27. April 2017

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.