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 house into a new hub of intergenerational exercise. By mixing structure and panorama design, the venture transforms a difficult and awkward website into a uncommon, public social house for the densest neighborhood within the metropolis.

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground, designed by CMG Landscape Architecture and Jensen Architects for town’s Recreation and Parks Department, has been an vital public house in tightly packed Chinatown for practically a century. Before, the half-acre park was a little bit of a jumble. Situated 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 had 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 giant retaining partitions, some 15 ft tall, that divided the house.

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

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

The new design unites the park’s disparate zones, with a daring overpass-style bridge serving as a connector and new coronary heart of the house. Below there’s a play space for toddlers that doubles as a day care website and playground, and above are ball courts and recreation areas for youngsters and adults and an train space for older individuals. Using roof areas as park surfaces, the whole space turns into a multi-level indoor–outside group middle. “We’re reconnecting all these spaces that were really disconnected before,” says Willett Moss, a companion at CMG Landscape Architecture.

[Image: courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Rethinking the park’s website additionally required balancing many alternative customers, notably the older generations who’ve used this house for many years. Moss says the design targeted on creating an space the place the group’s seniors might collect and be lively. Located 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 beneath 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 like the panopticon of old people,” Moss says. “It’s providing for the seniors in a way that they use the space.”

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

[Photo: Tan Chow/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The redesign additionally targeted on increasing and enhancing the clubhouse house, which the group and the Chinatown Community Development Center lobbied town’s parks division to protect as a uncommon gathering house for group conferences and senior social occasions. The designers acknowledged the clubhouse’s significance, however thought it might present extra, by way of house but in addition by way of connection to the park and metropolis outdoors. “The ’70s era clubhouse was constructed fully of [cinderblock] walls with very little regard to windows looking out,” says architect Frank Merritt, a principal at Jensen Architects. “It was the community who really chimed in and actually recognized and reinforced the need and what they valued and said, ‘yeah, we need more in the clubhouse. It’s not just a simple remodel.’”

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The new house 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 giant home windows changing the cinderblock. “That opened up a full view up through the clubhouse into the playground and play area, and ended up being vastly different from the dark, bunker-like space that it was before,” Merritt says.

[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 bogs are a much less glamorous however vital 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 Community Development Center, says that the park has develop into a common gathering place for the neighborhood’s residents, particularly the low-income households residing within the space’s SRO lodges. “We see them using that space on a regular basis, particularly the playground,” he says. “It’s already accomplishing what it needs to.”

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Despite its cramped circumstances and diverse objectives, 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 house wanted to be. “It was definitely a blessing to have so many constraints,” Moss says. “It really gets you to cut to the chase.”

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