New city plazas: Digital or not, interactivity key to great design

In San Francisco, two relatively new pedestrian lanes – Mint Plaza and Yerba Buena Lane – each linked to Jessie Street and within walking distance of each other, signal the rise of interactive design emerging and melding with street life downtown.

These clearings in the urban jungle point to what we can expect as the city grows; the best designs and spaces will be interactive in the way these plazas are, with new stores, arts and music venues and digital playgrounds.

Mint Plaza, the $3.5 million, 290-foot-long, L-shaped paved piazza that opened in November next to the dilapidated Old Mint building, took the place of dingy sections of Mint and Jessie streets off Fifth Street between Market and Mission streets.

The storm-water filtration system is low tech, but landscape architect Willett Moss says that it is the first time it is being used for public space in the Bay Area, in part to alleviate the stress on the city’s sewer system during storms.

“It is a prototype that the city may use elsewhere,” says Moss. The system, functioning imperfectly because the sandy soil is too porous and the water percolates through too rapidly, is still being fine-tuned.

Yerba Buena Lane is a model of how San Francisco’s urban districts are developing, with old and new architecture serving as arts and music venues, exhibition spaces and outdoor “living rooms.”

Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the museum is in the repurposed brick shell of the 1881 Jessie Street Power Substation, which was remodeled in 1906 by architect Willis Polk with Classical Revival terra-cotta embellishments. Libeskind’s version is capped with a cube-shaped blue concert hall that may become the museum’s most popular space.

New city plazas: Digital or not, interactivity key to great design
. Zahid Sardar – SFGate.com

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