Civic Center Public Space Design

San Francisco, CA

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Designing for Inclusivity at San Francisco’s Historic Center

Creating an inclusive, elegant oasis that fulfills the ambitions of the 1912 Beaux-Arts plan, the project vision weaves together equity, beauty, and ecology within ceremonial and neighborhood spaces. The plan supports daily public life by actively engaging the district’s institutions and connecting current and future neighbors, 50,000 employees, and residents citywide. Honoring the district’s history of political activism, the vision will forge civic connections in the broadest sense. The vision addresses three design goals. A Landmark District: Within the overarching Beaux-Arts structure of axial relationships and symmetry, spaces are arranged for performance, recreation and gathering. A Flexible, Accessible, Ceremonial Gathering Space: Playful places to see and be seen frame flexible plazas for events and festivals, in which the diversity of culture unique to San Francisco can be celebrated. An Inviting Place that Welcomes Everyday Use: A variety of features and amenities are distributed across the public realm, to invite people from all over the city and all walks of life to enjoy these important public spaces.

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The plan unifies the public realm through an expanded plaza footprint, creates multiple locations for civic gatherings connected by a generous civic promenade, actively engages adjacent civic and cultural institutions, and incorporates existing and new program uses that support vital public life at all hours of day and night. The Helen Diller Playgrounds, Bi-Rite Kiosk, ongoing activation through the Civic Center Commons Initiative, and the Heart of the City Farmers Market have demonstrated how the addition of specific amenities and events fosters and strengthens community bonds and identity, through shared use and embodiment of civic values.

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The Civic Center Public Space Design remakes a mid-century landscape that has been designed and managed for exclusion into a civic space of inclusion – a place that reflects the cultural, social, and economic diversity of the neighborhoods it serves, and embodies the democratic values of the city it represents.