The Bridge Presides

James Corner Field Operations-designed addition to the Presidio moves forward

The design for The Tunnel Tops takes advantage of the steep slope required to clear the parkway by including lawn seating steps providing an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Courtesy of James Corner Field Operations)

The Presidio in San Francisco, a 1,480-acre park and former US Army military fort on the northwest tip of the city, is about to receive a relatively small but notable addition. A “groundmaking” ceremony was held on November 7 for The Tunnel Tops, a 14-acre addition to the Presidio designed by international landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations (JCFO).

The new addition will rest on top of the Presidio Parkway tunnels to reconnect Crissy Field and the rest of the park following their separation for nearly 80 years and will include a three-acre play area, connecting pathways, extensive gardens with native vegetation, and elevated overlooks with unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The design makes use of the steep slopes required to clear the tunnels with the inclusion of seating steps molded from the lawn (named “The Presidio Steps” by the firm), viewing terraces, and an open plaza with a large unprogrammed platform. Given its solid foundation, a campfire site along the edge of the addition named the “campfire circle” is designed to support the growth of native trees, allowing the site to become thickly forested over time. “The iconic setting is perfect for transforming highway infrastructure into a vibrant new public space,” said James Corner.

Rendering of a campfire area in the Presidio

Over time, a campfire site on the edge of the addition will become thickly forested by native trees. (Courtesy of James Corner Field Operations)

JCFO began designing The Tunnel Tops in 2014 following a community conversation that ensured the project would “offer residents and visitors alike an inclusive and safe space in which to connect with the great outdoors,” according to the park’s official website. More than 10,000 people participated in workshops and tours of the site to offer insights into how the remade areas could become a significant addition to the historic park.

James Corner Field Operations has been behind some of the most imaginative landscape projects across America in the 21st century, including Santa Monica’s Tongva Park and New York City’s High Line. The Tunnel Tops is anticipated to open to the public in 2021.

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