It looks almost if nothing's been done, and like any really good facelift, that's high praise. We paid a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge's new south plaza over the weekend. Landscape architects Surface Design fulfilled their brief admirably, creating new public spaces, newly-accessible paths and managing to separate bike and pedestrian use (always the source of potential conflict). And kudos to the client, the Parks Conservancy of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, for providing the funds and the vision to pull this off. The old parking lot has been reduced with Jensen Architects' new Bridge Pavilion and Surface Design's new Cable Overlook, named for an impressive sample of suspension bridge. There's a new main plaza which replaces some old roadway, leading out to the relocated statue of the bridge's builder, Joseph Strauss, and dropping down to other view terraces, one of which incorporates part of the c.1902 Lancaster battery structure, a reminder of when this was a military installation. With the restored Bridge Round House (a restaurant until the '70s) and the 1938 Bridge Cafe, the ensemble as a whole is a subtle, multi-layered project that unfolds in a matchless setting.
We were puzzled at first by Jensen's Bridge Pavilion, a new building that gives the parking lot some dimension, along with the ubiquitous gift shop and an exhibition on the bridge's construction. It's perfect for the site, but the wall facing the bridge view is oddly blank, without so much as porthole looking out— which we'll just assume has to do with the programmatic requirements of the gift shop, the exhibition, or Homeland Security— or a mix of all three.
While we'd have loved to see a restaurant back in the Bridge Round House, there are probably too many overlapping code requirements and jurisdictions to have made that practical. EHDD worked on the Round House renovation and had previously teamed up with Surface Design on another recent Parks Conservancy project, the breathtaking but subtle Lands End Visitor Center.
· Golden Gate Bridge Coverage [Curbed SF Archives]
· Golden Gate 75th Anniversary [Curbed SF Archives]
· Surface Design [SDISF]
· Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion [Jensen Architects]
· Out At Lands End, A New Visitor Center [Curbed SF]
· Parks Conservancy [GGNRA Parks Conservancy]