San Francisco Social Diary: Spring Events

The San Francisco Exploratorium, an interactive science museum, recently opened at Pier 15 on San Francisco’s waterfront, with the city’s downtown district lit behind it.


One evening, some friends and I headed over to Pier 15 to try out the new Seaglass Restaurant at the newly opened Exploratorium museum that enjoyed its grand opening on April 17, 2013.

The beloved Exploratorium was based for 40 years in the Palace of Fine Arts, a building dating back to the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair. It is an interactive museum of art, science, and human perception, founded by Frank Oppenheimer in 1969 to make science fun for all ages.

The Exploratorium needed an update. Instead of renovating the old space, after much discussion, it was decided to move it to the Embarcadero, the stretch along the city’s eastern waterfront. I predict it’s going to be one of the most popular destinations for all.

The new San Francisco Exploratorium features a $300 million, 330,000-square foot complex.

Located near the Ferry Building, Pier 39, and Fisherman’s Wharf, the science center is more accessible than its former location.

Across the street from the Exploratorium is Coit Tower, one of the city’s landmarks.

Because of its central location on the Embarcadero, the popular Exploratorium is expected to draw even more tourists, as well as locals, than before its move.

With 1.5 acres of public outdoor space, visitors can stroll along the new walkways and plazas, which have a marvelous view of the city and bay—a beautiful reuse of the formerly dilapidated piers.


Created by Executive Chef Loretta Keller and Operational Partner Clay Reynolds (both of iconic Coco500 restaurant), the glass-enclosed Seaglass restaurant seats nearly 200 diners and offers a stunning view of the Bay, including Treasure Island and the sparkling Bay Bridge.

Seaglass is a welcome addition to a neighborhood where there’s a shortage of good eating options and is a destination to consider even if you’re not visiting the Exploratorium.

Loretta Keller and Clay Reynolds offer casual dining at Seaglass and takeout at the Seismic Joint Café in the Exploratorium.

Seaglass features a multicultural, seasonal menu showcasing fare that is locally sourced from small producers.

A casual café, Seaglass has food stations spread around, cafeteria-style, including a cocktail bar, raw bar with sushi master, a rotisserie chicken station, pizza, and more.


After dinner, we were delighted to discover that the Exploratorium was still open, as we had arrived for “After Dark,” a program on the first Thursday of the month during which the museum stays open from 6 to 10 p.m. The regular event features a cash bar, screenings, and more for visitors over 18. (We qualified.)

The first interactive science museum, the Exploratorium in its new incarnation “remains the most important science museum to have opened since the mid-20th century,” reported The New York Times in April.

The new kid-friendly science museum is three times larger than its former home, with a 200-seat auditorium. Its goal is to be the first net-zero-energy-use museum.

Visiting the cavernous exhibit hall when the groups and young children aren’t there is quite a different and for us a more enjoyable experience.

Though we didn’t have much time to “play,” we enjoyed our quick tour of the well-conceived, engaging new facility.

Sampling some of the 600 motion-filled interactive and educational exhibits, we were like little kids in an amusement park.

Many of the exhibits involve intriguing hands-on explorations of physics and motion.

The museum is a must-see on your next trip to San Francisco, whether or not you have children to bring along.

I was surprised by the number of young people enjoying the exhibits; perhaps this will be the new “date night” destination.


On another spring evening, I attended the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize award ceremony at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, where six environmental activists and heroes were being honored.

Established by Richard and Rhoda Goldman in 1989, the Prize, known as the “Green Nobel,” is now in its 24th year. The late philanthropic couple had decided that protecting the environment was an area in which they could make the greatest impact.

The Goldman Prize honors activists who undertake grassroots environmental efforts, often at their own personal risk. With a cash award of $150,000, it is the largest award given in this area.

To date, the Goldman family foundation has donated over $700 million to various causes and prizes have been awarded to 157 environmental heroes from 82 countries.

Environmental activists were honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House.

In this civic-minded city, this award ceremony is always a big draw and one of the most important environment events of the year.


