2013 Awards

Design: Parks, Recreation, Trails and Open Space

Merit Award

San Francisco Botanical Garden Paths
San Francisco, CA
Interstice Architects
Project Principal: Zoee Astrakhan
Project Landscape Architect: James Munden
Project Designers: Jon Ganey and Maren Meyers
Client: San Francisco Botanical Garden Society

The Garden Walk: Boardwalk through East Asian Garden—Platforms and steps allow for docent opportunities to pause and reflect, or for classes of young garden enthusiasts to observe the surrounding plant collections at closer proximity overlooking the collection pond below. Opportunities for connectivity to the network of hundreds of existing smaller less formal pathways that allow for exploration of the collections were carefully taken into account.
The Garden Walk: Boardwalk through East Asian Garden—Retaining wall structures and the boardwalk structure allow the design of the path to coexist and bring the visitor in close proximity to the existing mature plant collection.
Fountain PlazaFountain Plaza—The Fountain Plaza and Great Lawn pathways were subtly re-defined to reduce pathway crossing the open lawn space and to provide an event infrastructure for bands and Garden Feasts in the future.
New Path to the Strybing Memorial Bench & South African Garden—A new stretch of pathway brings visitors past the Helene Strybing Memorial Bench, honoring her bequest to create the Arboretum. This previously little known feature of the garden sits on the main historical east-west axis to which the project added two crossing paths that highlight this important visual connection.
Construction—Critical collaborators in both the design and construction process were consulting arborists, irrigation consultants, a structural engineer and the field construction team, all of whom were vitally aware of the goal to limit the impact on existing vegetation and especially mature trees both above and below the ground.
Construction—Collaboration occurred at all stages of the project process. SFBGS Board Members, SF Recreation Parks Dpt. staff, Collections & Curatorial Staff, Arborists and Horticultural and irrigation Consultants, all worked closely to prioritize plant materials of special significance and protect existing specimens.  Through the project way-finding and access was improved to all gardens, while unnecessary asphalt paths were eliminated, to return over two acres back to the collections.
Construction—To avoid any pressure to the existing roots of the ancient Beach tree central to the Takamine Garden, special “pin” foundation footings were placed lightly on the soil. From these concrete dodecahedrons 30ft pipes extend outward in a star-like pattern into the earth to support
The Garden Walk:  Boardwalk through East Asian Garden—The Garden Walk includes a stretch of boardwalk that sweeps around the existing very large and sculptural mature beech tree that is the centerpiece of this garden.  The design team, including landscape architect, arborist, structural engineer and collections staff carefully placed this walkway into the existing context on pin foundations near the existing Beech and to avoid disrupting the existing collection of Asian Chamaecyparis.
The Turn: Intersection with Garden Walk—The intersection of the repaved Turn leads from the Great Lawn to the Garden Walk, and provides new access to the East Asian Garden.  The large Walnut tree was one of the mature trees that was protected during the construction process.  New signage is located to reinforce the way-finding at key moments along the paths.
The Turn: View from Friend Gate to Fountain Plaza —Seen here from the north gate (Friend Gate) the Turn makes fully accessible the Primitive Plant Garden, the South African Garden, the Great Meadow and Fountain Plaza, the Demonstration Garden, the Garden of Fragrance and the Rhododendron Garden, in a leisurely 45 minute walk.
The Turn: View Across the Wildfowl Pond—The establishment and new alignment of the “Turn” provides a universally accessible path loop with signage and subtle indications in the pavement to guide the visitor on a brief tour of the Botanical Garden. The Turn links the Main entries and visits six different gardens, the Great Lawn and the wildfowl pond.
Pathways Improvements, Protected Trees and Collections Map—Over 4 miles of paths were altered, re-aligned, and resurfaced to provide a rejuvenated network accessing the Garden’s collections defining three distinct walks of varying length the Turn, the Garden Walk and the Collections Trail. Protection of the critical resources of the Garden–the plants–is reflected in the map that shows the protected trees, in relation to the newly established routes, as well as those paths that were turned back to garden for future expansion of the collection.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, in the famed Golden Gate Park is a unique 55-acre garden–a museum of plants and extraordinary “outdoor classroom”, displaying over 8,000 plants from around the world…yet at the turn of this century its pathways were failing. In desperate need of significant infrastructure upgrades to its aging pathways, way-finding, and amenities, this world class collection was difficult or impossible to explore for some of its over 200 thousand annual visitors.

This project restored universal accessibility to formerly inaccessible collections, creating paths and boardwalks through sensitive sanctuaries, and tactfully negotiating hundreds of character-defining, mature Monterey Cypress and Pines, planted at GG Park’s inception. This intricate intervention addressed these and other challenges with minimal operational disruption.

Ultimately the success of this public-private collaboration was arrived at through the interweaving and interaction of the historic design, the master plan, the irreplaceable collection, and the dedication of the stakeholders and caretakers of this treasured garden.