatelles and childish trifles unless they are made and painted from life, and there can be nothing better than to follow nature.”

Caravaggio usually painted realistic human forms, with dramatic lighting that emphasized emotion. His very popular work would influence other famous Old Masters like Peter Paul Rubens, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and Rembrandt.

I wonder what Caravaggio would think if he visited San Diego today and looked around. Probably that he’d been transported to an alien world!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!