Urban Sights: Urban History and Visual Culture

3. The Sunset District

While Bechtle develops specific techniques for adapting the city's nearly saturated visual-topographic tradition, much about these works is linked to his earlier suburban images. These continuities are most apparent in his works depicting the Sunset district.

Bechtle's images of the west-side neighborhood are inspired in part by his years of commuting to the area to teach at San Francisco State University, but the artist also relates that the neighborhood reminds him of the area of Alameda where he grew up. This seemingly small note of autobiographical resonance in fact speaks to a central aspect of San Francisco's architectural and demographic history. Developed by several builders in the early to mid twentieth century, the Sunset is the city's most 'suburban' neighborhood, populated by seemingly endless streets of similar single family homes. Though its density is more characteristically urban than suburban, the area's record of mass-construction and the resultant aesthetic regularity significantly shaped its environs into a strikingly suburban space. Bechtle's Sunset works hone in on the repetition of the neighborhood's built environment, a strategy that links these works to his other Bay Area sites and stresses signifiers of urban-suburban continuity. Just as his images of Potrero Hill offer an alternative to familiar panoramas, the Sunset pieces work to illuminate the under-remarked architectural history of San Francisco's 'outer lands.' 

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