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Into the Void: Building the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair    by Andrew Shanken order for
Into the Void
by Andrew Shanken
Order:  USA  Can
University of California, 2015 (2015)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Into the Void Pacific: Building the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair by Andrew Shanken is a bit pricy but once you see all the color illustrations the volume features you'll understand the cost.

This architectural history of the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair will not only appeal to those interested in architecture but also in the history of San Francisco and the World Fairs that the city hosted.

I found this book particularly appealing because it begins by looking at how Treasure Island, the fair's site, was actually created by forming an artificial island on what was the Yerba Buena Shoals, which was just off Yerba Buena Island.

The original game plan was to create the island and then, after the fair, transform it into a regional airport. When larger aircraft made that plan impractical, the airport was located elsewhere, just south of San Francisco where it presently sits.

As you follow the project from the dredging operation that created the venue to the fair's opening day, you'll meet the many individuals who had a hand in developing the fair and seeing it through to completion.

The architects involved developed the fair's theme which was to look to the Pacific Basin nations where expansion would be centered in the future. The buildings were to reflect 'the regionalist sensibilities of Northern California onto Asian and Latin American architecture'.

As the many pictures illustrate, these eye catching structures drew on the cultural traditions of ancient Cambodia, China, and Mexico. They also incorporated various features of the International Style, Art Deco and the Bay Region Tradition.

This was a time when the country was slowly recovering from the Great Depression while war clouds were forming in Europe and in the Far Pacific. Not only was the fair a way of celebrating the construction of the Bay Area's two new trans-bay bridges but it was also meant to showcase the region and what many saw as the city's role as the center of the raising sphere of Pacific influence.

Three years after opening, the country was plunged into another world war, Treasure Island was taken over by the Navy and the fair was just a pleasant memory. But during its magnificent run, this was a remarkable assembly of new buildings, ideas and dreams for a brighter future.

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