At the beginning of the ceremony, the Goldman family welcomed the crowd. Foundation President Doug Goldman asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, which had taken place earlier that day.

He stated emphatically that the next generation of the Goldman family will continue awarding prizes. His siblings John Goldman of San Francisco and Susan Gelman of Washington D.C., and their families are all deeply involved with this program.

Foundation President Doug Goldman.

John Goldman.

Susan Gelman.

Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed scientist and conservationist Jacques Cousteau, was the MC.

Tickets to the event were by invitation only, and in environmentally aware San Francisco, every one of the 3,200 Opera House seats was filled.


The MC was the environmental advocate and CNN correspondent Philippe Cousteau, grandson of scientist Jacques Cousteau. The evening featured video profiles of the honored activists and stirring speeches that conveyed the message that even the smallest voice can make a difference.

The honorees’ stories of courage are emotionally moving; individually and collectively they have made an impressive impact.

We were treated to At the Edge of Change, a short film of excerpts from photographer James Balog’s feature-length documentary Chasing Ice, which reveals undeniable evidence of climate change.

Using time-lapse cameras, Balog compressed years of change into seconds and captured disturbing images of the disappearance of ancient mountains of ice in the Arctic.


The six individuals honored include South Africa’s Jonathan Deal, who led a campaign to keep hydrofracking out of the Karoo region; Iraq’s Azzam Alwash, who restored lush Iraqi marshes that had been destroyed under Saddam Hussein’s reign; Italy’s Rossano Ercolini, an elementary school teacher whose campaign about the dangers of incinerators led to a national zero waste policy; Indonesia’s Aleta Baun, who organized hundreds of peaceful protesters to stop destructive marble mining operations on the island of Timor; American Kimberly Wasserman, who led a successful campaign to close down two of Chicago’s dirtiest coal plants and continues to transform the city’s old industrial sites into public green spaces; and Colombia’s Nohra Padilla, who fights for the rights of her country’s marginalized waste pickers and successfully had them integrated into Columbia’s legitimate recycling program.

Each year the prizewinners are selected from the six inhabited regions of the world.

These regions include Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.


In this year’s entertainment portion of the award ceremony, colorfully dressed dancers from the Kyoungil Ong Dance Company performed “Sounds of Korea.”

The Korean-American dance company aims to use dance and music to foster cross-cultural understanding.


After the award ceremony, everyone was invited to join the Goldman family across the street at a reception at San Francisco’s City Hall.

At the reception, guests were offered gigantic baskets of dim sum, sushi, and desserts.

Invitees waited patiently in very long lines to express their gratitude to the Goldman family and to meet the prizewinners.

Austin Erik Hills Jr., Ann Moeller Caen, and Austin Edward Hills.

The guests enjoyed the meeting the Kyoungil Ong dancers that had performed.


The next day, the Goldman family members flew to Washington D.C., for a smaller ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building, where they met with San Francisco Congresswoman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others.

The Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C.

John Goldman, Susan Gelman, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, 2013 South African Goldman Prize recipient Jonathan Deal, and Doug Goldman.

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi with the 2013 Goldman Prize recipients. From left to right: Nohra Padilla, Aleta Baun, Azzam Alwash, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Rossano Ercolini, Jonathan Deal, and Kimberly Wasserman.

Lisa Goldman, 2013 Iraqi Prize recipient Azzam Alawsh, and Jennifer Goldman.

Patrizia Lo Scuito, 2013 Italian Prize recipient Rossano Ercolini, and John Goldman.


In town for the Decorator Showcase, New York-based Newell Turner, editor-in-chief of Hearst Design Group since 2012, joined interior decorator Kendall Wilkinson to co-host a book party in honor of chef and House Beautiful food columnist Alex Hitz’s new book, My Beverly Hills Kitchen.

This was the second book party I’d attended for Alex; this time the venue was the stunningly decorated Nob Hill home of Cheryl and Ralph Baxter. The newly retired CEO of Orrick, one of the largest law firms globally, Ralph couldn’t be in attendance: Instead, he was in his birthplace of West Virginia, contemplating a run for Senate. Stay tuned.

