As part of his ongoing Road Trip at Home series, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman visited the masterpiece recently and got a chance to see up close and personal what has to be one of the most original and beautiful civic buildings in the country.
Although Wright died in 1959, he had already completed his plans for the Civic Center, which had been approved a year earlier. Although Wright wasn't originally one of the architects considered for the massive project, he was championed by Vera Shultz, Marin County's first-ever female supervisor. And after a series of political complications, the project's 584-foot-long administration building was completed in 1962. The second major element of the complex, the Hall of Justice, was finished in 1969.
The project, like so many others of Wright's, emphasized organic architecture, that is, designs that took advantage of natural surroundings, rather than ignoring--or destroying--them. As such, the Civic Center blends beautifully into the surroundings here, nestling perfectly in between four small hills on the 140-acre property--formerly known as the Secttrini Ranch--that Marin County had purchased for $561,000.
According to the County of Marin, Wright spoke to county residents on July 30, 1957, and said that "we will have an architecture of our own 'only when we know that the good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but is one that makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before that building was built. In Marin County you have one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen, and I am proud to make the buildings of this county characteristic of the beauty of the county.' The related groupings of long horizontal buildings which constitute the Civic Center and gracefully link several rolling hills stand as testament to Wright's philosophy."