In July I headed to the Bay Area for a few days, camera in hand, to visit one of my sons. I had one full day, and several mornings, to devote to photography in and around where I was staying – the Union Square area of San Francisco. Yup, near all those “little cable cars.”
I was planning primarily to shoot architectural sights while there (and some of those will be featured in a later post). Imagine my surprise when right outside my door was an innovative landscape project by Walter Hood, the Powell Street Promenade.
Underwritten by Audi at a cost of $890,000, the Promenade consists of eight six-foot-wide “parklets,” carved out of traffic lanes and abutting the sidewalk. Given the huge numbers of tourists travelling Powell Street on a regular basis, having an attractive, protected spot to step out of the flow of people and chat with friends, sit down for a bit, or park your bike while you make a call or stop in a store is a great idea.
There are a few built-in benches, which always seemed in high demand.
All of the structures are fabricated from aluminum, which forms “rail ribbons.” They include planters with narrow borders that can double as a seating area in a pinch (I recognized a few plants such as Mexican heather and Yucca, others were not familiar to my East Coast eyes), guardrails to protect against the busy Powell Street traffic, and the “tables” and lower versions that Hood has suggested could be used for sleeping as well as sitting benches. No advertising is allowed in the areas, which boast free Wi-Fi. (How very Silicon Valley!)
For more details on this project, check out this blog post from the San Francisco outpost of Streetsblog. And the next time you’re in the City by the Bay, in the vicinity of Union Square, be sure not to miss this innovative design feature on Powell Street!