Hayes Valley Playground

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land partnered with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to update this 1958 park located between San Francisco’s Hayes Valley and Western Addition neighborhoods. Reflecting The Trust for Public Land’s mission to create livable communities through land conservation, the new playground and clubhouse provide this dense urban area with a safe, welcoming facility that fosters an appreciation for nature, outdoor activity, and social gathering.

Nestled into a slight incline, the low-profile steel and glass community clubhouse frames views of the city and brings focus to the site’s open playground and park areas, beckoning visitors from the entrance on Hayes Street. With its vibrant rain screen in many shades of blue, it resembles a giant building kit, a world in between the scale of the children’s toys and the wider world. Inside, a backdrop of warm, wooden panels makes a cozy retreat and forms, with the glazed façade, the primordial pairing of shelter and outlook.

Two main pavilions — a large community recreation room and a multi-use computer room — are joined by a living roof, which covers the office, kitchen, and restrooms and creates a protected porch-like space below. Its stainless steel soffit recalls in contemporary terms the traditional porch ceiling that might be painted a pale blue to effect a second, more intimate sky. Here, though, a circular opening breaks through the lower sky to the actual sky above. As the green roof matures, becoming an extension of the park, children will enjoy a topsy-turvy world: sky below and earth above, and sky once more above that.

The facility integrates a holistic system of passive site and building strategies, including the living roof, solar hot water heating, and passive cooling. Building orientation takes maximum advantage of the site’s sun and wind conditions, allowing for optimal daylighting and ventilation. Other sustainable design elements include recycled denim insulation, low-flow toilets, Forest Stewardship Council certified wood, and native, drought-tolerant plantings. The ventilated rain screen provides additional insulation. The outdoor playground incorporates recycled materials and pervious surfaces to further minimize environmental impact.

The surrounding community is young, engaged and diverse. Our environmental graphic design strategy embraced this sense of energy with bright yellow supergraphics that contrast with the vivid blue of the architecture. Our graphics play with typography to convey a simple, yet bold message about the sustainable features that were integrated into the building design and landscape. Neighbors and visitors can see this welcoming, lively building and its interior from a distance, encouraging them to enjoy the park.

The project was the first of three sites in the city to participate in The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People–San Francisco Initiative, supported by five local corporations and other private funders. Hayes Valley Community Center also received funding from the City and County of San Francisco. Working in partnership with the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, The Trust for Public Land hired WRNS Studio as part of Public Architecture’s 1% Program.

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