South Park, San Francisco
South Park, San Francisco’s oldest public park, is a unique and historical area. The park, modeled after an English strolling park, was originally built as the centerpiece of this exclusive neighborhood. Years of activity, however, took their toll and the park fell into disrepair.
The Recreation Park Department, South Park Improvement Association, park neighbors and community leaders wanted to restore it to its original glory. Fletcher Studio Landscape Architecture, an award-winning landscape architecture firm, was commissioned to develop a master plan for the park, bringing the revitalized vision to reality. The new design can be described as a contemporary interpretation of the English strolling garden.
The project entailed upgrading the park’s infrastructure, including new paths, irrigation, drainage, site lighting, landscaping, swooping meadows and a new stage area for performances.
One striking addition: a custom universal play area with undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface. This flowing contemporary design by Fletcher and the 100% custom designed structure by Berliner makes it a truly one-of-a-kind design, one that has never been done before!
David Yosso, President of Specified Play Equipment Company and Berliner’s exclusive representative for Northern California, calls the South Park design a “sculptural, playful art piece designed for all ages and imaginations.”
From a bird’s eye view, the play structure appears to be a perfect circle. From an elevation view, you see the undulations and curvatures.
The undulating curvatures rise from two feet to 10 feet with no visible upright posts. All posts, six of them, are below grade. The mounding underneath the playground follows the curvature of the equipment, effectively hiding the upright posts and making the structure appear to float.
The different types of nets offer various degrees of challenge with plenty of footing and handholds for children to safely climb up and down, horizontally and vertically. Net climbers offer visual transparency, keeping sight lines open.
Berliner’s proprietary Charlotte Connectors, which make the rope ends disappear inside the steel tubes, allow for tension adjustments to be made on site, resulting in a more harmonic net geometry as well as improved longevity.
This structure offers a perfect example of the optimum amount of risk with no single route and no known conclusion!
The modern, almost industrial color choice reinforces the concept that this is more than a playground; it is almost like public art, complementing the many tech-related and design companies that call South Park home.
Play elements integrated into the flowing design include a banister, which provides an elegant alternative to a slide, and a multi-user, accessible saucer swing.
The playground in any community provides a distinctive landmark; however, South Park is more than a playground. It provides a lesson in redesigning a public space; combining the play value needed by children with the aesthetic appeal and style desired by adults – making it the perfect place for the whole family.
All photos courtesy of Fangzhour Miao and Chris Watkins.