McLaren Park + Playground

San Francisco, CA

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Image Credit: Courtney Yee

Bringing Playgrounds to Underserved Communities

Building on the vision established as part of the planning process, the design team engaged the community in a series of workshops that brought together inter-generational groups, from seniors who have cared for the park for decades, to kindergarten students to develop the design concept. The outcome is a subtle but sculptural response to the context and the program, reflecting the community’s desire to celebrate the natural surroundings and topography of the site. In partnership with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and SF Parks Alliance, Redwood Grove Playground and Group Picnic Area is one of the 13 playground transformations funded by the LetsPlaySF! Initiative. The new playground and picnic area serve the children and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods of Portola, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale, Crocker-Amazon, Outer Mission, and the Excelsior.

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Taking advantage of an existing sloped area, an accessible path spirals around a hillock, past a natural North American black locust logjam that offers adventurous, social, imaginative play for school-age kids. At the peak, kids climb to the top of a 20’ log and net tower for spectacular views of the city and bay and descend through a 16’ tube slide back to the base of the spiral. An embankment slide, swings, hammock, and curving bench offer more diverse play opportunities, while boulders and natural timber steps and bridges ring the base of the playground, providing slope stabilization, access, and natural interest. The design solution is both contextual and objective, immersed in and contrasting with its surroundings to create an identifiable landmark. Image Credit: Drew Kelly
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Image Credit: Drew Kelly

McLaren Park is the result of the dedication of a diverse community and their collaboration with public and private organizations. The co-creative process, from visioning to designing and building the playground is exemplary of participatory design and community building through place-keeping. It is the first of many steps identified as part of the vision plan to incrementally restore and renew McLaren Park for current residents and generations to come.