Powell Street Promenade

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.”

San Francisco, Powell Street Promenade

The cable cars’ routes include one up and down Powell Street, turning around at the BART station of the same name. iPhone photo via Hipstamatic.

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.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

These aluminum structures can be used as little tables for a snack or to rest your packages on.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

A bike rider takes a break to chat with a friend on the Promenade.

There are a few built-in benches, which always seemed in high demand.

Powell Street Promenade, San Francisco, Walter Hood

A pedestrian takes a break, out of the flow of the constant sidewalk traffic.

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!

Explore posts in the same categories: landscape, Landscape design solutions, photography, Travel

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4 Comments on “Powell Street Promenade”

  1. Edye C. Says:

    Fabulous use of space!


  2. Awesome, we did something like this in Caracas, Venezuela during the 90’s… even one with exercise equipment for people living near.

  3. Emily Cone Says:

    Love the aluminum look and what an interesting design. I would understand how those few benches are in high demand. The place calls out to people to rest a while, chat, and just chill even for a bit.


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