An iconic San Francisco park gets a 21st-century update


Carved into San Francisco’s hilly Chinatown, a newly renovated park and group clubhouse flip a disjointed recreation area into a new hub of intergenerational exercise. By mixing structure and panorama design, the undertaking transforms a difficult and awkward website into a uncommon, public social area for the densest neighborhood within the metropolis.

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[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground, designed by CMG Landscape Architecture and Jensen Architects for the town’s Recreation and Parks Division, has been an essential public area in tightly packed Chinatown for almost a century. Earlier than, the half-acre park was a little bit of a jumble. Located in the midst of a block, it had avenue entry on one facet, a connecting alleyway on one other, and darkish, cinderblock clubhouse on a third. There have been play areas for youthful youngsters one one half of the park close to the clubhouse and tennis and ball courts on the opposite facet for older youngsters and adults, however none had been simply accessed by the others. And due to the location’s hilly topography, the park’s flat areas needed to be lower into the earth, leaving massive retaining partitions, some 15 ft tall, that divided the area.

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[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Usually cited because the densest neighborhood west of Manhattan, San Francisco’s Chinatown has lengthy been bereft of outside area. The 30-block space is house to greater than 18,000 individuals, together with an estimated 500 low-income households residing within the cramped quarters of single-room occupancy (SRO) motels. Recreation area is usually tucked inside buildings like indoor basketball courts run by the town and a YMCA fitness center. Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground is considered one of simply two parks with out of doors area for the neighborhood, and the one one particularly designed to accommodate the neighborhood’s intergenerational inhabitants and households jammed into SROs.

The brand new design unites the park’s disparate zones, with a daring overpass-style bridge serving as a connector and new coronary heart of the area. Under there’s a play space for toddlers that doubles as a day care website and playground, and above are ball courts and sport areas for youngsters and adults and an train space for older individuals. Utilizing roof areas as park surfaces, the complete space turns into a multi-level indoor-outdoor group middle. “We’re reconnecting all these areas that had been actually disconnected earlier than,” says Willett Moss, a companion at CMG Panorama Structure.


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[Image: courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Rethinking the park’s website additionally required balancing many alternative customers, notably the older generations who’ve used this area for many years. Moss says the design centered on creating an space the place the group’s seniors might collect and be lively. Situated on the middle of the park, this train space gives a form of perch for seniors to look out on the play areas round and under them—a park model of Jane Jacobs’s name for extra eyes on the street to enhance the sense of security and group. “It’s just like the panopticon of previous individuals,” Moss says. “It’s offering for the seniors in a method that they use the area.”

For an intergenerational park, it’s additionally a approach to create sectors throughout the park which have clear makes use of, so roughhousing teenagers could be on the rooftop basketball courtroom as a substitute of bumping into anyone’s grandma on an train machine. “We utilized the topography to make these distinctions,” Moss says. The multi-level park nonetheless retains a few of its obligatory retaining partitions, however a winding ramp and an elevator enable common accessibility. The retaining partitions that stay have even grow to be a part of the park expertise, with youngsters utilizing them as canvasses for chalk drawings.

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[Photo: Tan Chow/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The redesign additionally centered on increasing and bettering the clubhouse area, which the group and the Chinatown Neighborhood Growth Heart lobbied the town’s parks division to protect as a uncommon gathering area for group conferences and senior social occasions. The designers acknowledged the clubhouse’s significance, however thought it might present extra, when it comes to area but additionally when it comes to connection to the park and metropolis outdoors. “The ’70s period clubhouse was constructed totally of [cinderblock] partitions with little or no regard to home windows searching,” says architect Frank Merritt, a principal at Jensen Architects. “It was the group who actually chimed in and truly acknowledged and bolstered the necessity and what they valued and mentioned, ‘yeah, we want extra within the clubhouse. It’s not simply a easy transform.’”

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[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The brand new area had broad openings to the park space, together with a sliding wall of doorways that may utterly open to the decrease park stage. A brand new entry to the clubhouse was created on the road, with massive home windows changing the cinderblock. “That opened up a full view up by way of the clubhouse into the playground and play space, and ended up being vastly completely different from the darkish, bunker-like area that it was earlier than,” Merritt says.

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[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Now it’s getting used for group group conferences and performances, in addition to for a day care. Renovated loos are a much less glamorous however essential a part of the redesign, says Merritt, and the ensuing clubhouse and park mixture is already being embraced by the group since opening this summer time. Malcolm Yeung, government director of the Chinatown Neighborhood Growth Heart, says that the park has grow to be a in style gathering place for the neighborhood’s residents, particularly the low-income households residing within the space’s SRO motels. “We see them utilizing that area on a common foundation, notably the playground,” he says. “It’s already engaging in what it must.”

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[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Regardless of its cramped situations and diversified targets, the park renovation manages to create one thing for all its potential customers. For the designers, these challenges solely sharpened the concentrate on what the area wanted to be. “It was undoubtedly a blessing to have so many constraints,” Moss says. “It actually gets you to chop to the chase.”