Mint Plaza

San Francisco, CA

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Designing Agency Within Visitor Experience

As a pioneer and test case, Mint Plaza sets standards for economic and real estate development and stormwater management as a unifying forum for activity between two disparate yet growing neighborhoods. Envisioned as an urban stage, the iconic design belies its technical and programmatic complexity and creates a novel space for urban life. The clearest expression of the plaza’s accessibility and flexibility are the one hundred orange chairs scattered about, allowing visitors to shape their own experience by choosing to arrange chairs in the bright sunlight, the shade of a gingko tree, or a resting place in the speckled light that filters through the arbor’s vine cover. The elegance and simplicity of the project, coupled with thoughtful consideration of the context and program, exemplifies successful urban place-making and landscape architecture in an era of limited resources.

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Seeing the potential for stormwater management, CMG led the design of a system that could navigate the complex infrastructure found below city streets. The plaza surface is formed by two gently sloped planes, meeting at a slot drain that directs stormwater into two gardens. Each planting area functions as a filter for rain runoff. By retaining and infiltrating stormwater on-site, the plaza reduces stress on the city’s combined sewer system, helping to protect the Bay from wastewater discharge.

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Mint Plaza is an economic and social catalyst for the downtown neighborhood and a prototype of urban stormwater management best practices. Programming throughout the year is facilitated by Friends of Mint Plaza, who bring concert series, food trucks, farmer’s markets, performances, and other events to the city at the plaza. In 2010, Mint Plaza was awarded an EPA Smart Growth Award for Civic Spaces.