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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

January 2006 Issue

Demilitarized Zone
The Presidio makes room for a corporate headquarters designed by Lawrence Halprin.

By Mark Hinshaw

The Presidio makes room for a corporate headquarters designed by Lawrence Halprin. Photo by Tina Mills c Lucasfilm ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved

In 1998, the Presidio Trust was created to make San Francisco’s Presidio, the former military base that is now a national park, financially self-sufficient by 2013. To help accomplish this mission, the trust made 23 acres near the Fillmore Gate—then occupied by Letterman Hospital, a sprawling, multistory building surrounded by a gargantuan parking lot—available to the private sector for development proposals.

Several development teams submitted proposals that included housing, hotel, retail, and office space. One proposal came from film producer George Lucas, who wanted to relocate some of his companies from San Rafael, 20 miles north of San Francisco. His design team included Lawrence Halprin, FASLA.

From the outset, Lucas was not interested in the standard corporate headquarters. He wanted a set of buildings that would not reflect the “signature”—bombastic—corporate image. And he wanted to let the landscape predominate. To this end, Halprin suggested that by burying the parking underground, the entire place could be a lush, green environment. The cost of hiding more than a thousand stalls belowground would be extreme, but Lucas agreed with Halprin that it would be far better to place the cars out of sight. With a proposal ensuring that the maximum amount of property would be available for public enjoyment, the Lucas team succeeded in gaining rights to develop the site.

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