2017 Awards

Design: Historic Preservation

Merit Award

Ghirardelli Square Plaza: Revitalizing an Icon
San Francisco, CA
Principal in Charge: Brian Jencek,
Client: Jamestown, L.P.

A heritage olive tree, one of the only remaining plant materials from the Halprin design creates the focal point of an intermediate level seating area.
In addition to matching samples of the original Halprin-era cast in place concrete paving, pedestal pavers were developed using the same
aggregate mix. The reconfigured stairs, seating and planters create a simplified layout, maximizing contiguous open space to increase use and flexibility.
Drought tolerant plantings provide a soft contrast to the concrete site walls and paving.
To maintain the integrity of the original 1960’s Upper Plaza design, the existing non-compliant ramp, which is a character defining feature of the Square was kept in place. Instead, an incline lift was added to meet ADA access requirements and provide access from the Fountain Plaza to the Upper Plaza.
A key aspect of the new design was a return to the simplified geometric layout evident in the Halprin design. Existing board formed concrete walls, another character defining feature of the Halprin design were incorporated into the new layout to the maximun extent possible.
Plantings of leymus arenarius and lavandula angustifolia create a layered frame and backdrop for the built in seatwall and redwood capped bench.
Recently renovated ground floor space within the Mustard Building located adjacent to the plaza provided the opportunity to create a seamless indoor/ outdoor connection with the exterior paving extending underneath the storefronts up to the original building wall.
A reconfigured planter simplifed the design of the Larkin Street entrance while providing better functionality. A new olive tree and a redwood capped seatwall were added to mark this prominent entrance.

From Woolen Mill to Ghirardelli Chocolate to our nation’s first major adaptive re-use project, the 160-year old Ghirardelli Square serves as one of America’s most enduring icons. In 1962, Lawrence Halprin and William Wurster, repurposed the historic factory buildings into a tourism destination, organized around a public plaza. Recognizing the cultural value for future generations, the Woolen and Ghirardelli Buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Since the 1980’s a series of exterior alterations departed from Halprin’s 1960’s vision, introducing challenges including inaccessibility, poor visual connections, excessive clutter, hindered Bay views, incompatible materials, and circulation pinch points. Over time, these challenges hindered use of the plaza and contributed to the Square’s decline. Commencing in 2014, our team was selected to lead the Vision and Master Plan, Design Guidelines, and design projects to revitalize the Square and steer future improvements. The city approved Vision Plan identified 14 on-going projects focused on improving public access; day, night and year-round uses; transportation connections; regional plantings; and compatible material and furnishings palettes.