19 September 2007

No ornamentals for Seventh and Mission

On my way to the SF Public Library this morning, I stopped by Thom Mayne's new Federal Building at Seventh and Mission. I had been to the building half a dozen times but I could not remember the landscape nor any ornamental grass. I thought a visit might give me a chance to think about new landscaping trends and expected some types of ornamental grass that I had not seen before.

When I got there, I realized that nearly the entire landscape is hard-packed earth interrupted with a few concrete benches. There are a few elevated patches of lawn tucked under the folding facade of the building, but nearly all the public landscape is just dirt--much like the baseball infield at a municipal park.

Are there plans to landscape this public space? Is the lack of ornamental grass or decorative plantings an overreaction to the number of homeless people who pass and use the space each day? It just seems likely that a public building by one of the nation's most important architects would have a more varied landscape.

1 comment:

Pritchard said...

Were it not for the dust-devil of errant newspapers and garbage ever-swirling thereupon, I might well like the decomposed-granite surface of the Federal Building plaza simply for its deviation from our standard American approach to urban open space. Despite the celebrated success of such legendary paved public places as Piazza San Marco and Brussels's central square, we Americans seem to require greenery in our civic plazas. This coming from a plant freak. Even Union Square's improvement derives in part from the expansion of paving. A further tangent to consider: the quality of paving. Here in SF we lack contact with the beautiful likes of slate and brick and marble sidewalks in, say, Brooklyn, Boston, and Venice -- but it doesn't mean we shouldn't have some pretty paving here and there, maybe just tinted concrete, or terrazzo, or some of those 60s-style mica-impregnated squares. They're all habitat for grass, if only Ehrharta.