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Presidio Trust design proposals prioritize accessibility

Charged with attracting visitors—but not mobs of tourists—to a freshly blank outdoor space, design firm West 8, based in Rotterdam, Brussels, and New York, proposes a number of innovative ideas.

  1. A sloped oval-shaped walkway, that’s accessible to all.
  2. An enclosed meadow in the center of the walkway.
  3. Softer grass in the meadow, making it clear it’s a spot for people to kick off their shoes and stay awhile.
presidio trust

West 8’s plan for the Presidio Parklands. From designboom.

The space in question is in San Francisco’s Presidio Parklands, where a tunnel has replaced an elevated highway. Between the San Francisco Bay and the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge there’s now a gap in need of design. A forward-thinking federal agency, the Presidio Trust, was established to transform and save the space for public use.

This challenge and opportunity has inspired creativity from many other design firms as well. West 8 and four others were recently named the top five finalists bidding for the project. The others include:

  • James Corner Field Operations, of New York, proposing a design that adds an amphitheater and a reflective sculpture to the space, heightening the effect of the views.
  • Olin, based in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, proposing u-shaped zones, focusing attention on the views, as well as sculptural structures to be used for shelter and events.
  • Snohetta, of Oslo, which uses arcs and strands to emphasize a natural-looking landscape, where buildings and outlook ledges look as if they belong. (See here if the word “strands” throws you.)
  • CMG Landscape Architecture, of San Francisco, whose design creates an Observation Post where visitors can spend time admiring the bay; a “cyanoscope,” which allows them to check out the “blueness” of the sky; listening coves, for an enhanced aural experience of the parklands; and a kinetic dune fence that moves with the wind.

The questions at this point are clear: Which of these designs will best showcase the Presidio Parklands? Which might best enhance the natural offerings of the landscape? Which one will attract visitors while at the same time preserving the space mainly for community use?

By January, we’ll have an answer in the choice made by the Presidio Trust. Though the design firms’ plans differ in various ways, they share a common, admirable vision with their out-of-box thinking.

Whatever shape the space takes, we can rest assured that creativity promises to make it remarkable.

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