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

Carved into San Francisco’s hilly Chinatown, a newly renovated park and community clubhouse flip a disjointed recreation place into a new hub of intergenerational action. By mixing architecture and landscape design and style, the job transforms a complicated and awkward site into a rare, public social room for the densest neighborhood in the city.

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground, built by CMG Landscape Architecture and Jensen Architects for the city’s Recreation and Parks Section, has been an essential community space in tightly packed Chinatown for just about a century. Before, the fifty percent-acre park was a little bit of a jumble. Situated in the middle of a block, it experienced avenue accessibility on one particular facet, a connecting alleyway on another, and dim, cinderblock clubhouse on a 3rd. There have been enjoy regions for young kids one particular 1 fifty percent of the park close to the clubhouse and tennis and ball courts on the other aspect for more mature young ones and grownups, but none were being quickly accessed by the other people. And mainly because of the site’s hilly topography, the park’s flat spots experienced to be slash into the earth, leaving huge retaining walls, some 15 toes tall, that divided the place.

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Typically cited as the densest neighborhood west of Manhattan, San Francisco’s Chinatown has extended been bereft of out of doors area. The 30-block region is home to more than 18,000 persons, which includes an approximated 500 reduced-earnings family members residing in the cramped quarters of solitary-room occupancy (SRO) motels. Recreation house is generally tucked within properties like indoor basketball courts operate by the town and a YMCA gymnasium. Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground is 1 of just two parks with outside area for the community, and the only a single exclusively made to accommodate the neighborhood’s intergenerational populace and family members jammed into SROs.

The new structure unites the park’s disparate zones, with a bold overpass-design and style bridge serving as a connector and new heart of the space. Beneath there is a enjoy spot for toddlers that doubles as a day care website and playground, and above are ball courts and activity spaces for young children and older people and an exercise space for older persons. Using roof spaces as park surfaces, the total area results in being a multi-level indoor–outdoor community middle. “We’re reconnecting all these areas that have been genuinely disconnected before,” says Willett Moss, a lover at CMG Landscape Architecture.

[Image: courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Rethinking the park’s web site also needed balancing a lot of various people, specifically the older generations who have utilised this place for many years. Moss says the layout concentrated on generating an space exactly where the community’s seniors could get and be energetic. Located at the centre of the park, this exercise space offers a form of perch for seniors to glimpse out on the participate in regions about and underneath them—a park model of Jane Jacobs’s call for additional eyes on the avenue to increase the sense of safety and local community. “It’s like the panopticon of outdated people today,” Moss says. “It’s furnishing for the seniors in a way that they use the space.”

For an intergenerational park, it’s also a way to develop sectors within just the park that have apparent takes advantage of, so roughhousing teens can be on the rooftop basketball courtroom rather of bumping into somebody’s grandma on an training machine. “We used the topography to make those distinctions,” Moss states. The multi-level park nevertheless retains some of its important retaining walls, but a winding ramp and an elevator permit universal accessibility. The retaining walls that continue being have even develop into component of the park encounter, with youngsters applying them as canvasses for chalk drawings.

[Photo: Tan Chow/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The redesign also centered on increasing and bettering the clubhouse space, which the community and the Chinatown Local community Enhancement Centre lobbied the city’s parks department to maintain as a exceptional collecting area for group conferences and senior social situations. The designers acknowledged the clubhouse’s value, but thought it could deliver additional, in terms of space but also in phrases of relationship to the park and city outside the house. “The ’70s period clubhouse was manufactured thoroughly of [cinderblock] walls with really small regard to windows hunting out,” says architect Frank Merritt, a principal at Jensen Architects. “It was the local community who definitely chimed in and really recognized and bolstered the have to have and what they valued and claimed, ‘yeah, we will need a lot more in the clubhouse. It is not just a simple remodel.’”

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

The new house had broad openings to the park area, together with a sliding wall of doors that can totally open to the decrease park degree. A new entry to the clubhouse was made on the avenue, with large home windows changing the cinderblock. “That opened up a complete see up through the clubhouse into the playground and engage in location, and ended up getting vastly distinct from the dark, bunker-like area that it was prior to,” Merritt claims.

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Now it is being made use of for community group conferences and performances, as perfectly as for a day treatment. Renovated bogs are a considerably less glamorous but essential part of the redesign, states Merritt, and the resulting clubhouse and park blend is presently being embraced by the group since opening this summer season. Malcolm Yeung, govt director of the Chinatown Group Improvement Middle, suggests that the park has turn out to be a well known gathering area for the neighborhood’s inhabitants, specially the reduced-cash flow people living in the area’s SRO motels. “We see them working with that room on a common basis, significantly the playground,” he claims. “It’s already carrying out what it requirements to.”

[Photo: Bruce Damonte/courtesy CMG + Jensen]

Inspite of its cramped disorders and diversified ambitions, the park renovation manages to build anything for all its prospective customers. For the designers, these issues only sharpened the concentration on what the room wanted to be. “It was surely a blessing to have so lots of constraints,” Moss states. “It really will get you to minimize to the chase.”