Exploring Marin Leads to Happy Mistakes

A desire to see the Marin County Civic Center leads finding a great place for kids to play.


Sometimes you just have to take the plunge, even if it doesn't end up how you would have wanted it.

When I take spur-of-the-moment trips with my son around the Bay Area they are just that, unplanned. I get something in my head that I'm curious about and I decide it is a good idea to go exploring. That's my way.

My husband's way to go on outings is to research first. He knows exactly where to go because he's looked at a map. He knows the times the place is open and, if money is involved, how much. This is a good policy for pretty much everything. But, I rarely follow it. I dive right in and usually something comes out.

In this case, it was a trip to the Marin County Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  My folks have an architect friend who calls the Civic Center "Wright's Jetsons phase." I can see his point, the spire is a bit spacey. For me, the Civic Center is an architectural reference to the hills and sky around the building. It calls upon the history of California with its repeating arches, referenced for me from California's missions. The colors used on the inside and outside remind me of sand, terra cotta roof tiles and the blue of the sky and sea.

Having never studied architecture, I have no way to know if this was the intent.  At the some point, though, a person's work stands separate from them and lives individually in what we each bring when we see and respond to the piece of art.

Is this true with a six-year-old as well? Maybe not when he is tired and wants to leave and go play in the excellent playground at the foot of the Civic Center.  But, for me, that's OK. Maybe the "Culture" he was exposed to is more like a bank that slowly fills up.

I have mentioned in previous articles the quest to provide experiences to supply our son with "general knowledge." I go to these places because they are a curiosity for me. And, maybe his listening to the architectural debate between my parents and me on what each one of us sees when we look at the Civic Center is additional exposure to ideas and experiences.

A quick bit about the history of the Marin Civic Center…. It was the last commission by Frank Lloyd Wright. The construction started in 1960 and was finished after his death in 1962. And, the Civic Center was used by George Lucas as a location for his pre-Star Wars film, THX 1138.

Rachel Stern April 07, 2012 at 07:26 AM
That's within walking distance of where I grew up. The Civic Center was also the location Gattaca was filmed in 1997. Right across the street there is this giant picturesque pond (part of the Marin County Fair grounds, where you can also spot geese, eagles and red-winged black birds throughout the year) and some old-time, tasty neighborhood diners nearby. I may be biased, but I definitely recommend a visit. :)


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