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2002 Award Winners
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Merit Award -- Design

Crissy Field
San Francisco, California

Hargreaves Associates

Lauren Mitchell
Associate, Hargreaves Associates
2020 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel: 415-865-1811
Fax: 415-865-1810
lmitchell@hargreaves.com

Statement of Purpose: Crissy Field, as a landscape design, was intended to accomplish several widely divergent goals, among them:

  1. "Restore" a naturally functioning and sustaining tidal wetland as a habitat for flora and fauna currently not in evidence on site.

  2. "Restore" an historic grass airfield that functioned as a culturally significant military airfield between 1919 and 1936.

  3. Expand and widen the recreational opportunities of the existing mile and half San Francisco shore to a broader number of residents and visitors to the Presidio.

The prevailing site condition was that of a derelict concrete and asphalt paved airstrip, surrounded by miles of rusting chain link fencing, left to decay since the facility closed in 1973. and the Presidio officially decommissioned in 1994.

Presidio Archives yielded voluminous data, written and photographic, that established that both the airfield and wetland occupied the same geographic space at different points in time. The project directive to "restore" both resources, even though neither currently existed to any noticeable degree appeared contradictory if not impossible.

The semantics of restoring degraded or non-existent resources was reconceived by the landscape architects as a challenge to "re-establish" both park components. Generally perceived to be mutually exclusive, into a single integrated public open space.

Community Context: Community input provided the breakthrough to the logjam regarding whether to favor natural over historical resource in any design, by strongly reiterating that Crissy Field is first and foremost an urban location with the demands for modern and future recreational program. Donor fundraising emphasized that any design would necessarily have to emphasize the educational qualities of interpreting and explaining the complex natural and cultural forces that led to the physical and social development of the Presidio. as well as made the resources accessible to the maximum number of visitors. Community and donor input focused the design on functioning and future-oriented landscape.

Role of the landscape architect/entrant vs. the role of other participants, including owner/client and collaborators: The landscape architects compiled data with and independently of the owner, to develop alternate physical configurations for a remade landscape, focused on a singular vision of public open space. The owner/client channeled internal discussions, donor recommendations and public meeting input into directives for moving the project forward toward construction. Ultimately, an illustrative vision for the site folded competing interests into an agreeable direction.

Special Factors: In the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, everyone involved understood that this project represented the first and most important step in making the Presidio more accessible to the public. Toxic soil removal, archaeological discoveries, and tidal prism calculations subjected the design to evolution, through construction. The expectation that full restoration of wetlands or the airfield was subject to downsizing given the need to operate within a set boundary even though the historic resources ranged beyond.

Significance: The landscape architects walked a fine line between owner direction and public demands to generate the vision for the landscape. Public perception ranged from the belief that the landscape architects were merely the mouthpiece of the client to that of designers pained to bring together divergent goals and desires with limited financial budgets. In the end, the built work reflects a singular landscape vision within which seemingly incompatible program uses and landscape typologies coexist in an integrated rather than segregated landscape.

The project is worth consideration in that it has successfully navigated through a challenging design process. Which brought the skills of landscape architects to the forefront of design on a local and regional scale. The success with which the project has met reflects positively on the landscape architects. as well as the profession in terms of demonstrating the specialized skill for conceiving a design vision and actually articulating the built work through construction.

Client Statement: Crissy Field represents an environmental conservation and restoration project with a local, non-profit agency and a federal agency. The landscape architects succeed in transforming this 10o-acre area that is truly in keeping with the beauty and historical significance of its setting. The restoration of Crissy Field created new and meaningful ways for the people of the San Francisco Bay Area to connect with the park's natural resources. Prior to its restoration, public access at Crissy Field was limited primarily to a narrow stretch along the shoreline. With most historic structures off-limits and the area dominated by rubble and unsightly asphalt, there were few opportunities for people to safely use and appreciate this historically significant area. Once approved, implementation of the plan was stimulated by a leadership gift totally $18 million from the family of Walter J. Haas. The client raised an additional $16 million in funds to complete the project. Public participation went beyond monetary donations. Elementary school children seeded plants from the client's nurseries and later transplanted them to the site; high school students worked in teams on the marsh edge. In all, more than 100,000 native plants have been planted at Crissy Field.

2002 Award Winners
Press Releases
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