Frederick Law Olmstead had originally been asked to design Golden Gate Park in the style of Central Park in New York and had suggested using native planting and working with the local conditions which was quite a radical suggestion for the time.  However San Francisco wanted a Park Like Central Park and subsequently the design and implementation was given to William Hammond Hall, an engineer, and plantsman John McLaren.

In order to create a verdant  parkland, Hammond Hall had to stabilize the sand dunes, to do this he Sowed seed of wild Lupine and sea bent grass over the dunes and over this he laid topsoil, manure and organic matter, a fence covered in branches was located about 100 feet from the shoreline to divert the prevailing on shore wind and by 1873 the sand dunes had been tamed.  The main water for the park comes from the Westside basin Aquifer. This was originally pumped out using the two large windmills in the park. I am not sure if this is how it is still done but one of the windmills was being reconstructed while I was there.

courtyard between the Deyoung museum and the Academy of science

Fountains and promenade, Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Golden gate park operates under the Federal Department of the Interior and the policies of the  National Park Services

The Park is managed by a General Superintendant and his deputy and several operational and administrative departments. The Parks staff is helped by volunteers giving over 350,000 hours of work per year.

In Complete contrast to Golden Gate Park, Chrissy Field at the base of  Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio, has been designed and built to work with rather than against its location. Previously covered in asphalt as part of the Presidio military base, Chrissy Fields, designed by Hargreaves associates has been restored as a recreation area, natural habitat and historic Park. The link takes you to the Crissy field website and is well worth looking at. I visited Golden Gate Park and Crissy Field on the same sunny sunday, both were busy, Crissy field blends into the  existing landscape and does not have the feel of a designed park.  The two are hard to compare on a like for like basis Golden Gate is obviously a beautifully designed Park in the style of Central Park and other great Parks of the 19th Century. Both are very popular with residents and visitors;  Crissy Field is very informal, not so much of a ‘destination’  as Golden Gate, it is a local public space for cyclists, joggers and dog walkers with picnic tables and barbeques. Some of the aircraft hangers that remain on site from its time as an airbase, have been turned into recreation facilities, with a yoga space, trampoline shed and climbing walls. It seems to me to embody the true spirit of San Francisco, freedom, simplicity, wild beauty, and care for the environment.

View over Crissy Field with San Francisco in the background

Over view of Crissy Field from the Presidio

View across Crissy Field towards the Golden Gate

Crissy Field ocean promenade

picnic area in Crissy Field

I couldn’t go to golden Gate Park without mentioning the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Science; Both are amazing buildings, the Science museum with its rolling green roof that mirrors the hills surrounding San Francisco, and the DeYoung museum with its angular shape and hammered and hole punched copper facade.

The Science Museum was designed by Renzo Piano and incorporates a curved green roof. The roof  has seven curved domes  which are  designed to blend with the topography of  the hills that surround San Francisco.There is 197,000 square foot of rooftop that is covered in native plant species. 50,000 biodegradable trays made of  tree sap and coconut husks, called Biotrays were used to accommodate the plants and stop the soil from moving until the plants could establish and set down enough roots to anchor themselves and stop the soil from sliding off.

Green Roof with vents open

Green roof with hills in the background

Green roof view 3

Planting at the front of the Academy of Science

The new  DeYoung Museum was opened in October 2005 and cost $202 million.

Designed by Herzog and De Meuron of Switzerland it is a three story steel and glass building with a 9 story  educational tower and observation deck. The exterior facade is custom made copper and very beautiful. The Ove Arup group of California were the mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractor and Fong and Chan of San Francisco were the principal architects. The Landscape Architects were Hood Design of Oakland. I am presuming that Ove Arup also designed the lighting as they were the electrical engineers, the lamp posts are a very interesting (I think beautiful) shape.

The tower of the De Young Museum

Facade of the De Young Museum

Facade of the De Young Museum

Front of the De Young Museum


Lighting in front of the DeYoung Museum

Landscaping in front of the De Young Museum

Not too sure about the strip lighting being at a different angle to the paving

Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens is a small park in downtown San Francisco between the Metreon, SF MOMA and the Moscone Centre. It is a beautiful and well used pocket park that incorporates a butterfly garden, fountains, performance area, sculpture, and a memorial to Martin Luther King. On the day I visited, the weather was really hot and it was great to walk through the MLK memorial behind the waterfall, it is a lovely cool area on a hot day. The park was busy, but not crowded, there were people eating lunch, sun bathing, walking or just sitting watching the waterfall and looking at the view. It is one of my favourite central San Francisco spaces.

View over Yerba Buena Gardens

View through the Martin Luther King Memorial

View from behind the MLK memorial fountain

View across the water feature on the upper terrace of Yerba Buena Gardens

View into Yerba Buena Garden from the street

Butterfly garden area at Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena Gardens was begun as a project to promote the city’s diverse artistic community. It opened in 1993 and was designed by Japanese Architect Fumittiko Maki. The Martin Luther King Memorial is 20 foot high and fifty foot wide and made of Sierra Granite. The waterfall was designed by sculptor Houston Conwell.


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