The Palace of Fine Artsi is a building originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who took his inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture. The lagoon was intended to echo those found in classical settings in Europe, where the expanse of water provides a mirror surface to reflect the grand buildings and an undisturbed vista to appreciate them from a distance.
The Palace of Fine Arts was one of only two buildings from the exposition not to be demolished. The exhibition hall, which originally housed Impressionist paintings during the exposition, is now home to the Exploratorium, a state of the art interactive science museum.
A single dome remains from the eight identical structures that were originally constructed. Towering colonnaded walkways linked the buildings on the site, but only a few remain intact.
The dome and the adjacent lagoon have often been used as backdrops for movies, such as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. One of the more recent sequences takes place in The Rock, where FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) finally catches up with John Mason (Sean Connery).