On the south side, visitors from countries all over the world savor stunning views of the bridge set against Marin County’s rolling hills. Nearby at the visitor pavilion and Round House, you can check out interpretive exhibits and photographs, and peruse an expanded gift shop with bridge-themed books, puzzles, T-shirts, tote bags, and men’s ties.
The bronze statue in the center of the plaza depicts Joseph Strauss, the bridge’s founding engineer. Though Strauss was a relentless and canny campaigner, another engineer—Chicagoan Charles Ellis—is now believed to have contributed greatly to the final suspension design. Still others (including John Eberson, a theater architect and designer of sumptuous movie palaces) gave the bridge its art deco styling.
“Strauss’s strength was never as a designer,” says Mary Currie, now-retired public affairs director for the bridge. “But he was persuasive and persistent, able to lure the brightest engineers and designers in the business to the project, and get done what many said was impossible.”
A slice of a main cable is on display near the Strauss statue. The cross section, about a yard in diameter, is made up of 27,572 perfectly aligned, individual steel wires, each the thickness of a pencil.
To avoid the parking headaches at the plaza, take a No. 28 Muni bus in San Francisco. Or park anywhere along Crissy Field and walk up the short, stairstep path that starts near the Warming Hut, a popular bayside joint serving coffee and sandwiches.