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Bridging the Bay, dreams and reality; Oakland Museum exhibit looks back.

Dreams of bridging San Francisco Bay have held sway over the public imagination ever since the eccentric Emperor Norton issued a proclamation ordering the construction of a span to "Sausalitoe" in the 1860s. Even after the major bridges were built in the present century, new proposals kept materializing, and they do so to this day. An exhibit at the Oakland Museum, running now through July 2, explores these civic and artistic aspirations and the visionary engineering that goes with them.

Spurred by renewed debate over the need for a southern bay crossing, the show provides a timely perspective on transportation and growth issues in the San Francisco Bay Area. The display's centerpiece is a remarkable scale model for a bridge designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in association with Aaron Green. Their so-called Butterfly-Wing Bridge-a succession of fluid concrete arches connecting the bay's western and eastern shores between the east end of Army Street and Alameda-remains a radical idea even today, 36 years after it was first proposed. Its most striking feature is a lush, tree-ftamed park at the apex of the center span.

The 16-foot-long model, set off on a dramatic mirror-like surface, was last seen as a prop in the 1988 movie Die-hard, with Bruce Willis. After this exhibit, it will become part of the permanent collection of the Frank Lloyd Wright Institute in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The show provides an explanation of this design, as well as of about 250 other artifacts-from other bridge proposals and brochures to vintage photographs and postcards depicting the construction and completion of existing bridges. The exhibit occupies the low bay in the great hall of the Oakland Museum's history section.

The museum is at 1000 Oak Street. From 1-880 southbound, take the Broadway exit three blocks east, turn right on Ninth Street, and go seven blocks to Oak; northbound, exit 1-880 at Oak Street and go east three blocks. It's open 10 to 5 Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 7 Sundays; admission is free.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1989
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