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ASLA-NCC

Awards

2018 Awards

Design: Parks, Recreation, Trails and Open Space

Honor Award

South Park
San Francisco, CA
Fletcher Studio
Lead Landscape Architect: David Fletcher
Team Member: Cory Hallam Designer and Project Manager
Client: South Park Improvement Association

A field of mounding topography reaches up to meet the curves of the play structure, creating access to play features and providing informal play space. The layout of these mounds defines the path of an accessible slope that meanders along the edge of the structure.
Healthy existing trees were maintained and highlighted throughout the park. At the western entry, an old olive tree provides shade for a meadow and seating within a decomposed granite plaza. Two new olive trees provide further protection and privacy. Grey leaved plants surround this garden, paying respect to the majestic olive.
Monolithic concrete walls help to frame spaces, negotiate grades, and provide informal seating spaces. At the play area, the walls help contain play and provide protection from the adjacent street.
Although the elevation is extremely varied, in plan the custom-designed play structure reads as two perfect, concentric circles. Inspired by the flowing forms of roller coasters and by the nudibranch, a marine mollusc, the play area undulates to provide a wide array of play experiences for visitors of all ages.
Located at the heart of the park, the central plaza provides a main space for gathering. Flowering trees provide a scenic backdrop to seating while the park’’s historic sign welcomes visitors to the plaza.THe original park sign and pole were refurbished and reused.
The path system is comprised of site-cast, monolithically poured concrete tablets and sliders. The path responds to a variety of conditions across the site, shifting to accommodate contextual desires while maintaining a coherent modulation across the site. The 6 wide sliders become curbs, headers, and trenchdrains.
The concrete walls widen to create informal ‘stages’ for the daily theater of life at the park, providing space for the public to play music, rest, and play. The radius, extrusion depth, and orientation of skateboard deterrents along the tops of the walls were carefully designed to add a sense of playfulness to the site and feel incorporated into the site aesthetic.
The walkway cuts diagonally through the meadow, which is carefully graded to achieve the feeling of one big space. Granite blocks, unearthed during construction, are integrated into the paving to signal material transitions, protect planting, and to offer low seating.
While most parks separate spaces for dogs and people, this park utilizes its concrete walls in conjunction with perimeter plantings and benches to create feelings of enclosure and protection without the disruption of fences. The meadow is planted with a drought-tolerant, high-wear turf species.
For the first time in the park’s history, curb ramps provide ADA accessibility to the site. These ramps are located at main entry plazas, which offer a carefully curated collection of site furnishings with soft edges and minimalist aesthetic that blends seamlessly into the park design.
The meadow slopes down towards a large bio-retention garden, helping alleviate drainage issues on the site. Underground, a cistern collects water to help supplement the site’s irrigation needs. This garden separates the meadow from the central plaza, creating a sense of separation between the two areas while providing a performative and didactic stormwater feature adjacent to the main gathering space.
The pathway strategically widens to reveal flexible gathering space that brings together the diverse populations surrounding the park. These spaces serve a variety of needs, providing lunch and meeting space for local tech and design firms, seating for parents and dog-walkers, barbeque space for local residents, and a pleasant walk-through for those headed to the nearby baseball stadium.
The new design of the park may be described as a contemporary interpretation of the picturesque, guiding visitors along a carefully cho Meandering programmatic pathways are embraced by a series of long walls that flow through the park, defining spaces, holding grades, and providing seating and protection from adjacent streets. Open meadows, various scales of plazas, and a custom play structure offer spaces for community gathering. reographed, meandering pathway while revealing a variety of accessible amenities and flexible spaces.
Meandering programmatic pathways are embraced by a series of long walls that flow through the park, defining spaces, holding grades, and providing seating and protection from adjacent streets. Open meadows, various scales of plazas, and a custom play structure offer spaces for community gathering.

South Park is the oldest park in San Francisco. Over 162 years of evolution, South Park has served the needs of diverse populations, including immigrants, refugees, designers, artists, and young professionals. The park redesign builds on this history, while solving the site’s infrastructural issues and making the park accessible to all. The design team worked with the neighborhood over three years, to develop and improve the masterplan. The team used parametric software to help evaluate land use, circulation patterns, tree conditions and drainage systems, and also to generate multiple 3-D iterations for path and wall layouts. This analysis translated into the formation of a tightly bound material system with four key components: an expandable, modular paving system; large sloping meadows; vegetated infiltration basins; and low retaining walls that mediate between paving and planting areas. Using a single, meandering pathway to link public plazas, informal stages, bioretention gardens, gently sloping meadows, and a custom play structure with the surrounding neighborhood, the park ties together disparate functions and creates a space that offers diversity of use.