Statues from the Pan-Pacific International Exposition Adorn a Lafayette Garden

Regional experts go for evergreens.

SAN FRANCISCO’S 1915 PANAMA-Pacific International Exposition gave Italian sculptor Leo Lentelli, an assistant to an exposition official who was the father of sculptor Alexander Calder, the opportunity to create sculptural “water sprites” in its Court of Abundance. Lentelli also fashioned allegorical statues representing art, literature, philosophy, science and law for the city’s main library in 1918. Like his other works, those five larger-than-life cast stone library statues were not intended to last, but they’re still around, rescued at auction in 2004 by East Bay architects Lucia Howard and David Weinstein, whose company Piraneseum collects such decorative arts, some for sale. Now these Lentelli figures stand permanently on the edge of Howard and Weinstein’s circular evergreen garden in Lafayette, bordered by orange flowered Aloe arborescens succulents (not shown), large Brahea armata var. “clara” and small Chamaerops humilis var. “argentea” palms, Agave franzosinii agaves, and Miscanthus transmorrisonensis grasses.

The rich textural tableau reflects its creators: Howard and Weinstein (the latter happens to be maverick architect Charles Moore’s nephew) headed the postmodernist-oriented Oakland design firm Ace Architects in the 1980s. And garden designer Margaret Majua, founder of Bay Retail Enterprises, a multi-store company that sells whimsical souvenirs, belongs to an informal group of passionate horticulturists called — wait for it — the Hortisexuals. Bay Retail Enterprises, 510.610.2290

This article originally appeared in Spaces’s print edition under the headline: Home Grown”.