Art Deco in San Francisco’s Marina District

An example of Art Deco architecture in the Marina
The Marina District in San Francisco is rich with examples of Art Deco architecture.

Post and photos contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion

Amazing architecture abounds in San Francisco, and in the charming Marina District is a treasure trove of cool Art Deco buildings.

In this sunny, affluent neighborhood you’ll see rows of pastel apartment buildings, upscale restaurants and boutiques, and women sporting blonde ponytails and yoga pants.

And if you know what to look for, you’ll also find fine examples of the style known as Art Deco.

Deco was a lavish design movement that emerged from the austerity of World War I, lasting from 1925 to the1940s.

After the war, people craved whimsy, gravitating toward fun design elements in art, home design, and architecture.

The result? We began to see zigzag patterns, stylized florals, chevrons, sunbursts, and exotic Mayan and Egyptian imagery incorporated into building design.

Streamline Moderne followed Art Deco’s first wave. Inspired by the Industrial Revolution, the art and design reflected speed, motion, and aerodynamics. Aviation and nautical imagery began to appear. Buildings resembled boats or aircrafts—with porthole windows, rounded corners, and steel elements.

Look up as you are walking down Chestnut Street in the Marina to see many examples of Deco. The building at 2066-2068 features Mayan-style arch windows. At 2124-2130, observe the large silver painted sun ray design on the facade.

One of the city’s last non-multiplex movie theatres is at 2340 Chestnut St. and happens to be an exquisite example of Art Deco architecture. The Presidio Theater’s stepped facade, bright modern colors, and vintage neon make it a throwback neighborhood gem.

Presidio, movie theatre, Art Deco, Marina, San Francisco
The Presidio Movie Theatre is an striking sample of Art Deco design in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Just off Chestnut, at 2221-2223 and 2227-2229 are Beach Street are a few good examples and the Streamline-style flats at 50 Mallorca feature incised step lines at the cornice, curved facade bays, and vertical prisms.

Marina Middle School, on the corner of Chestnut and Fillmore Streets is a sprawling urban campus that was designed by George Kelham and William Day in 1936.

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Beautiful period details can be seen along the roofline and at one end of the building there is a frieze of a male figure carrying a torch and at the other end a bare-breasted female figure cradling a book. Names of great scholars, writers and artists including Raphael, Plato, Galileo, Edison, Homer and Edison are inscribed on the exterior.

Marina Middle School, Art Deco, design, architecture, San Francisco
This bare-breasted maiden adorns the Marina Middle School, a stellar example of Art Deco in San Francisco

But perhaps San Francisco’s most famous and celebrated example of Art Deco is less than a mile from the Marina District.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a not just an engineering marvel, but a stunning example of Art Deco design. Elements can be observed in the details on the toll booths to the vertical fluting of the tapered suspension towers.

Insider Tip

City Guides regularly offers a free Art Deco Marina walking tour.