Posted on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 by Jim Norrena
Lower Potrero plaza is the latest Pavement to Parks project created by the San Francisco Planning Department.
With the fall term up and running, CCA’s San Francisco campus has gone from mild to wild with new and continuing students populating every corner. Yet if you haven’t already noticed, a new public corner exists where previously only hapless drivers cruised back and forth for that one opportune spot in which to park—and it’s called the Lower Potrero plaza.
In customary CCA style, Graphic Design staff and faculty were quick on their toes to secure the not-yet-open-to-the-public space for the department's kick-off mixer and BBQ held Thursday, September 10. (Yes, the taco truck was on hand, too!) While not the official park opening, it was definitely CCA's inaugural use of this welcomed community space—the first of many to come. Watch the slideshow of the event.
Developed and funded by the San Francisco Planning Department as part of its Pavement to Parks initiative, which is based on similar successful city-planning projects in New York, the latest installation brings to three the total number of popular community-building landscape-architecture projects. The other installations are located at Castro and 17th streets and San Jose Avenue and Guerrero Street.
Lower Potrero plaza, affectionately coined "Showplace Plaza," is located in the 1200 block of 16th Street at the now cordoned-off intersection of 16th and Eighth streets, neatly positioned between Axis Café and Wolfe’s Lunch. The public area is a makeshift, temporary park derived from donated surplus materials (broken marble slabs, demolished concrete pieces, transportable plants, steel chains) that have been repurposed and designed to create an inviting, sustainable, and socially hospitable place to commune. The brainstorming behind Lower Potrero plaza is credited to the REBAR Group, an interdisciplinary studio based in San Francisco that operates "at the intersection of art, design, and activism."
In seeking to better understand how this blight-to-bright endeavor benefits CCA, aside from providing an ideal location for such student-centric gatherings as readings, award-acknowledgment celebrations, exhibition openings, or even student committee–planning meetings, I turned to Director of Research and Planning David Meckel to weigh in regarding some of the farther-reaching implications:
Aside from the immediate change in scenery, what are some of the other foreseeable benefits for CCA in terms of its proximity to the Lower Potrero plaza project?
This part of the city was developed as an industrial neighborhood, and as such has very little open space and very few public buildings. Jackson Park is the only public open space and the firehouse at Vermont and 16th streets is the only public building. As part of the Eastern Neighborhoods Rezoning effort, CCA has been hosting San Francisco Planning Department workshops to investigate where and how to create more publicly accessible open space. We started this process with a walking tour attended by community members and CCA students and faculty, including the FARM group. Download the tour map.
Will the space be accessible for art presentations? What about the possibility of permanent art installations?
As for the Pavement to Parks project, there has only been time for one workshop, and the FARM group, other CCA students, and faculty all attended and participated. The space is designed pro bono by John Bela of the REBAR Group, who is teaching here in the fall. The programming/curating of the space will be coordinated by CCA and Axis Café with the thought that events such as the Graphic Design kick-off mixer and BBQ and art installations—temporary, since the space itself is temporary—can happen here.
Were any CCA faculty, staff, students, or other related community involved in the design?
Yes, but not as many as we would have liked since the planning happened over the summer. We believe there will be ample opportunity for those in the CCA community who wish to contribute to the further development of the space to do so throughout the coming year.
What are some other ways CCA might create greener vistas around campus? Can students be involved?
The major way to do this is through the San Francisco Planning Department’s Open Space planning process, which everyone can participate in. Come to the next San Francisco Planning Department workshop this month.
Thanks, David! If you have additional questions for David Meckel regarding CCA's commitment to sustainable design practices, email email@example.com.
To learn more about how cities such as San Francisco are reenvisioning their city streets to be more in line with today’s need for sustainable urban design, visit Livable Streets Initiative and check out the postings under Streetsblog SF that offer extensive coverage, including video, of the Pavement to Parks initiative.
The slideshow in the right-hand column features select highlights of the installation—from groundbreaking to chains swaying—yet to see a wider selection of images that captures this welcomed transformation, watch the more comprehensive slideshow at CCA Snapshots, which documents this eco-friendly, community-building, bold and innovative art in the making. (If you experience difficulty running the slideshow, use the direct link to the photo set. Enjoy!)
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