Pine Tree Obelisk
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More about Pine Tree Obelisk

ldewey's picture


We can thank Section 429 of the San Francisco Planning Code for Joan Brown’s Pine Tree Obelisk

This ordinance, passed in 1985, required that anyone constructing a new building in the downtown district must provide funding for public art of equal value to at least 1% of the total construction cost. Nice going San Francisco! We love public art.

The obelisk itself is one of three that Brown was commissioned to build in the San Francisco area. This one is in Sydney G. Walton Square, which is named after the mastermind behind the public art program: a hot-shot investment banker with a passion for massive sculptures. We’re not sure if this passion stems from an attempt compensate for his own (ahem) inadequacies, but either way, great news for artists like Joan. In fact, obelisks are actually phallic symbols dating back to ancient Egypt… go figure.

The obelisk in question depicts a mosaic of a green pine tree, two red lobsters, two red crabs, and five white birds. Very idyllic and absolutely perfect for its location near the San Francisco Ferry Building along the marina. 

All penis jokes aside, Brown herself was quite the heartbreaker. She went through four marriages before her penchant for obelisks turned deadly in 1990, when she was tragically killed in a construction accident while installing an obelisk in India. Yikes.