Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Marin County Civic Center
San Rafael, California

The roof of Frank Lloyd Wright's Marin Civic Center looking much like the Starship Enterprise in need of repair (26K jpg, Canon 24-mm, May 1997).

go to location mapOn the way to Pt. Reyes from Berkeley we regularly pass one of Frank Lloyd Wright's more whimsical buildings. The Marin County Civic Center, started in 1957, was still under construction at the time of Wright's death in 1959. Wright was in his 90s at the time. The building is now a national and state designated historical landmark

On the way back from Pt. Reyes in May 1997 we stopped to shoot a quick roll. It was late on a cloudy Sunday afternoon and the breeze was kind to the Sutton 30. We flew from the parking lot of the Hall of Justice.

Ground-level shots showing a drive-through atrium and the arched elevation at the Marin County Civic Center (19K jpg left and 85K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, May 1997).

Wright's long horizontal building fits snug to the landscape and links the crowns of three separate hills. The beige mass of the building is somewhat reminiscent of an aqueduct while the pale blue roof suggests a link with the sky. The long, linear building is organized around thin, skylit atria that sometimes extend from the roof to drive-through roadways at ground level. The atria are placed asymmetrically in the building with office bays 26 feet wide on one side and 40 feet on the other. The decorative motif plays on circles in a dozen different ways. A central architectural focus for the building is the 80-foot diameter dome with its 172-foot, slender gold tower. The tower encases a smokestack from the heating boiler and chronically bears the soot of combustion.

The four story Administration Wing, completed in 1962, is 584 feet long while the Hall of Justice, completed in 1969, is 880 feet long.

Views of the central hub with dome and the golden exhaust spire (31K jpg left and 35K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, May 1997).

The dome-covered central hub provides a mechanism for the building's axis to turn as it connects from hillock to hillock. I shot quite a few images of the unusual, and unseen, roof because I'd always been curious about how the roof resolved itself. Instead of interesting geometry I found roof repairs that made the near views of the roof uninteresting to those outside the roofing business. It doesn't look quite as bad from these altitudes. Also evident in these images are the circular pools that contribute to the landscaping and retrofit solar control screens on some of the skylight panels.

More views of buildings overhang (23K jpg left and 21K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, February 1997).

Here are a couple of close views from the roof edge four stories up. In the lefthand image you get a sense for how long these building wings actually run. On the right you can see the circle motif carried into the surface of the roof itself.

Shading at the building's edge (27K jpg left and 21K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, May 1997).

I threw these two shots in to support a brief discussion related to process. In this site's KAP Discussion Pages Simon Harbord recently posted a query regarding how to position and aim our aerial cameras. For this roll I worked with son Charlie Benton as a downrange spotter. We have been lucky to borrow two very nice Motorola handheld transceivers and these allow Charlie, who goes near the "target", to provide me with a continuous position update. From my position at the end of the kite line it is difficult to gauge distance from the building. Charlie, who can be seen on the ground in both of these images, can place me within ten feet.

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