When the Baxters’ last child left the nest, they decided to keep a pied-a-terre on Nob Hill and enlisted Kendall Wilkinson, the eminently qualified decorator with 20 years in business and a staff of 16, to turn it into an Art Deco-themed home.

In her Pacific Heights store, Kendall Wilkinson Design & Home, Kendall offers an eclectic mix of luxury home goods, including her own line of Lucite furniture, pillows, and candles.

Newell Turner, Cheryl Baxter, Kendall Wilkinson, and Alex Hitz.

Marcia Monro, Gail Glasser, and Jeanne Jackson.

Kendall Wilkinson and Mariam Maficy.

Chef, author, and House Beautiful columnist Alex Hitz, who splits his time between New York and Los Angeles.

Tina McCutcheon and Fruzsina Keehn.

The Baxters’ fabulous home comes complete with spectacular Bay views.

Newell Turner now oversees Hearst’s three shelter publications: Elle Décor, House Beautiful, and Veranda. When Newell, a Mississippi native, introduced Alex, who comes from Atlanta, the two joked that somehow southerners always seem to find each other.

Newell, who is based at Hearst’s Manhattan offices, told guests, “I try to come to San Francisco anytime I can—and I’m not just saying that to be polite.” Discussing San Francisco’s influence on American design, Newell said, “I’ve been interested in California decorating for years, because I believe that a distinctly American ‘look’ synthesized here in the ’60s and ’70s.”

He went on to explain that the American aesthetic took shape on the East Coast and was heavily influenced by European traditions, but it changed as the population moved westward.

Design on the West Coast, and in San Francisco in particular, was influenced by the Far East and the more casual California lifestyle, which blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor to blur.

Gregg Lynn, Kendall Wilkinson, and Glenn Risso.

Adam and Emily Kates.

Christine Gardner and Gregg Renfrew.

Kate and Matt Powers.

Newell paid tribute to some of the prominent California decorators of the 20th century, among them Michael Taylor, John Dickenson, Frances Adler Elkins, and Tony Duquette, who all played an important role in developing a distinctly American style.

“There was a European or cosmopolitan sensibility to their decorating,” he said. “But there was also a playfulness in scale and materials—rough juxtaposed with refined, expensive with inexpensive, and high-brow with low-brow, in addition to the influences of Hollywood.”

Jeff Edwards and Jeff Spears.

Ken Hagen and Maryam Muduroglu.

Suzanne Levitt and Leslie Thieriot.

Shirley Robinson and Meriwether McGettigan.

Allison Speer, Andrew Gn, Jeanne Lawrence (wearing a Gn creation), and Alex Hitz.

Guests included the Singapore-born, Paris-based fashion designer Andrew Gn, in town with his 2013 pre-fall collection at the Betty Lin boutique on Sacramento Street in the Pacific Heights neighborhood.

When we were introduced, I didn’t catch Gn’s name above the cocktail chatter until he said, “You’re wearing my jacket.” Of course after that we were best of friends. I love his clothes and so I’m sorry I missed his trunk show the next day, hosted by his admirers Juliet de Baubigny, Carolyn Chang, Yuri Pascarella, Allison Speer, and Akiko Yamazaki.

The high-energy book party crowd included young socialites, design hobbyists, and fans of Alex, Kendall, and Newell. “It was a perfect combination of good food, design, and fashion,” said Kendall. “The stars were aligned tonight.”

As you can see, the crowd was full of visitors from around the world, all in love with design in some way.

Chelsi Lidell, Emily Kates, and Maggie Waltemath.

Beth Kupper, Max Armour, and Cheryl Baxter.

In his book, Alex shares some of his best southern recipes.

Guests enjoyed the passed appetizers selected from Alex’s recipes.

Alex Hitz and Kendall Wilkinson.


Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Drew Altizer, and the Goldman Environmental Prize.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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