Design Review: Massive Civic Center Renovation Proposed in San Francisco

The city of San Francisco is proposing an ambitious renovation of its Civic Center—the series of public spaces connecting Market Street to City Hall.
March 6, 2019, 1pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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One of the boards from a recent Community Open House for the Civic Center Public Realm Plan.
City and County of San Francisco

The San Francisco Planning Department recently revealed conceptual designs for a major renovation of the Civic Center. San Francisco Chronicle Architecture and Urban Design Critic John King has a review, which commences with this summary:

San Francisco’s new vision for the core of Civic Center strikes an ambitious, inventive balance between Beaux-Arts grandeur and small-scale welcome. The present and the past.

This doesn’t mean it is flawless. Or that design alone can solve the social challenges that now mar the procession of spaces from City Hall east to Market Street. But it’s a provocative starting point if we’re to be serious about the troubled district’s long-term health and not just pushing squalor out of sight.

One potentially controversial piece at the center of the Civic Center is the United Nations Plaza, designed by Lawrence Halprin. King reports that "United Nations Plaza would keep its current form, and the granite slab-studded fountain designed by Lawrence Halprin would stay. However, the fountain would be altered so as to make passage through it accessible to people with disabilities."

Right now, city planners are hoping to achieve the ambitious menu of changes proposed in the conceptual designs in phases. "There’s plenty more to do, no question," writes King to conclude. "If work does proceed — to environmental studies later this year and then the search for funding — design details are certain to change."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2019 in San Francisco Chronicle
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