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Palisades update

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

Over the past four years the Committee of One Hundred has initiated projects to restore the Palisades, the southernmost part of Balboa Park’s National Historic Landmark District: first will be the rehabilitation of the 1935 exposition’s California State Building (home to today’s San Diego Automotive Museum), with plans for the reconstruction of four large murals representing California’s best features and achievements, and for reconstructing the Maya-style ornament that was removed in 1947.

The tile murals are in production at RTK Studio in Ojai and should be ready for installation this spring. The glass fiber reinforced concrete ornament has been modeled and is ready for production. Plans have been prepared and have been submitted for a permit to remodel the entrance, install the 18-foot-tall tile murals and the Maya-style ornament with LED lighting. All should come together by this summer.

Richard Requa, architect of the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, envisioned a plaza surrounded by buildings that represented cultures of all the Americas. Maya-style ornament hung from the parapets and was mounted above the entrance to the California State Building and the Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries. Maya ornamentation was integrated on the Federal Building.

The citizens of San Diego have been waiting 82 years for the return of a pedestrian Pan American Plaza

The Firestone Singing Fountain anchored the public space at the south end of the plaza in 1935. This three-tiered, cascading fountain sang and danced with six round fountain heads, synchronized with music and lights.

The 1935 Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries, today home to the Municipal Gymnasium, had a large bronze-colored mural above the entrance. The Committee of One Hundred plans to reconstruct this mural and restore the inlaid mural on the entry floor. We plan to reconstruct these elements that characterized the 1935 building.

A Maya warrior was painted on the glass above the entrance to the 1935 Federal Building, now home to the planned Comic-Con Museum. We have asked Comic-Con to include a reproduction of that cartoon image in their future plans. Projecting images from within would allow for the Maya-style mural as well as other images desired by the tenant to be displayed on a rotating basis.

In the fall of 2019 the Committee of One Hundred commissioned WET Design to create a concept plan of a 21st century reconstruction of the 1935 fountain with choreographed, color-changing, dancing, fountain features for which WET is known around the world. After a public workshop, stakeholder input and direct talks with the Historical Resources Board and Save Our Heritage Organisation, we look forward to seeing the concept plan that can bring this public space to life again.

Parks and Recreation will soon break ground on Phase One of the Palisades rehabilitation. In planning for and with input from some stakeholders a utility and security plan illustrates a power and communication spine from south to north around the fountain to a hub at the tram stop then up the center to the north end for the purpose of future activity planning and power from solar panels obscured from public view on the gymnasium.

Phase Two of the Palisades rehabilitation could include reconstructing the radial gardens in the middle of the Pan American Plaza and a performance stage plaza at the north end as shown in the Central Mesa Precise Plan. The radial garden was a signature element that defined the 1935 plaza.

The citizens of San Diego have been waiting 82 years for the return of a pedestrian Pan American Plaza. People want access to parking and to transportation within the park. They want an attractive pedestrian plaza where we currently have a parking lot that can accommodate up to 280 cars but cannot support night life, entertainment, food trucks, events or exhibits outside the museum walls.

Robert Thiele, Citizen Architect

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