Ever heard of architect Santiago Calatrava? [left]

I hadn't until recently. His name came up on CBS Sunday Morning, showcasing some of his recent projects.

Santiago Calatrava has designed some truly extraordinary buildings including a fantastical new wing to the Milwaukee Art Museum... [Below left]

Santiago Calatrava
Photo Copyright Google Images

...and a soon-to-be-opened spectacular complex in Valencia Spain, which includes a planetarium [above right], museum and Opera House.

All projects that I've not heard of until recently.

And while I've not had the chance to see his work in person, it appears to be impressive, majestic, with that punch-in-the-gut feeling that a structure like Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall provides for Los Angeles. [Below]

Walt Disney Concert Hall - Copyright Google Images

Calatrava has been selected to design the new train station at Ground Zero of the former World Trade Center. [Below]

Even based on just renderings, it looks to be another structure with a huge wow factor.

But because it's at Ground Zero, it's clouded in controversy. Critics claim the design is too light, too perfect, too big, and too interesting for Ground Zero, and apparently it's going to be some time before the final projects are decided upon. My vote is for Calatrava, who provides a fresh new take on a train station, and dares to be different.

Different -- there's that word again. Hold that thought.

This past summer, we left our dog Monica with a sitter, and decided to be San Francisco tourists. We stayed at the historic Powell Hotel, rode a cable car, had some terrific and varied meals, visited Ghirardelli Square, did some great shopping at Nordstrom [below], a Levi's store and the huge flagship Macy's..

It was great fun and very touristy.

We even took in the Haight/Ashbury district - with its weird and eclectic mix of cafes, shops, tattoo parlors, and homeless people. It was there that we discovered that Golden Gate Park's eastern border runs right into Haight Street. So we decided to walk to the de Young Museum through Golden Gate Park -- America's largest urban park.

Yes, even bigger than New York's Central Park? Yeah, I didn't know that either.

And after moving beyond that tacky and slightly dangerous Haight Street entrance, the beauty of the park became apparent.

It's a good, solid mile-and-a-half walk.

The de Young. Originally built in 1894, it has gone through a number of different permutations, until 1929 when the Spanish styled building was completed [below].

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the de Young, to such an extent that it would be torn down completely, then redesigned, and rebuilt from the ground up.

The Swiss architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron were commissioned to re-imagine and and redesign the de Young Museum and it opened last year.

Their recent projects are impressive. The Allianz Arena in Munich Germany [below right] , the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis [below top right], a Dance Centre in London [below left] among others.

The park path curved and we got our first view of the de Young. [Below]

Comparatively, Is it safe to say that de Young is lacking in the 'umph' department?

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