The Market Street Railway Mural - about
The Market Street Railway mural shows a 180-degree bird's eye view of San Francisco's Market Street through time, divided vertically into sections corresponding to different moments in history from the 1920's onwards and into an imaginary future.
The mural celebrates the vital role of public space in our cities, and it contains lots of detailed references to local street art, activism, and various SF subcultures.
Use the navigator image to jump to each vertical section of the mural!
Sections: 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7 • 8
What the mural is about:
This mural is a tribute to the urban center as a place uniquely conducive to collective expression, a place where history is made, and politics is visible and physically felt. This mural is also an homage to San Francisco in particular, as a place where people kept inventing new ways of utilizing our shared space to communicate, provoke, and interact, which is what made this a vibrant and engaging place to live.
The mural seeks to showcase a wide range of uses that Market Street as a public space has been able to accommodate over the years. In this mural they include a formal parade, a mass demonstration, a free-form celebration, a violent police riot, all based on real events, along with normal daily life in different eras, referencing what goes on at the margins during seemingly uneventful periods.
Whatever constitutes a normal daily life scene on the street is also compared across different historical periods (in the 1920‘s, in the 1940’s, in the early 2000’s), so that a striking shift in traffic and transportation design priorities emerges, and some invisible everyday occurrences get noted.
The last section of the mural is a fantasy of what Market Street might look like in the future, with daylighted creeks, new transit modes, repurposed buildings, etcetera. The details therein hint to paradigm shifts having occurred, but it is not meant as a program, but rather as a playful invitation to rethink the public space we share. By reminding us how radically things have changed over a few decades, this tongue-in-cheek utopian future seeks to spark and fertilize our visions and hopes for radical positive change in the future.
The connecting theme: the Market Street Railway.
What ties the sections together is the old Market Street Railway. Streetcars from the 1920's are shown traveling the whole length of the mural, remaining colored in sepia tone throughout.
These MSR Streetcars pass through different transportation eras, through all kinds of historic events, from their heyday in the 1920's all the way into the present and future. At the right end of the mural, a little streetcar breaks out of the picture, riding on into infinity.