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Walking on Art Is Usually Frowned Upon. Not Here.

San Francisco has built some of the most beautiful and colorful stairs.

(Luke D. Murphy)
There are a lot of stairs in life, but few are as beautiful and colorful as San Francisco’s 16th Avenue Staircase. Located in the quiet, residential Sunset district, the staircase’s 163 step risers are covered in mosaic tiles that depict the sun, sky, oceans and beautiful gardens.

The project, which began in 2003, was inspired by the Selarón staircase in Rio de Janeiro, a popular tourist destination. Artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher spearheaded the project, which with the help of volunteers and a donation from the Mayor’s Neighborhood Beautification Fund, was completed just two years later in 2005.

They aren’t San Francisco’s only tiled steps, though. A nearby neighborhood convinced Barr and Crutcher six years later to also festoon the steps in a city park with mosaic tiles. Known as the Hidden Garden Steps, that design features flowers, succulents and other native plants in a garden setting.

Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.
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