The introduction to the right  is a brief sketch of the history of the International Competition of 1964-1965 for the enhancement of the Civic Center Plaza , with a few gleanings related to the winning design.

This will provide the reader a base in order to make a comparison between the winning design and the project described below which was submitted to the Commission by painter, sculptor and mathematician Ugo Adriano Graziotti.

The text of Graziotti's model - reproduced below - was written in Italian by Ugo himself and sent to me on April 5, 1965 (please see photo of the envelope at the bottom of the page). Unfortunately I do not have a copy of Ugo's English text nor I have been able to locate a copy of the photo presented with the project.

Graziotti knew well the Civic Center Plaza. For many years he had his studio on Market Street, about 150/200 meters from the Civic Center.

Commission of Art - San Francisco






In June of 1964 The Commission of Art of San Francisco decided to announce an "International Competition for the Enhancement of the San Francisco Civic Center Plaza".

The competition final draft was submitted on July 8, 1964, and three months later , at the beginning of October, printed copies were distributed to the members of the Commission. At the same time a six-member jury was established to judge the projects that would be later received. Registration of people interested was required and by February 1, 1965 there were already 1191 members registered from 45 different countries. Finally the registered members reached a total of 1,209, approximately half from outside the United States: from  Canada, Central and South America, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe

During this period, 317 projects were accepted, and on June 12, 1965 the  Commission Jury awarded the first prize to the project of a young couple: Ivan Tzvetin and Angela Danadjieva, both Bulgarian architects, but at that time residing in Paris. The jury was unanimous and it strongly recommended the realization of their design.

The criteria that led to this decision are summarized by the Minutes of 19 May 1965,  as follows: “It was felt that if there was to be a departure from the present design, it should be so decisive that a truly original and new space experience was created. The Scheme, comprising of a series of flat and varied terraces, represent a fresh and, in many ways, surprising approach. […] From the purely esthetic [sic] standpoint, the variation of surfaces, with slight differentiations in level, will not only permit in texture and color, but also in light reflection by day and night. A water pool has been coordinated in the design which will emphasize a three dimensional depth by reflecting the clouds and the sky”. ♦


Photo of Tzvetin-Danadjieva design. (From "Progressive Architecture", Vol. 46, July 1965, p. 58).



The winning design "represents a series of flat terraces, 100' x 100', that are stacked, juxtaposed, and arranged much like rugs in an attractive department store layout. One terrace will be a water-filled reflecting pool. Others will be covered with grass and may serve as places for display of sculpture or for seating during public assemblies. Some, as they appear in the design, are concrete slabs covered with incised text telling the history of San Francisco” (Progressive Architecture, 46, July 1965, p. 59).

As mentioned above, the design of Tzvetin-Danadjieva was recommended with great enthusiasm to the Commission of Art and to the Commission on Parks. But some commissioners of the Commission of Art and almost all of the commissioners of the Parks Commission expressed serious reservations. In fact Acting Commissioner Herz of the Park Commision said "that after consultation with Frank Foehr, Superintendent of Parks, it was decided that it [the winning design] would not be appropriate for the Plaza; that it would not provide enough space for the general public; and that, therefore, the Committee did not recommend its approval".  And finally, on September 8, 1965 in joint meeting  the Art Commission and the Recreation and Park Commission came to the decision not to approve the fund of $10,000 for the second phase of the Tzvetin-Danadjieva project. Thus the Civic Center Plaza remained as it was and ... almost as it is today -- more than half a century later, and several other attempts to enhance it ... up to today...
 See San Francisco Chronicle, February 9, 2017. 



♦ The Minutes of the San Francisco Art Commission are now available online:

Year 1964    |   Year 1965






The model of Ugo Adriano Graziotti




Model description


Height = about 130 feet.  Diameter of the largest ring = about 130 feet.


The large rings (forming parables, hyperbole and perfect circles) represent eight of the nine orbits of the planets in our solar system. The central sphere represents the sun.

The smaller of the two orbits represented on the horizontal plane serves as the rim containing the water of the fountain; while the greater orbit (the inside diameter of which is about 128 feet) serves to limit the monument in its horizontal plane.

The annulus, or belt, bounded by these two orbits will result in the figures representing the signs of the zodiac and other constellations in the sky. These figures will all be made in mosaic, with marble tiles and various colors. Their background will be of a single color (light ivory) that will allow the result of the figures above. The same figures will be accompanied by extensive descriptions (also in mosaic) that will explain some of the main elements of astronomy. The function of these figures will be to ensure that the viewer enters gradually in the total idea that the monument wants to express.

Also in the same belt there will be six flowerbeds (four lunular-shaped, and two elliptical) that will serve to beautify everything, and at the same time will have the function of keeping the viewer away from the ends of those three rings that have their base on the belt, and thus protect him/her from possible injury.

From the third orbit (representing the earth) stands the figure of the Genius, produced by the flames that symbolize the ardent desire of man for the knowledge of his universe. The figure of the Genius is only bi-dimensional and has two straights, so the viewer can admire it -- with equal effect -- both from City Hall as well as from the Fulton Street Mall. The Genius itself symbolizes man who conquers the celestial spaces, and it is for this reason that it is facing up. In his hands – upturned as well – it contains two systems: the sun and the atomic systems, to signify not only the achievement of man in the worlds of macrocosm and microcosm, but also his desire to explore further horizons. Inside the sphere representing Earth are depicted in multi-chromed enamel, some of the most famous galaxies (see detail in the photograph). Three of the eight orbits disappear in the water of the fountain and from the smallest orbit (the rim of the fountain) jets of water arise, and fall in the center of the fountain.



In conceiving this monument the following points were taken into consideration :

1. Given the current situation of the Plaza underground, the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčconceiving a heavy monument that would have required huge expenses for the reinforcement of its foundations was definitely discarded. Assuming that this would have been monetarily possible, nonetheless it would have reduced much space that is now used in various ways. So because of this practical necessity, the candidate and his consultants have been guided by a fundamental principle which is lightness of the monument.  

2. The execution, for its abstract interpretation, does not preclude in any way the view of the existing buildings around the Plaza; moreover it does not put up a significant resistance to possible wind gusts.

3. All construction will be made of stainless metal, so that the maintenance costs will be virtually reduced to a minimum.



The total cost will be around the sum made available by the Commission of Art that has announced the competition.



In the absence of the photograph of the model that Professor Graziotti submitted to the Commission of Art of San Francisco , it was decided to include below a couple of images that illustrate the "big rings" that in Ugo Graziotti model are meant to represent orbits of the planets in our solar system. A couple of additional images represent the band around the heavens called Zodiac. This - it is hoped - will help the reader to understand a little 'better (although perhaps not entirely) the above description.



The planets of our solar system


From "Enciclopedia Treccani"


The perpendicular of the ecliptic plane in relation to the earth axis


Graziosis's "annulus" is the belt of the Zodiac


Graziotti's "annulus" : the Zodiac around Earth.


Graziotti's Zodiac, "in mosaic, with marble tiles and various colors",  around the Civic Center Plaza fountain.




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